By Sebastian Jones- WPRB News
You might have heard one of John McCain’s robocalls recently but probably not much about the people behind them. Until now.
WPRB News investigated some of the circumstances surrounding one of the more famous calls that ended up on a Western Pennsylvania voter’s answering machine and found that it originated from a 1-877 phone number tied to Cardinal Communication Strategies LLC– a California based company with ties to the Republican National Committee, who co-sponsored the McCain robocall. Earlier this year, according to FEC filings, the McCain campaign paid the robocall firm over $650,000, although the exact nature of the services they got in return are not specified.
McCain’s campaign, according to The New York Times, was tied to another robocall firm called FLS Direct. Who are they?:
“…a company owned by a prominent Republican consultant, Jeff Larson. According to published news reports, Mr. Larson and his previous firm helped develop the phone calls in 2000 that took aim at Mr. McCain.”
We also spoke with The National Political Do Not Call Registry’s founder, Shaun Dakin who said there was a very high volume of robocalls this cycle because, compared with direct mail and even automated calls in the past, “it’s a heck of a lot cheaper and it’s a heck of a lot more efficient.”
For his part, Tom Ross, a partner at Cardinal Communication Strategies, told a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle this August that, “the economics of political campaigning show why the calls aren’t going away.”
Several members of Cardinal Communication Strategies management were contacted via e-mail for this story; if and when they get back to us, we’ll update this post.
Here the audio from our story on robocalls that will be broadcast later today on The Dispatch:
Also, have a look at this site from Talking Points Memo that is tallying the state-by-state McCain robocall efforts. In fairness, Obama’s campaign appears to be making a fair number of robocalls too.
Update: Dan Ronayne writes to WPRB on behalf of FLS to say it has not (as was reported in theTimes) made robocalls in Minneasota on behalf of the McCain campaign, but instead has made live calls there. Also, while FLS has made live calls for McCain suggesting that Obama is “soft on crime”, FLS is not responsible for robocalls echoing a similar message that feature the voice of Rudy Giuliani. This distinction might seem academic, but robocalls are illegal in Minneasota (as they are here in New Jersey). Finally, FLS says that while it did make calls in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary race for George W. Bush, none involved McCain’s family. The full letter, with links and attachments, is below for your consideration:
First, the New York Times piece referenced in the article that asserts FLS was behind negative calls attacking Sen. McCain’s family in 2000 that created a controversy is inaccurate. The Times has been sent a letter from attorney’s representing FLS about the piece and the letter is available to view at www.flsconnect.com. There was a lot of third party going on in 2000 in SC that had nothing to do with FLS, attached document is contemporaneous reporting on the issue and some reporting from today. The only client FLS had in SC was Gov. Bush’s campaign and nowhere is there any demonstrable evidence that FLS had anything to do with the controversial calls or reporting that references any.
Second issue is that FLS has not made ANY anti-Obama robo-calls. The only anti-Obama calls by FLS were done with live operators to Minnesota. Attached is a also a backgrounder on the calls being made by live operators.
There are statements attributable to Jeff Larson on the FLS website addressing both of these issues.
Unfortunately, FLS has become a political football but please take a look at attached and their website and please consider updating your article, these guys are getting a bum rap.
Please call me with any questions and thank you for you attention to this.