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November, 21st 2007

Your pre-Thanksgiving Mormon-gate

– Liz Mair

Well, I thought this story had died a death heading into Thanksgiving. Guess I was wrong.

Last night, Soren Dayton noted the fact that several people who received the Mormon-bashing calls are on the Romney payroll, and one is on a Romney steering committee. I'm no expert on polling, but one of the questions that immediately springs to my mind is, wouldn't you filter out of a call list of this type anyone who was taking money from the campaign, or on a committee associated with it? It would seem to me to be a good idea, if not completely standard practice. But, it wasn't done. Just like Iowa State Rep. Watts, who just so happens to be a Romney endorser (and who definitely should have been filtered out) wasn't.

This story was made for the media, people-- it was not about altering voters' perceptions one little bit. That much is for certain. And it should be borne in mind when conjecturing as to who might be behind this.

Another interesting point arising in Soren's post. It seems that one of the people who received the call (the one who makes $1100 a month off of Romney) can't get her story straight about when she received the call. I say this with virtual certainty since a) Reid Wilson of RCP is a smart guy and doesn't misreport details and b) I don't think McClatchy does, either. This raises the possibility that the the lady is fibbing. People who have actually experienced upsetting things (like getting a call where someone's religion is being bashed) usually remember the day on which it occurred. They also usually remember what was going on at the time. In the McClatchy piece, Rose Kramer (the lady in question) says she was "waiting for the TV show "House" to start at 8 p.m. Tuesday." In the RCP piece she is cited as saying she received the call around 8:30pm on Wednesday. My question: if she really took it when she was waiting for House to start, wouldn't that make it clear in her memory that a) she took the call on a Tuesday and b) the call came in around 8, not halfway through the hour? Maybe I'm too avid a House fan, but I don't think if I'd taken a call like this when I was actually waiting for the show to start, I'd confuse the time AND date a matter of a few days later. The fact that Kramer looks like she might be fibbing about taking the call raises a question about whether the entire story of the calls being made could be a fabrication. If they never occurred, it would explain Kramer's inability to remember when she received one. Though I continue to think that the fact that Western Wats seems to be doing this neither-confirm-nor-deny thing suggests they were involved somewhere along the line and some calls were made (if they hadn't been, there would be no non-disclosure agreement to prevent them from coming straight out and saying "it wasn't us")-- just maybe not to very many people.

Something continues to smell extraordinarily fishy about all this. And Kevin Madden's statement on the matter isn't actually doing much to make that smell go away. He says to Jennifer Rubin at the AmSpec blog:

Where to begin? Our campaign has repeatedly asserted, explained, insisted with an emphatic level of certainty that we are not involved with calls against our own candidate. We have also refrained from accusing any other campaign and have instead asked the New Hampshire Attorney General to examine the matter. The statistical probability that one of our supporters would receive one of these calls would be obvious. But conspiracy theorists are less likely to consider that fact.

Fair enough, one supporter, yes. But Kev seems to be missing the point. No less than three Romney supporters were contacted-- and not just any old supporters, but rather people on payroll or who had publicly endorsed Romney. That's a little more weird than Kev seems to willing to recognize with his quote, and I for one would be interested in knowing what his views are on the basis that several Romney supporters, two of whom are obviously taking money from the campaign, were called. If he thinks this is as weird as I and others evidently do, I'd suggest he might want to get his candidate to do some more public blasting and make sure that the NH AG is just thinking turkey and stuffing for the next few days.

UPDATE: Huffington Post makes the point that the people who got calls, who are connected to the Romney campaign, did not disclose their connections to the reporters with whom they spoke. Goodness, I wonder why?

UPDATE NO 2: TPM is reporting that the Romney campaign has confirmed that it referred reporters to two recipients of the Mormon-gate calls without disclosing that those recipients were on Romney's payroll. From TPM:

Deepening the mystery surrounding the anti-Mormon polling calls, the Romney campaign is confirming that it referred reporters to two recipients of the calls without disclosing that the two were also on the Romney campaign payroll, TPM Election Central has learned.

In response to questions from TPM Election Central, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden confirmed that the campaign had failed to disclose this info to reporters. Madden suggested that the campaign had identified them as "supporters," which is a far cry from being directly paid by the campaign, as the two call recipients were.

[...]

The new revelation raises the question of whether the firm making the calls -- which is already reported to have on staff several people who have donated to the Romney campaign -- knowingly called Romney supporters because they could be counted on to tell the press about the calls and to suggest to reporters that Romney rival John McCain was behind them

It also raises the question of whether the Romney campaign referred reporters to the callers -- without disclosing their relationship with the campaign -- for the same purpose.

[...]

Roth spoke out against the calls in an interview with the Salt Lake City Tribune. She pointed to the fact that the calls said positive things about McCain, and she herself bashed the Arizona senator, suggesting that he was behind the calls. But Roth wasn't identified in the article as being on Romney's payroll.

Kramer, for her part, also spoke out against the calls in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. Kramer was only identified as a Romney "supporter," and also was not identified as being on Romney's payroll.

Romney spokesman Madden sent TPM Election Central a statement this morning confirming that the campaign had referred reporters to the two women, but he didn't directly address the question of whether the campaign should have confirmed that they were on payroll.


It seems odd to me that Madden would have neglected to mention that the recipients, who he was putting in touch with reporters, were on payroll, and would simply have described them as "supporters." At the least, it looks like a screw-up by Madden, who surely should have known that reporters would want to know of all connections between the call recipients and the campaign, given the connections already being drawn between the calls and the Romney camp. At the worse, it looks like a deliberate effort to mislead reporters and generate more coverage of the story without more attention being drawn to Romney connections throughout the web of possible callers, call recipients, and so on. In any event, I don't expect that Madden, or the Romney team more generally, is going to earn kudos from journalists for neglecting to mention the true and full nature of connections between the supporters who got called and the campaign. On the face of it, it looks dishonest. And journalists like campaigns to be honest with them.

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