Monday, June 18, 2007

Robo calls make nasty automatic

The campaign to propel Republicans into the majority in Louisiana’s House of Representatives apparently began with a vengeance last week. One message to voters across the state who happen to reside in legislative districts where Republican challengers are taking on Democrats — especially incumbent Dems — targeted what robo-callers said was a “vote to raise taxes,” insinuating Democrats had determined that neither tax breaks, cuts or credits would pass their voting machines.
In our little sanctuary in Minden, the call registered Wednesday on our answering machine and declared incumbent Democrat Jean Doerge (who is being challenged by Republican school board member Ronny Broughton) had “just three hours ago” turned thumbs down on tax relief and specifically mentioned the dreaded Stelly word, designed to create gnashed teeth and a vote against perpetrators of that tax-neutral generator of additional millions for the state. Doerge, the automated call claimed, had voted to raise taxes on the citizens of Louisiana.
We thought it a bit odd that anti-tax relief votes would have preceded the third — and this time successful — legislative ballot on HB3 which had languished short of its needed 70 votes twice prior on the House floor. The robo-calls which apparently hit many districts in the state had a very short lag time, so the script must have been delivered earlier in the day.
Checking with some legislative bill watchers, we learned indeed that no negative votes on tax bills were registered Wednesday prior to the HB3 presentation. Instead, according to Speaker of the House Joe Salter (a Democrat, if that makes any needle fluctuation on the truthometer), only two bills concerning taxes were presented and both passed by large margins. One of those, the long-suffering HB3, passed 104-0 — with no changes — and created more than a few raised eyebrows. But, more on that later.
Perhaps the calls referenced several procedural votes where state Rep. Hunter Greene, a Baton Rouge Republican, and a couple of other Republicans tried to move some tax-cut bills which had been tied up in the House Ways and Means Committee onto the floor. Those motions, perhaps five or so, were all voted down principally along party lines. Those votes, according to more than one experienced follower of legislative activities, had absolutely nothing to do with voting against tax relief as claimed in the calls.
Some believe those calls were originated by a new political action committee, Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM), the reported brain child of Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter and the money child of such notables as Boysie Bollinger, Joe Canizaro, Paul Dickson, T.A. Barfield and Michael Polito. Also included among the speculated list of involvees in Houston, Texas millionaire Bob Perry, he of Swiftboat fame from the 2004 presidential election. (Hopefully, this Louisiana model is run more carefully than it’s Texas cousin which was created by former U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay.)
It’s said the LCRM intends to raise between $2.3 and $2.5 million in targeted districts across the state in campaigns under the catchy “Operation Clean House” theme to replace Democrats. More than one campaign watcher said the robo-calls most likely are just the beginning, and some Democrats believe misrepresentation, distortion or flat-out lie will be a common thread in Campaign ‘07.
“The calls that went out Wednesday were absolutely misrepresenting what happened on the House floor,” said one long-time Democrat campaigner and activist. “If this is an indication of what’s to come, it won’t be pretty in several districts across the state.”
But, according to our source, the misinformation won’t go unchallenged when the facts are either ignored or twisted to make good campaign fodder.
“We do not intend to let (Republicans and the LCRM) go merrily along their way using the Internet, phone banks, advertising...whatever, to spread false information and outright lies,” the source said. “It’s one thing to lay someone’s record out in the open for everyone to see...that’s to be expected if you’re an incumbent at any level. But, just because you happen to be a Democrat, that does not mean you have to put up with the distortion we saw in these phone calls. Anyone doing this will be held accountable, and they should be prepared for what happens.”
What this all means, fellow voters, is that Louisiana politics won’t change just because some politicians are wrapping it all in a neat package called reform. Nothing about many of the campaigns will see reform except the manner in which the “messages” are delivered. One person’s truth is another’s distorted facts. The trick will be telling the difference.
And, back to the final passage of HB3. Word is that nothing changed in the language, nor in the dollar amounts presented in the original bill which failed twice to get it’s needed 70 votes. Our question: What moral victory was won by the Republican super minority, and what message went out to both voters and countless officials who saw their projects twisting in the political winds?
Perhaps a robo-call or two could answer those questions for us.