Reader Mailbag: A Former GOP Push-Poller Tells All!

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.”

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