Monday, November 13, 2006


Did Nasty NRCC Robo Calls Win Elections?

As we did our best to document, the National Republican Congressional Committee was responsible for repetitive, often harrassing robo calls in more than two dozen districts across the country in the runup to the election.

In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races.

Consider, for example, Florida's 13th District, where Christine Jennings is currently locked in a recount battle. The final tally shows her down 386 votes. In the last three weeks of the election, the NRCC spent $58,326.78 on robo calls against Jennings, according to FEC reports. At five to fifteen cents a call, the NRCC bought itself between 388,000 and 1.17 million calls in the district. Approximately 250,000 people voted in the 13th on Tuesday.

Voters there report being inundated with calls -- so much so that some decided not to vote for Jennings. From The Herald Tribune:

"We're just glad it's all over," said Betty Beatty...

"They bugged us with their phone calls something terrible," said Betty, who voted for Buchanan because "with all her calls, Jennings, Jennings, Jennings, I wouldn't have voted for that woman if she were the only one running."

The NRCC's calls, you'll remember, began by saying something like "Hi, I'm calling with information about [the Democratic candidate]," then continued to give negative information about the candidate. They did not identify the true source of the calls until the very end, when they informed the listener (if he/she bothered to stay on the line until the end of the call), that the NRCC had paid for it. Voters reported being called again and again. A number of Democratic campaigns reported receiving complaints from voters who thought that the calls were coming from the Democrat, because of the calls' lead-in. We catalogued a number of the calls here.

Democrats have asked the FEC, FCC and Justice Department to probe the calls. DCCC spokesman Bill Burton told me that the Dems are still "committed to pursuing the issue of these calls" and are "discussing the next steps.... We are absolutely not letting this drop."

While the calls hit a number of close races, most worrying is that there are a number of extremely close races where they were a factor and the Democrat lost.

-- In New York's 25th District, Dan Maffei lost by less than 4,000 votes out of a total of more than 200,000. As this local news report shows, voters got repeat calls, leading many to think that they were being harrassed by the Maffei campaign. You can hear one of the calls here.

-- In Illinois' 6th District, Tammy Duckworth, who was the victim of the NRCC's robo call campaign (listen to a voter's glutted answering machine here), also lost by approximately 4,000 votes.

-- In Pennsylvania's 6th District, Lois Murphy lost by 3,000 votes. As the AP reported, her district was inundated by the calls.

And there's also Eric Massa, who narrowly lost in New York's 29th (less than 6,000 votes), Diane Farrell in Connecticut (down slightly more than 6,000), and Phillip Kellam in Virginia's 2nd (down less than 5,000 votes) -- all of whom were victims of the NRCC's robo call effort.

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