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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

You can hear one of the NRCC robocalls here, from the race in the New York 19th Congressional District.

Reports out of New Hampshire suggest the NRCC has stopped its deceptive robocalls there after intervention by the state Attorney General, but confusion remains about what exactly the NRCC has agreed to, and it appears at least some calls are continuing.

From the Union-Leader:

A national Republican group yesterday scuttled a pre-recorded phone call effort the state Attorney General's Office said may have violated New Hampshire law by contacting residents listed on the federal Do Not Call registry.

The National Republican Congressional Committee voluntarily agreed yesterday afternoon to stop making automated calls to homes on the registry, said Deputy Attorney General Bud Fitch, who oversees election law.

. . .

Fitch said the agreement with the RNCC came after a conversation about 2 p.m. yesterday between the Attorney General's Office and the general counsel for the Washington-based RNCC.

The state continue to investigate, with no decision on whether to pursue civil action, Fitch said.


Rather than a complete halt to the robocalls, the NRCC seems to have agreed to stop making prerecorded calls to voters on the national No Call List. Federal law permits political advocacy calls to phone numbers on the No Call List on First Amendment grounds, but New Hampshire, like some other states, prohibits prerecorded calls to phone numbers on the No Call List. The NRCC may have been violating the New Hampshire law.

For now it appears that the NRCC has agreed to stop its robocalls only to a subset of New Hampshire voters.

Update: The NRCC contends the New Hampshire law does not apply to it:

Alex Burgos, NRCC spokesman, said his organization has been making calls to independent voters in the state's Second Congressional District since Monday and would continue to do so. . . .

"We are a federal organization campaigning about a federal race," said Burgos. "We feel that New Hampshire law does not apply to what we are doing."


In any event, the involvement of the New Hampshire Attorney General has been limited to the very narrow issue of whether the calls are going to voters on the No Call List and not whether they are intended to mislead or harrass voters.

It now appears that isolated reports of the NRCC's robocall tactics began emerging a week or so ago, but the reports were sporadic, and it didn't become apparent that the repeat phone calls were part of a coordinated national campaign until over the weekend.

One of the earliest accounts came in an Illinois newspaper article from November 1:

Rozanne Ronen, a Barrington resident, got the call -- "Hi. I'm calling with information about Melissa Bean ..."

Then she got the call again and again and 18 more times, making for a total of about 21 calls since October 24.

"They are very annoying," Ronen said.

Pat Vockeroth, of Mount Prospect, received the calls too -- "Hi. I'm calling with information about Tammy Duckworth ..."

"If you only listen to the first sentence, you think they are from the Duckworth campaign," she said.

But the calls aren't paid for by Bean, Duckworth or even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they are paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee.


The NRCC acknowledged that it was the source of those Illinois calls but suggested a contractor was to blame for the repeat calls:

Jonathan Collegio, NRCC spokesman, acknowledged that the NRCC has paid for series of robocalls in the 6th and 8th districts, saying phone banking are part of any modern campaign.

"Phone banking is used by campaigns of all stripes and all these calls are made between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.," he said.

Asked about the repetitive nature of the calls, Collegio said that may be a problem with the contractor.

"Because these calls are done by computers, it could be some kind of a glitch. This is all a matter of voter contact where we are trying to make sure people are aware of the upcoming election and make sure they vote the right way," he said.


Given that harrassing repeat calls have been reported in congressional districts around the country, it is unlikely that this is merely a contractor's "glitch." But the repeat nature of the calls was not immediately recognized as part of the NRCC's national robocall campaign. For instance, an AP report on the NRCC campaign which also appeared on November 1 focused on the fact that the calls had a tendency to mislead voters into thinking they came from the Democratic candidate, but made no mention of the fact that calls were being repeated multiple times in order to harrass voters and leave them with a negative impression of the Democratic candidate.

The NRCC robocall campaign thus flew under the radar exactly as intended.

We'll have more on this and other voter suppression tactics throughout the day.

Need proof that our election system is broken?

San Diego ran out of absentee ballots and was forced to mail out photocopies of the actual ballot.

If that wasn't bad enough, when the photocopied ballots are filled out and returned, the Registrar of Voters staff will copy the votes by hand onto the actual ballot, which can then be run through an optical scanner.

For more on GOP robocalls that leave the impression with call-saturated voters that the call is from the Democratic candidate, take a look at this post by Paul Kiel earlier in the week over at TPMMuckraker.

A couple of days ago, we linked to a report out of Houston that the GOP was placing signs near early voting polling stations in Tom Delay's former district that read "Encourage Terrorists. Vote Democrat."

Here are some pics.

(Thanks to TPM Reader D for the link.)

We're getting reports from a number of congressional districts that one or another of the GOP committees is sponsoring robocalls that begin with "I'm calling with information about [fill in name of Democratic candidate]." Apparently, many voters, irate with the flood of calls, assume that the Democrat is the one sponsoring the call.

In addition to the New Hampshire 2nd and New York 19th, which we covered below, TPM readers report such calls in the Illinos 6th (Roskam v. Duckworth), Illinois 8th (McSweeney v. Bean), and California 4th (Doolittle v. Brown). However, we do not have reports from those district of repeated callbacks after the recipient hangs up, as has been reported in the New York 19th.

More on what we're hearing about GOP dirty phone tricks in the New York 19th Congressional District.

Three TPM readers have reported a phone scam with a double whammy. The call purports to be for John Hall, the Democratic challenger, but makes negative assertions about Hall. If the caller hangs up, they are called again and again, as many as seven times, according to one report.

So either the recipient hears a negative message about Hall, or they think Hall is harrassing them with repeated phone calls. Either way it's a win for Hall's opponent, Republican incumbent Sue Kelly.

If you're in the NY-19, let us know what you're hearing.

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