The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Republicans Accused of Illegal Campaign Calls

by Shreema Mehta

Nov. 10, 2006 – Republicans are coming under fire for their use of "robocalls," automated messages that flooded phone lines in competitive districts in the days before the election.

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Republicans are accused of making automated, harassing telephone calls that appeared to originate from Democrats.

FBI officials in Virginia are also investigating robocalls that tried to intimidate voters to stay away from the polls by telling phone-call recipients they were registered in multiple states and would be criminally charged if they attempted to cast a vote. The origin of these calls is unknown.

"These voter-deception and voter-suppression tactics are despicable and unacceptable," People for the American Way (PFAW) President Ralph Neas said in a press statement. "The new Congress must investigate these attacks on the integrity of our elections." People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy group, is seeking to collect evidence on any deceptive or intimidating robocalls.

One message obtained by MSNBC criticized Tammy Duckworth, who was defeated in her campaign to win a congressional seat in Illinois. It began: "Hello, I’m calling with information about Tammy Duckworth. Tammy Duckworth said she would seriously consider repealing part of the federal tax cut. Tammy Duckworth’s plan could mean higher taxes for married couples… Tammy Duckworth is wrong on taxes and wrong for Illinois."

Critics of the calls pointed out that potential voters who hung up right away did not hear the end message identifying the National Republican Congressional Committee as the source. They may have wrongly believed they were being bombarded with messages from Democrats rather than Republicans.

Because these messages were computer-automated, some people received the phone calls numerous times, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Washington Post.

Citing Federal Communications Commission regulations that state the source of a pre-recorded phone call must be clearly identified at the start of the message, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a cease and desist letter to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

PFAW is urging anyone who received the robocalls to preserve them on their answering machines and submit evidence to: report@pfaw.org.

Tanya Clay House, public policy director for PFAW, said the organization is collecting evidence for possible legal violations, or to inspire legislation on election reform.

"We also want to collect [evidence] to move forward legislation to prevent these types of things from happening in the future," she told The NewStandard.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Shreema Mehta is a staff journalist.

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