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Over at TPM, Reader DK pointed to a real-time database that tracks election problem reports from around the country. I've used it myself, and it's a terrific tool.

Unfortunately, due to the intense focus on election day problems, the database -- run by a coalition headed up by People for the American Way -- has been hit with extraordinary traffic. As a result, the database is down.

The Election Incident Reporting System database (EIRS) includes information on reports gathered by a number of major pollwatching groups and hotlines. "Our call centers are still able to enter data on the backend," a staffer for the Election Protection coalition told me.

"We’re looking into DOS [denial-of-service attacks] and such but so far it seems to just be a tremendous amount of legitimate traffic," he said.

Update: It's now working sporadically.

From TPM Reader DG in California's 4th District, where the NRCC robo calls have been hitting:

We were calling Dems today to GOTV. Phone Bankers are getting yelled at by Dems who have been getting the Robo Calls and blame Brown. Another aspect to this is that the phone banker volunteers get discouraged after being yelled at so much, you hear "Is this really doing any good calling these people?"

Update: We're trying to get as many examples of the NRCC's robo calls together that we can. We're collecting them here.

From TPM Reader JN:

just got a call in CT from a Mr. Gallo of the, i think, CT State Central Republican Committee. It was something like that. It was from the republican state senate scommitte i think. I think gallo said he was some kind of leader. The poll identified itself pretty quickly as being from a republican group, and then it went on to promise that if you vote republicans then they would stop the robocalls.

I just put in a call to the Connecticut GOP, and yes, there is a call going out with state GOP Chairman George D. Gallo about robo calls. I was promised that my message would be forwarded to the Chairman -- so we await a call back.

N.H. Makes GOP Stop Some Automated Calls "A Republican organization agreed to stop making automated phone calls to New Hampshire residents on the federal do-not-call list. But the Democrats said Monday that the calls still violate federal rules.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee agreed on Sunday to stop calling homes on the registry after a citizen complained to the state attorney general. Under New Hampshire law, political campaigns can contact people on the do-not-call list, but cannot use automated recordings." (AP)

Read More →

Two high-ranking Democrats are asking the Justice Department, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission to investigate harrassing GOP robo calls we've been reporting on.

In a letter dated Nov. 6, Michigan Reps. John Conyers and John Dingell ask attorney general Alberto Gonzales, FCC chairman Kevin Martin and FEC chairman Michael Toner to probe whether a sudden rash of last-minute phone calls paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee violated any of a number of federal and state laws and requirements.

Conyers is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, while Dingell is the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. You can read the full letter after the jump.

Read More →

Indianapolis Star reports that the Indiana Republican party has cut ties to one of the firms responsible for harrassing GOP-sponsored robocalls. The state GOP fired Conquest Communications not because the firm's calls were necessarily harrassing, but because they were automated -- a violation of Indiana state law:

State GOP spokesman Robert Vane said Monday that Virginia-based Conquest Communications Group used recorded messages in calls for Brizzi and several candidates around Indiana.

“That is not what we contracted for,” Vane said, so the party fired Conquest and is refusing to pay the company. Vane declined to say how much the party still owes.

The Republicans intended for all campaign calls to be conducted “100 percent live,” Vane said, but instead Conquest used a live introduction followed by a recording.

Under Indiana law, a recorded message can be delivered over the phone only if it is first introduced by a person who seeks and gets permission to play it.

Earlier today, Paul connected harrassing "false-flag" robo calls in a number of congressional districts to the National Republican Congressional Committee, via the firm they appear to have paid to carry out the calls. That firm, Conquest Communications Group, was responsible for NRCC-backed calls in 20 House races.

Now, Paul has found a second firm calling voters in another 10 House districts on behalf of the NRCC. Some of those calls have been similar to the harrassing "false-flag" robocalls we've been covering all day.

"I know these guys," White House political guru Karl Rove boasts on the Web site of Feather, Larson & Syndhorst DCI, which has been making robocalls to voters on behalf of the NRCC -- many of them confirmed to be harrassing. "They work as hard to win your races as you do."

Indeed, the firm is said to enjoy close ties to Rove and the Bush White House. They've been in the annoying phone call business for a long time, as Josh will attest. This time around, they have made harrassing phone calls to defeat Democrats Harry Mitchell (in AZ-05), Eric Massa (in NY-29) and Francine Busby (in CA-50).

"They start out sounding like they're from Francine Busby -- most people get so annoyed they don't listen to the end. . . some people have been called 6, 7, 8 or 9 times," said a staffer at Busby's campaign.

"We've been getting reports [about harrassing calls] from voters for better than a week," Massa's spokesman, Mike Williams, told Paul today. "We're not sure where they're coming from," said Mitchell's flack, Seth Scott.

In addition to calls against those candidates, Feather Larson was contracted by the NRCC to deploy robo calls against the following Democratic House campaigns:

Tom Hayhurst (IN-03) Jason Altmire (PA-04) Nick Lampson (TX-22) Bruce Braley (IA-01) Patricia Madrid (NM-01) Angie Paccione (CO-04) Joe Courtney (CT-02)

Has anyone experienced harrassing phone calls in those districts? Let us know.

Paul reported that Conquest Communicatons, a GOP firm specializing in outbound calling for campaigns, picked up a massive chunk of work from the NRCC, to make calls in 20 House races on the eve of the election.

A few minutes later, we got an email from a guy, let's call him "Jim," who claimed to have worked as a phone bank worker at Conquest in 2001 and 2002. "They specialize in push polls," he wrote. "Nasty push polls. . . . The general office atmosphere is 'anything goes.'"

Jim didn't want his real name used ("I was fairly friendly with management, I feel sort of bad throwing them under the bus"), but he agreed to speak with me briefly by telephone.

"I did calls for them as a job for a couple summers," Jim recalled, noting that the pay was "decent" for a college kid. Since Jim left, the firm appears to have shifted away from using employees to make calls, favoring instead computer dialers and recorded messages. But the types of calls may not have changed much. "All they did was push polls, no legitimate polling," Jim said of his time there. He remembered that a number of calls he worked on "were kind of sketchy" and involved gay marriage.

There were about 50 people making calls at any one time, mostly "crazy people and college kids" without much direction. "It was pretty 'anything goes,'" Jim said. The managers told callers "to tell people you're calling from anywhere you want to."

As an example of how lax the workplace was, Jim -- a Democrat -- explained how he'd handle liberals who became irate when hearing Jim follow his negative script. "I'd read a message and a caller might get angry, so I'd say, 'well listen, I'm a Democrat, so let's just forget it.'"

A high point, he said, was being able to use fake accents when calling strangers. Jim had perfected a deep, Elvis-like drawl, which made his calls to Tennessee voters particularly successful, he said. "I had a high response rate" there, recalled Jim.

After his second summer, Jim said, he didn't return to the company. "Doing this stuff for the Republicans was, it gets distasteful after a while," he said. "Some of the scripts were pretty ridiculous."

Irony of ironies.

Since we posted this morning on Conquest Communications, the company that's been conducting hundreds of thousands of often harrassing calls on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, they've taken down their "Contact Us" and "About" pages.

The pages included the company's phone number and bios of the company's executives. Maybe they were getting too many phone calls?

The woman who answered the phone couldn't tell me why the pages were down, only offering, “maybe we’re getting a lot of traffic." When I asked if I could speak to someone who might know why, I was put through to the voicemail of one of the partners. That call, along with an earlier one to the company, has yet to be returned.

The company works exclusively with Republican clients, of which there is a long, long list. One of the founding partners, David Johnson, is a veteran operative of the NRCC and the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Update: For those of you who've sent us the google cached version of the pages, thanks. We have it.

Later Update: Actually, since posting this morning, Conquest seems to have stripped their website down to everything but its index page.