The Robo-Calls and Dirty Tricks Continue…

by jhwygirl

…but are they all from the GOP?

I wrote a post the other day about HD63 GOP challenger Tom Burnett making robo calls in the Bozeman area. Thing is, not only are the calls automated and recorded, they’re recorded by Tom Burnett.

Pogo Possum had a comment in that post that suggested Bryce Bennett, Democratic candidate for HD92 was putting out robo calls – but when it gets down to it, he puts out that they weren’t actually recorded. Someone called him – probably read from a script – and that isn’t illegal. You can call from a fascimile machine – you just have to be a real person on the line.

I know Bryce, and I know he wasn’t doing robo calls. He has plenty of volunteers making calls, but they are all real people who are talking on the phone…and that is not a robo call, per state law.

Yesterday I came across a tweet from Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller a “re tweet” from Missoulian Reporter Keila Szpaller of something from Matt Hagengruber, a Billings Gazette city reporter that said this:

Got a Kendall Van Dyk robocall at my work #. Not a good idea to notify reporters that you’re breaking state campaign laws.

I got to thinking – and wanted to tweet/ask Ms. Szpaller, but didn’t – is her work number a Billings phone number? Because why would Kendall Van Dyke’s campaign – which is a senate seat for Billings – be calling a Missoula phone number? Automated at that?

That just plain doesn’t pass the smell test….

Ed note: see comment below from Keila – I overlooked the “re tweet” status of it. I have not heard any of the same speculating out of Billings, although I wonder if Hagengruber’s call sounded like what I describe…or if he got a number

Interrupting this post….

I’ll be – just got a call from the same number Pogo refers to in his comment on the Burnett robo-call post…406-258-0500. I said hello and it took a good 10 seconds for a person to talk back, saying hello and identifying herself as a person with the Willis Curdy for HD100 campaign. She launched into her speech – and she read from a script in spurts with a thick accent. I stopped her and said that I was confused – “who are you?” I asked. She stopped and identified herself as “Sarah” and I asked her again who she was with – she said slowly – again, as if reading from a script – “I’m with the Willis Curdy for House District 100 campaign.”

So I told her I was still confused because I didn’t live where I could vote for Curdy (which is unfortunate, really – I hope he wins) – and she then went back to her script and said “well I’m sorry and thank you very much for your time,” and then “good night.”

The person on the other line was clearly uncomfortable reading and had to take time to speak the stuff she was reading.

406-258-0500? That’s the same number that was allegedly calling for Bryce Bennett. And truth be told, that 258-0500 number has been calling me for some time. I just don’t like actual live calls much, so I haven’t picked up.

But when it did call me the first time – on the evening of the 21st – I reverse-looked up the number and it came up as an inactive number….and when it dialed me again and I didn’t pick up I called 411 on my Alltel phone and they, too, told me that they had it as an inactive number.

Well – clearly it isn’t inactive.

So after I got off the phone with “Sarah” at 258-0500 I called someone closely associated with the Curdy campaign to ask them about the call I had just gotten.

There is no Sarah working or volunteering for the Curdy campaign, as she had clearly stated twice for whom she was calling.

Curdy isn’t even making calls. He’s knocking doors and has been doing so for months.

Matt is conjecturing that there’s dirty tricks afoot. I say conjecture no more…clearly this is a sloppily organized mud job.

Laws are being broke here – we have one phone number making robo-calls for Tom Burnett 319-294-7021…and we have another one that is making false calls for campaigns they are not associated with.

Today, both the Bennett campaign and the Curdy campaign issued statements regarding these calls. They are below the fold.

From Willis Curdy for HD100:

My campaign has heard from several voters in HD 100 about some “telemarketer” calls they’ve received.

I want to make it clear to voters that my campaign is not responsible for these calls. We didn’t authorize them and don’t condone them.

My campaign and its volunteers don’t engage in this type of campaigning. I have been personally out on doors and knocked thousands of doors in an effort to have one on one contact with voters to encourage personal relationship building within the district.

We are making calls into the area, but those calls are from local volunteers. We provide a script for helping the volunteers get started and encourage them to have conversations with the voters they are contacting. I know who all the folks are that are calling and I know who they’ve called in my district.

My campaign is working to find out who is responsible for these “telemarketer” calls so we can put a stop to them. We’re asking for your help. If you receive one of these calls, please contact us. It’s helpful if you can tell us the number where the call is coming from and any disclaimer information that is provided.

It’s important to me that campaigns are run in a respectful manner. I work hard to communicate directly with voters, who I believe are trying to make the best choices for our state. Please feel free to call and talk to me directly about this or any issue that concerns you.

From Bryce Bennett for HD:

My campaign has heard from several voters in HD 92 about some disturbing, negative calls they’ve received.

I’ve made clear to my opponent and I want to make clear to voters that my campaign is not responsible for these calls. We didn’t authorize them and don’t condone them.
My campaign and its volunteers don’t engage in this type of campaigning. I’ve sworn since the first day of my candidacy that I won’t engage in negative campaigning of any sort. It’s unacceptable to me, period.

There have been many letters to the editor and other campaign materials that have tried to put me in a negative light. I’ve spoken to my opponent and believe him when he says he’s not responsible for these items.

Likewise, I am not responsible for these calls.

My campaign is working to find out who is responsible for these calls so we can put a stop to them. We’re asking for your help: If you receive one of these calls, please contact us. It’s helpful if you can tell us the number where the call is coming from and any disclaimer information that is provided.

It’s important to me that campaigns are run in a respectful manner. I especially don’t want negative statements made about my opponent. This reflects poorly on us all. Mudslinging isn’t helpful, especially to voters who are trying to make the best choices for our state.”

  1. This is truly superior Rat-f@cking. I have to give the Republicants credit for being so despicable. Snidely Whiplash would be proud.

    But, remember, Democrats are the problem …

  2. Hi jhwygirl:

    You’re right, that wouldn’t pass the smell test.

    That was a tweet from Billings Gazette reporter Matt Hagengruber, @mhagengruber, and I found it noteworthy and retweeted.

    I didn’t get a call here in Missoula myself, though.


  3. need to thank pogo for alerting us to this also j-girl.

    by the way pogo. i know don harbaugh to be a fine individual too. there are two good candidates in that district.

  4. Pogo Possum

    I am not buying Matt’s theory that Republican’s are making thousands of calls to voters encouraging them to vote against Republican candidates. I respect Matt but even that theory is a bit of a stretch and doesn’t pass it’s own “smell test”.

    I am also not impressed with Bryce Bennett’s statement “. . . I won’t engage in negative campaigning of any sort. It’s unacceptable to me, period.”

    Bryce has been hip deep in negative campaigning in previous years. Bennett is the young man who tried to force his way into the GOP Convention at the Hilton Hotel last year with his video camera to film private meetings. After multiple requests by Hilton staff to leave the premises, they had to call the police who forced him to leave only after they threatened to arrest him for trespassing. I was in the lobby watching all this and when it was over, one of the Hilton people muttered, “What an obnoxious self important little jerk.” A few people said Bryce is also one of the people who followed Burns around with a video camera to get him in a gotcha moment. Not certain if he was one of the “video kids” but it fits his MO.

    If Bryce and Willis “campaign volunteers” aren’t making the calls I bet they know who is. The live calls are from a Missoula number so my bet it is either Bryce’s Forward Montana group or the state Democratic Party (or one of their side committees) that are funding the operation.

    • mr benson

      You are wise not to buy off on matt’s theory. It’s nonsense.

      The Bozeman Daily Chronicle had to apologize for printing a fictitious letter attacking Tom Burnett. A flyer attacking Tom Burnett as a bigot cited as the authoritative source.

      Campaigning has hit a new low, and it’s a race to see who can plumb new depths first.

      Personally, the new low was hit by the instances above; citing an anonymous internet source in an attack mailer is getting down there pretty far. Especially since the anonymous source is a known Democrat astroturfer who has posted deliberately false information in the past.

    • I’ll swear an affidavit that Forward Montana isn’t making these calls or funding them.

  5. Pogo Possum

    One correction to your post jhwyGirl. I said voters in HD 92 reported to us that they were receiving both live calls AND robo-calls (calls mechanically dialed with a recorded message coming from an out of state number.) that attacked Harbaugh.

    • Not just Matt – me too. I took a call from that number – but it was for Curdy. They claimed to be working directly for Curdy’s campaign “Curdy for House District 100”.

      That’s an outright lie.

      Someone’s attacking Harbaugh, but it isn’t who you think it is.

      Maybe you can call information and find out who has that number? See if you can get an answer, because I know I tried (as have at least one other person) and they’ve gotten the same answer I have – the number isn’t active.

      There’s shenanigans going on. Burnett is one thing – the guy’s using his own voice – but these other calls? I don’t know why Dems would call and use horrible callers…it just doesn’t make sense. I’ve worked many a phone bank, and things might get slow but you can always count on at least 2 or 3 caller volunteers.

  6. Pogo Possum

    I spent over $25 running the phone number through Intelius and a few other online companies that provide assisted reverse phone look up information. All they could tell me was that it was a fax line but had no name identified with it. One source said it was a FAX land line through Qwest in Milltown, MT and two sources said it was a private FAX land line in Missoula but didn’t have an address or a customer name.

  7. cynic

    I live in Billings… Got a call from Van Dyk from the same number today. Didin’t think anything of it until I was reading this and the number looked awfully familiar.

  8. mr benson

    People should also understand “plausible deniability” or just “deniability”, if there is really such a word.

    A group like Christopher Cady’s can act to send out flyers that cause me to send money to the attacked candidate, or do robo calling, without consulting the candidate they are supposedly “helping” or more accurately, the candidate who is running against the candidate they are attacking.

    All in the name of partisan politics. Which I see some of you are all too eager to engage in. “those damned D’s” are doing the same things “those damned R’s” are doing. Attacking the one side without condemning your own, is laughable nonsense.

  9. Pogo Possum

    Let’s see who violates this election rule. Saw this in the Missoulian Briefs section today on Page B3:

    No unauthorized political fliers can be placed in newspaper boxes

    The Missoulian reminds all residents of western Montana that no unpaid political fliers, or any unauthorized advertising of any type, should be placed in Missoulian newspaper boxes under any circumstances.

    The newspaper has received several reports that political groups or candidates may be planning to deposit campaign fliers in Missoulian boxes over the next few days. That practice is not allowed by the Missoulian.

    Missoulian boxes cannot be used by any business, individual or group other than the newspaper.


    A fellow in the Rattlesnake called me this morning and told me about it. Seems he and a number of his neighbors are ticked off that Bryce Bennett filled the Rattlesnake Missoulian boxes with Bennett flyers in the dead of night before the Primary Election this spring. He and others spoke with the editor of the Missoulian about it recently. He said he has already spoken to an attorney and if it happens again he is going to “raise holy hell” about it. Could be an interesting election day.

    • JC

      “Missoulian boxes cannot be used by any business, individual or group other than the newspaper.”

      The Missoulian has no legal right to make this claim. They can spout it all they want. But show me the ordinance proving otherwise.

      • Pogo Possum

        It is called private property, JC. The Missoulian owns the boxes and can legally control what goes in them. You want to put something in the Missoulian box then you have to pay the Missoulian for the privilage.

        Here is the number for the Missoulian Editor, JC. Why don’t you give her a call and explain why she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Report back to us what you discover.

        Editor: Sherry Devlin
        (406) 523-5250

        • JC

          So, you’re willing to give up your “property rights” as a homeowner to any entity that wants to appropriate them?

          Again… the ordinance. Otherwise they can ask all they want, but there is no legal obligation to abide by it, nor does the Missoulian have any legal standing to enforce their demands.

          I’m not defending that people are stuffing the boxes with political material. I’m just not going to let the Missoulian overreach with their huffery and puffery.

          Maybe an analogy will help. I own the mailbox that sits on the corner of our lane. The mailbox is on private property. I can ask all I want that nothing but mail from the USPS get put into it, but I get all sorts of junk mail inserted into it by others. The USPS sends me junkmail, even though I have added my name to the no junk mail list. I put a sign on it saying mail only, please. But I still get stuff stuffed into it. Do have any recourse to sue or ask the County Attorney to file criminal charges? Hell no.

          Your assertions about the Missoulian’s “property rights” are so phony, they’re laughable.

          • Pogo Possum

            Those junk mail companies “pay” USPS for the right to send you junk mail.

            Here is a simple test to help you understand. Call up the US postal service and tell theyou are going to be hand stuffing political literature in the mail boxes and see what kind of response you get.

            If you really want to test it out, stuff those mail boxes then send a letter to the USPS and dare them to do something about it.

            • JC

              But it still is my mailbox. Just like the MIssoulian drop box is theirs. I have no legal rights over private parties stuffing things in my box. Neither does the Missoulian.

              Instead of using my analogy to deflect the point, just answer the question:

              What local ordinance, state or federal law protects the Missoulian’s drop box from political flyers? ANd gives them any recourse?

              Jes’ askin’, and your not being able to answer tells me more than anything.

          • Pogo Possum

            I am still waiting to hear about how your conversation with the editor of the Missoulian went. Do you need her phone number again?

            • JC

              WHy should I call them? If they have a legal interest, they (and I guess you too…) can provide a legal method by which to assert and protect it.

              I’m just not into private businesses asserting rights on my property. I do not sign away my rights when I pay them to deliver a newspaper to me (which I no longer do because, well, it’s the Missoulian…ick).

              Oh, and I’m still waiting for a legal citation by which you can protect the Missoulian against those evil lit drops.

  10. Voters in HD-4 (Whitefish & immediate surrounds) have been receiving anti-Hammerquist push poll calls, originating offshore if the callers’ accents are any guide. I suspect these are 3rd party calls bankrolled by the far right.

    In the meantime, ugly 3rd party cards from the right are flooding the district.

    The GOP and its friends sense a historic opportunity to seize power and they are shamelessly using very trick, dirty and clean, to win.

  11. Pogo Possum

    USPS mail boxes (whether you bought them or whether the Post Office put them up) are governed by federal law:




    Sec. 1725. Postage unpaid on deposited mail matter

    Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as
    statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on
    which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved,
    or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail
    matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage
    thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.

    (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 784; Pub. L. 91-375, Sec. 6(j)(33),
    Aug. 12, 1970, 84 Stat. 780; Pub. L. 103-322, title XXXIII,
    Sec. 330016(1)(F), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

    The Missoulian boxes are the private property of the Missoulian. They own them, not you. The Missoulian delivery staff, according to a representative of the Missoulian, has instructed their carriers to remove any political literature they find in the newspaper boxes.

    I called the Missoulian. Now you call them.

    • JC

      Why should I call them?

      You have verified everything I knew. I’m aware that their are federal laws re: USPS mailboxes.

      And the Missoulian can do anything they want with what they find inside their boxes. They just don’t have any legal recourse when they find anything other than the Missoulian in their boxen.

  12. Pogo Possum

    You are not doing your fellow Democratic candidates (or candidates from any party) any favors by suggesting or encouraging them to put political literature in US mail boxes or newspaper boxes, JC. All you are doing is setting them up for political embarassment and possible fines. Most of these candidates (all parties) work their butts off going door to door and have enough to worry about (state election laws, federal laws, county & city rules, financial report finling deadlines, reporting rules, etc.) without someone giving them stupid advice.

    • JC

      Geez, PoPo, I’m not suggesting anything. I haven’t advocated putting anything into Missoulian boxes. Nor am I defending anybody putting anything in those boxes.

      I’m just not going to let the Missoulian claim a legal right on my property when one doesn’t exist.

      This really is a petty matter PoPo. I don’t know why you persist. But Montana is a very libertarian state in many ways. And one of those ways is when a business tries to appropriate someone’s personal property for their own nonexistent legal claims.

      You do believe in property rights, don’t you? Or are you happy when a business asserts a right on your property when none exists?

      • Pogo Possum

        I do beleive in property rights JC and the Missoulian boxes are property of the Missoulian. The boxes are not your property.

        • Are they? Have the property owners signed some sort of agreement demonstrating that the Missoulian owns those boxes?

          Or are they on the public right of way? I doubt the first, and suggest that if they are located on the other, then they better have the appropriate permits.

          The U.S. mail is protected by federal law, but are newspaper boxes some how conferred the same? Is there something out there I’ve never heard of?

          I find the Missoulian’s warning strange…and if it is true, then that’s OK – just cite the law.

          I kinda think they were stretching some boundary. If not, it’d be interesting to know.

          I mean – campaign signs aren’t allowed on public right of way, that debate surfaces every year – why would newspaper boxes?

          • mr benson

            Yeah “cite the law, Missoulian” is the correct response.

            I have a saying about campaign signs in the public ROW. Nobody owns it, so “nobody” is endorsing the candidate whose signs are plunked into the ROW.

          • JC

            Well, if the Missoulian box is in the ROW, and it has their logo plastered all over it, then does it not become a sign, and should be regulated by local sign ordinances?

            • mr benson

              amazingly enough, it remains a mailbox and not any of your bizarre wishful illogic can change its fundamental nature. but i did get a good laugh out of your post, an excellent demonstration of progressive thinking.

  13. Binky Griptight

    So, tell me again, why don’t any of the people associated with the Bennett and Harbaugh campaigns have any idea who is making the calls? I can understand why they, themselves, wouldn’t condone them, but letting them continue is tantamount to endorsing them. Call off the dogs, or file a complaint to demonstrate they’re not your dogs.

  14. Michele

    I was out knocking doors today for Willis Curdy and met a voter who said he received a call from someone on behalf of Willis Curdy, who sounded like people from India and had trouble communicating well in English. Willis does not have any volunteers meeting this description. It fits in the “dirty tricks” category. It also made sense that there was no connection between those calls and the Curdy campaign because this voter’s door was still on the knocking list. Who is hiring these people to make fake calls?

    • Who is hiring these people to make fake calls?

      whoever stands to gain by annoying voters and making them blame willis curdy would be a good place to start looking.

      • mr benson

        “spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said, “We’re not doing anything that the Republican Party hasn’t done as well.””

        race to find a new bottom

      • Pogo Possum

        Like I said earlier, PBear, arguing that the GOP is paying people to call voters and tell them that Edmunds or Harbaugh (who is a former teacher, HS Principal and head of the teachers union) hates education doesn’t pass the smell test.

        In fairness to both Curdy and Bennett, I don’t think either of them are doing the calls directly. However, I do believe they know exactly who is paying for them.

    • Pogo Possum

      “Who is hiring these people to make fake calls?”

      Call the state Democratic Chairman, Michele. He knows and is most likely the one footing the bill.

      • Pronghorn

        Either I am missing some critical piece of logic, or there’s simply none there. Why on earth would the state Dem chair pay for “fake” calls delivered in poorly-delivered and heavily-accented English–designed to elicit a xenophobic response–with the result being a vote for the other side???

        • First, you are assuming that the vote would be for the other side. That is an assumption of your own making. Second, I find it hard to believe that the State Republicans would be behind something that could potentially help the Democrat Candidates.

          • the poorly worded, strongly scripted and heavily accented calls, Moorcat, are being done on behalf of Democratic candidates. They’re horrible.

            Pronghorn has it right – why would Dems do that to themselves.

            As for negative calls – what Pogo had originally described as negative robo calls against Harbaugh – he thinks that Bryce is doing that…or the Dems.

            Now – what Pogo describes I have only heard from him. I have not heard any other person in Missoula complain about calls of that nature.

            Burnett out in Bozeman? He is robo-calling and we know that because the calls are his voice, talking about himself.

            The Brown/Van Dyke race in Billings? Most money spent ever in the race, and both are spending it. I’m sure it’s a ‘race to the new low’ as it goes – both sides have been reported in the state’s papers as participating in questionable activity.

            I’ll also add that both Curdy and Bennett have issued statements calling for an end to shenanigans and a focus on an issue-based campaign.

            • mr benson

              Every few days the spam shows up: “reach voters for only 2.7 cents per completed call, your own voice!” An inexperienced candidate will bite, not understanding that it is illegal.

              There have been no such calls for Burnett since the one short stretch, so, no, Burnett isn’t robo-calling today as you say in your last comment.

              You imply that the robo calls are continuing; they are not.

              If we are talking about some outrageous electioneering, I’d point to the fictitious letter writing campaign to the Chronicle editor attacking Burnett, a truly sleazy move. It’s not illegal, you know, just the kind of move that one side’s been getting away with for years. “I’m a republican, but I changed my mind and I’m not supporting Burnett now”. Just another lying sack of shit.

              And Montana Conservation Voters have been guilty of push polling late in campaigns. Push polling isn’t allowed in Montana, either.

              Again, whoever paid for the “foreign” calls for the democrats probably wasn’t the candidate, but a PAC out of his or her control. I’m sure the PAC didn’t intend that the calls suck, that was just another case of hiring bad consultants, just as Burnett did.

              Robo calling is a misdemeanor. Given a complaint, the sheriff or police will investigate, the city or county attorney will decide whether to charge the responsible person. I think it could happen.

  15. Pogo Possum

    I just love liberal spin. Make negative phone calls against a GOP candidate and then claim the GOP is paying people to criticize its own candidates. I do agree with one thing though, the state Democratic party should demand a refund fromt the firm they hired to make these calls.

    Now the question is, what other tricks will Bennett and Curdy do in the next 32 hours. In the primary Bennett put flyers in the Missoulian mail boxes. The Missoulian is onto that trick and have advised their carriers to remove them Tuesday morning. Bennett also stood at the door of the Rattlesnake polling place electioneering all day which is against the law. I heard plans are in place to deal with that trick too.

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