Who's behind the mysterious "robo-calls" that have spread misleading voter information and sown confusion and frustration among North Carolina residents over the last week?
Facing South has confirmed the source of the calls, and the mastermind is Women's Voices Women Vote, a D.C.-based nonprofit which aims to boost voting among "unmarried women voters."
What's more, Facing South has learned that the firestorm Women's Voices has ignited in North Carolina isn't the group's first brush with controversy. Women's Voices' questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law.
First, a quick recap: As we covered yesterday, N.C. residents have reported receiving peculiar automated calls from someone claiming to be "Lamont Williams." The caller says that a "voter registration packet" is coming in the mail, and the recipient can sign it and mail it back to be registered to vote. No other information is provided.
The call is deceptive because the deadline has already passed for mail-in registrations for North Carolina's May 6 primary. Also, many who have received the calls -- like Kevin Farmer in Durham, who made a tape of the call that is available here -- are already registered. The call's suggestion that they're not registered has caused widespread confusion and drawn hundreds of complaints, including many from African-American voters who received the calls.
Update 1: Jack And Jill has more on the story:
Now Women's Voices is plunging North Carolina into the same confusion. State officials tell Facing South they are still receiving calls from frustrated and confused voters, wondering why "Lamont Williams" is offering to send them a "voter registration packet" after the deadline for mail-in registration for the primaries has passed.
In correspondence with North Carolina election officials, Women's Voices founder and President Page Gardner merely said that the disruptive timing was an "unfortunate coincidence" -- a strange alibi for a group with their level of resources and sophistication.
There are other questions about Women's Voices' outreach efforts. Although the group purports to be targeting "unmarried women," their calls and mailings don't fit the profile. Kevin Farmer in Durham, who first recorded the call, is a white male. Many of the recipients are African-American; Rev. Nelson Johnson, who is a married, male and African-American, reported that his house was called four times by the mysterious "Lamont Williams."
And as Farmer asks, "Why are they using a guy for the calls if the target audience is single women?"
Some have also questioned the ties between Women's Voices operatives and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton. Gardner, for example, contributed $2,500 to Clinton's HILLPAC on May 4, 2006, and in March 2005 she donated a total of $4,200 to Clinton, according to The Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org. She has not contributed to the Obama campaign, according to the database.
Women's Voices Executive Director Joe Goode worked for Bill Clinton's election campaign in 1992 as a pollster; the group's website says he was intimately involved in "development and implementation of all polling and focus groups done for the presidential primary and general election campaigns" for Clinton.
Women's Voices board member John Podesta, former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton, donated $2,300 to Hillary Clinton on April 19, 2007, according to OpenSecrets.org. Podesta also donated $1,000 to Barack Obama in July 2004, but that was well before Obama announced his candidacy for president.
"The reports from other states are very disturbing, especially the pattern of mass confusion among targeted voters on the eve of a state's primary," Democracy North Carolina's Bob Hall tells Facing South. "These are highly skilled political operatives -- something doesn't add up. Maybe it's all well-intended and explainable. At this moment, our first priority is to stop the robo-calls and prevent the chaos and potential disenfranchisement caused by this group sending 276,000 packets of registration forms into North Carolina a few days before a heated primary election. We need their immediate cooperation."
Before you say, you tinfoil hat wearer you, I got this information from Talking Points Memo/Cafe Talk:
Benefit of the doubt? Not this time. Please take a look at the group's (Women's Voices/Women Vote) Directors/Leadership Team.
1. John Podesta -- Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton 98-01.
2. Mimi Mager -- Member Clinton-Gore Transition team.
3. Michael Lux -- Clinton Gore Alumni Association (ClintonGoreAlumni.org (CGA) is member-driven organization that seeks to maintain an ongoing network among those former political appointees of the Clinton-Gore Administration, the national '92 and '96 campaigns and Democratic Party activists around the country.
4. Joe Goode -- the Senior Analyst on company CEO Stan Greenberg's work for the Clinton for President campaign in 1992.
Some more info found out at Facing South in the comments of this post:
And look who their legal counsel is.
"[t}here's more to [Holly] Schadler and her law firm than a list of corporate pigs and polluters. Schadler, a former Sierra Club official, is an operator for the Clinton White House. She, along with Robert Bauer and Judith Corley--two other partners at Perkins Coie--incorporated the Back to Business Committee, set up in 1994 by Lynn Cutler and Ann Lewis (Democratic Party operators) to defend Bill and Hillary.
So gee, I wonder who is behind these calls. Nice legal advice, Holly Schadler.
And guess who was on the board at late as 2007?
Clinton Campaign ManagerMAGGIE WILLIAMS. (Part Of the Leadership Team)
Yeah, and I'M the one wearing the tinfoil hat?
Ain't enough 'coincidences' in the Western World.