It’s official

Every official of any organization affiliated with the Republican National Committee is pond scum. Not all of them are personally engaged in dirty tricks, but anyone with a scrap of decency left would have to quit.

Here’s the latest, from the Concord Monitor (via TPM):

The Republican National Congressional Committee has made 300,000 robo-calls to New Hampshire voters. The calls are being made repeatedly, very late at night and early in the morning, and are being made to phone numbers on the “do not call list.” They contain the usual array of charges against Paul Hodes, the Democratic candidate.

But wait for the dirty part: The calls start out with the sentence “Hello, I’m calling with information about Paul Hodes.” That suggests to the people being awakened in the middle of the might that Hodes is calling them. Only if they wait to hear all the sludge do they finally get to the part where the Republicans identify themselves. Sensible people who just slam down the phone are left with the impression that the Democrats are calling them.

Pond scum.

But wait: it gets worse than that. The Charlie Bass, the Republican incumbent who is the intended beneficiary of the dirty trick ritually denounces it, just as Corker denounced the bimbo spot that destroyed Harold Ford’s chances in Tennessee. The spokes-scum for the RNCC admits paying for the calls, points out that legally RNCC can’t coordinate with the local campaign, and therefore claims that it would be illegal for the RNCC to heed the denunciation and pull the calls, which will continue to run, although they’re illegal under New Hampshire law (just as the dirty trick &#8212 jamming opposition phone banks on Election Day &#8212 that helped elect John Sununu to the Senate was illegal under Federal law).

As usual, the Republicans have a nonsense response: the Democrats shouldn’t complain, because they use robo-calls, too. But of course the Democrats’ calls are (1) not intended to deceive; (2) made at civilized hours; and (3) not made to numbers on the Do Not Call list

And yes, it’s going on across the country. And yes, it works.

I’d like to see a coordinated Democratic attack on this slimy activity. It just might break into the TV news tomorrow night.

Update I have received several protests against my uncivil use of the phrase “pond scum.” I apologize to any pond scum I may have unintentionally offended by comparing them with Republican operatives.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

20 thoughts on “It’s official”

  1. "We make these expenditures individually of any campaign, and to heed their calls to do them or discontinue them would be coordination, which would violate the (federal) laws…"
    Of course, ceasing the robocalls out of an innate sense of decency would be too easy.
    There was a similar flap in the race for governor in Alaska. The Republican Governors Association sent postcards in late October, violating the ban on outside campaigning within 30 days of an election. The Republican candidate insisted she was powerless to stop it, because just asking would be "coordination."

  2. Too bad. That's how the game is played. That's what you're up against. Politicians will use these tactics, and the Republicans have clearly spent a lot of money and effort in using them to the greatest possible effect.
    There's a considerable percentage of the population who may hate what's happening in Iraq, or the economy, or corruption, or a lot of other things, and may blame them on the Republicans; but in the week before the election they'll have those thoughts completely washed out of their heads and replaced with whatever prejudices and outright lies that push polls, negative advertising, and dirty tricks can put there. They'll base their vote on that, and not on what happened in the preceding 103 weeks. That's what you're up against. It's what Karl Rove knows that you don't.

  3. Here in Northern Virginia, I am getting a lot of crap robocalls from both Dems and Reeps, and they all identify themselves at the end. AND I am on the do-not-call list for commercial messages, from which the politicos of both parties happily exempted themselves. So why is this somehow especially 'pond scum' for the Reeps to do?

  4. Come on Dave, can't you read the story? Republicans, and only Republicans, are calling with a specific program- 1) Make a misleading identification early in the call, suggesting it's the Dem calling. 2) If the person hangs up (thus only hearing the ID suggesting it's a Dem calling) call back 7 or 8 times, which constitutes harrassment, which the recipient thinks is being done by the Democrat. 3) If they listen, only then deliver the dirt, so the Democrat is hurt either way.
    Again, note that it's only Republicans doing this, and they're doing it around the country (CT, NH, NY, KS are ones I've read about so far), meaning it's coordinated by their national party. Furthermore, they expect to be fined after the election for violating the law (political calls are not exempt from Do Not Call in NH, and harrassment is illegal everywhere), but are fine with that as long as they win the election- they've got the money to pay the fines. It's the same way they've run the country the last six years- no regard for the laws as long as they get what they want.

  5. Talking Points Memo reports that the Republicans are pulling the same stunt on behalf of a candidate in Philadelphia.

  6. this clearly violates state law in NH and AG has gone after them. In theory it could be a 1,000 dollar fine for each call. we'll see – and i thought they'd admitted to 200K calls, not 300K.
    in NM there is a judge about to ban republicans from calling anyone except registered Republicans.
    And there is enough of this going around that it MAY be covered by networks tomorrow. Of course, they held it until late to try to keep it under the radar, but it may not work as well as in the past.
    We are picking up some evidence of similar things in Virginia – we are calling people that we have not called before for Webb and we are getting complaints about multiple calls. Now, it is possible that they have also been called by Moveon, but that would mean ours would be the 2nd call, not the fourth or fifth. Can't prove it.
    If Dems take over the House, which I still think is a done deal, perhaps we can deal with stronger legislation.
    In the meantime, there is a diary on dailykos with some specific suggestions about this, from someone who is an expert on aspects of telecommunications law:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/5/212753/96

  7. Mark:
    Pond scum is a naturally occurring biological product, whereas Republicans are an unnatural biological phenomenon: a species bound to destroy their own world, and environment.
    Just as genetically mutated sharks may someday walk upon the land (on SciFiTV today), so might genetically modified Republicans someday actually care about, you know, life, love, and, oh yeah, protecting America from terrorists.

  8. I'm with Dave S–I've gotten political calls from both parties here in VA, on a Do Not Call phone number; the "Do Not Call" list is only for commercial calls–political calls are specifically exempt IIRC.

  9. SamChevre, as others have already said, NH state law does not permit political calls to numbers on the Do Not call list. This deceptive last minute strategy is the work of pond scum, even if it may be legal on the national level, but it is also outright illegal in NH.

  10. There are now at least five states where this tactic has been reported. The trouble with the reports is that, so far, each reporter treats it as an isolated incident. (Anybody want to call Keith with the info for tonight's Worst Person In the World?)
    Even worse is the tactic in New Mexico, where people with Hispanic names are reportedly being targeted and told their polling place has been moved to one miles away. A judge has issued a temporary injunction, but as has been pointed out here, the fines are small enough its worth ignoring it.
    Damn it STOP THE REPUBLICANS!
    And as always, if you are voting where there is electronic voting, get a paper ballot, and ANSWER anyone doing exit polling.

  11. Absolutely pathetic. I keep wondering why nobody has mentioned in on a national news network (that i know of), and i keep wishing for a huge blaring announcement in amber-alert style.
    the tactic is working.

  12. NH state law does not permit political calls to numbers on the Do Not call list.
    And the NRCC spokesman says that New Hampshire law doesn't apply to them:
    "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."
    They feel they are above the law. (Click my name for the quote.)

  13. Here in Iowa, Jim Leach, an incumbent Republican, was being supported by attack mailings from the RNC. He told them to stop sending them or he would not caucus with Republicans. He did not seem too concerned about illegally coordinating with them. The RNC stopped the mailings immediately.
    As soon as this election is over I am contacting my state representatives and ask them to outlaw robocalls similar to what was done in Indiana. Nobody appreciates getting these calls.

  14. No, Matt, presumably they believe that they are subject to the same federal statutory and constitutional laws as everyone else in the country. And presumably their counsel has concluded that the NH law is either preempted by the federal statute or limited by the first amendment.
    On the larger question: I've received calls from Democrats. They always tell me what an upstanding person the candidate is, and how the candidate is worthy of my support. They often tell me that there's some important flaw in the Republican candidate. So, obviously, these are misleading tactics, and anyone participating is pond scum.

  15. Anonymous, they felt wrongly, since the New Hampshire Attorney General has ordered them to stop. And I think that if you feel a law is unconstitutional or preempted, the customary course is to sue to have it overturned, not to break it. That is, if you want to obey the law.
    Your second paragraph is either stupid or dishonest. Were the Democrats harassing you while pretending to be Republicans?

  16. I'm glad, though, to know that being "subject to the same federal statutory and constitutional laws as everyone else in the country" means I get to break the laws of whatever locality I happen to be in.

  17. Matt, typical effort for you. The NH AG ultimately doesn't get to decide whether the NH statute is properly enforceable in this case; the NH AG is obligated to make his/her own determination, but ultimately this will be determined by the courts.
    If, hypothetically speaking, NH has passed a law that unconstitutionally abridges the free speech rights of US citizens, then that law is a nullity. Those potentially affected by the law might sue in advance of any enforcement, or they might assert the unconstitutionality of the law at the time of any enforcement. While the risk averse prefer the first to the second, either is acceptable.
    The US constitution and federal law control in every locality in this country, Matt. That you apparently find that surprising says something about you. This is sixth-grade civics stuff.

  18. If so (then why commenting anonymously? Are you avoiding a ban?), then I have to say, remarkably poor effort for you. Usually you do a better job of distorting people's words than to claim that I said the US Constitution doesn't control every locality.
    Of course, the GOP chose neither of the courses you describe. When threatened by the NH AG, they agreed to stop calling people on the do-not-call list — presumably because they knew they had no case.

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