The McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee launched a massive robocall campaign on Thursday designed to alarm voters about Barack Obama's past association with former radical Bill Ayers. The committee may be violating state law in the process.
The call begins: "Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC," before telling recipients that they "need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans."
More remarkable than the message (coming after a presidential debate in which John McCain said he didn't care about a "washed up terrorist") is the reach of the campaign itself. The Huffington Post received dozens of emails from voters who had either received the call or gotten a voice mail with a recording. Reports came from Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Indiana, Delaware, Illinois, Georgia and even Canada.
Several readers in Minnesota also reported receiving the call, which could be a violation of that state's laws. Explains Shaun Dakin, CEO & Founder of the National Political Do Not Contact Registry:
"Most robocalls are supposed to have two things, "paid for by X" and a phone number of the group making the call. Most do that. Now, that being said, there are some states that have their own robocall laws and they are much stricter. Minnesota pretty much bans robocalls entirely unless they are introduced by a human voice. And that pretty much never happens because it defeats the point."
The RNC did not immediately return request for comment. Here's audio of the call:
The majority of responses from the Democratic and independent readers who received the Ayers robocall were sharply (perhaps not surprisingly) negative.
Vic from New Mexico wrote: "l just received [a robocall] from McCain and the RNC, calling Obama a 'terrorist' after McCain's claim last night that he's not running a negative campaign."
Ali in Missouri wrote: "I have already received two McCain calls. The one yesterday was relatively benign but the one today linked Obama directly to the 'terrorist Bill Ayers,' describing Ayers' violent activities."
Kimberly in Virginia writes: "I would like to feel shocked by the offensive nature of the message, but can't say that I am that surprised, given the Republican tactics of the last month, and the last eight years."
Kirk in Wisconsin emailed: "My guess is it will cost McCain 2 votes for each one he gets."
Multiple readers wrote that they had been receiving robocalls from Republican sources well before the recent wave, and that those calls were mild in comparison. A reader in Colorado said he recently received a call about Obama's association with ACORN. A self-described independent in Colorado said she has been receiving "an average of about 10 calls a week- almost exclusively from Republicans." Others recalled getting calls about Obama and his Hollywood friends.
Again, if you hear these things, feel free to contact the Huffington Post.
UPDATE: The McCain campaign responds by saying that all the calls in Minnesota were done with an actual person reading the script (so as not to break state law).
"We made the calls, and they were all live," said McCain regional political director Ben Golnik.
This conflicts with the reports we are hearing from more than a dozen Minnesota readers, some of whom were read the Ayers' robocall by an individual but many of whom reported receiving an automated call.