The blog Facing South has been following the controversy surrounding robo-calls made in North Carolina by the group “Women’s Voice, Women Vote.” You can listen to the call here. Again, the Clinton conspiracists have plenty of grist for their respective mills: The calls instructed listeners to wait for a “voter registration packet” and to sign it and send it in “THEN” they could vote. The problem? Facing South explains:
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.
The last bit is key, obviously, for those that think the calls were intended to suppress the black (and likely Obama) vote. What’s more, the group has documented ties to the Clinton campaign — including a shared “voter outreach” firm, as well as overlap in their leadership: Maggie Williams (HRC campaign manager) was on WVWV’s executive committee, and FoB John Podesta is on the board of directors.
This all could be a coincidence. The world of progressive politics is not that large, and WVWV insists that there was simply “confusion” about when and where the calls were to be placed. Thing is, they’ve apparently been confused a lot: Facing South found WVWV doing some kind hinky election mailing or call in ten other states, including a similar case investigated by the state police in Virginia.
Even if the Clinton campaign is not directly involved, the group’s activities have certainly warranted the scrutiny of the blogosphere — and beyond. As well as, you know, the police.
UPDATE: Thanks for the Open Left link. I admit that Becky Bond’s defense/explanation makes more sense than the one in WVWV statement: She points out that the board has two Obama supporters on it, and says the calls are supposed to be a general election strategy, not a primary one — and that the reason the calls go out after the primary registration deadline is because “around primaries people are reminded that they need to register in time for the general.” She also says WVWV has research to support all the slightly suspicious aspects of their tactics, apparently including the use of a fake name to identify the robo-caller, saying that calls “from an individual with a name and way of speaking that is similar to the target demographic” are more effective than a “generic” caller.
I think, then, that the Clinton connection sounds like just a small-world thing — but as for the actions themselves, it is striking that these apparently innocent tactics have still been called illegal and been the subject numerous complaints. But, again, it could be coincidence. And political consultants can be as inept as anyone. Perhaps more so. If the options are: well-designed voter suppression campaign versus badly-designed GOTV campaign, the history of the modern Democratic party suggests the latter. (Now, if it were the Rs….)
UPDATE 2: Yep, they’re just idiots. TPM has a statement from Podesta:
With respect to the calls and mailings made in North Carolina, I understand that remedial action is being undertaken. I agree with fellow board member William McNary that the North Carolina state calling program was a mistake of judgment and execution.