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.