Heard on NPR this afternoon:
All Things Considered, May 1, 2008 · Thousands of North Carolina residents answered their telephones last week to hear this message, delivered in a deep, soothing voice:
“Hello. This is Lamont Williams. In the next few days, you will receive a voter registration packet in the mail. All you need to do is fill it out, sign it, date and return the application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard. Please return your registration form when it arrives. Thank you.”
In fact, the deadline to register for the May 6 Democratic presidential primary had already passed. The robocall went to many registered voters who were expecting to vote that day. The call and follow-up mailings left many wondering whether they were registered for the primary or not.
This sounds like a classic example of voter suppression — sowing confusion in order to drive down turn-out. The calls seemed to be aimed at African-American communities, places where Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is expected to run well ahead of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
But the group behind the calls isn’t partisan Republican or ideologically conservative. It’s Women’s Voices Women Vote, a 501(c)(3) charity that states its mission as registering single women to vote. The robocalls seem completely at odds with the group’s usual, upbeat message. In one of the group’s public service announcements, the actress Julia Louis Dreyfus strolls thru a replica of the Oval Office and fantasizes about women electing a woman president.
Women’s Voices, Women Vote did not make anyone available for comment on Wednesday or Thursday.
Just a week ago, the group’s founder, Page Gardner, contacted the North Carolina Board of Elections to let them know about the mailing. She noted that the Women’s Voices packet, which she said was intended to boost registration in general, would arrive in mailboxes just before the primary. Gardner wrote: “We hope this unfortunate coincidence in timing does not lead to any confusion or aggravation for either your state’s voters or registrars.”
Group’s Ties to the Democratic Candidates
Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting , who collaborated in reporting this story, found some Obama backers among the Women’s Voices leadership, but the group mostly has ties to Clinton and her campaign. Gardner worked on former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Board member John Podesta was President Clinton’s chief-of-staff. Maggie Williams, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, used to be on the Women’s Voices leadership team and did consulting work for the group.
Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies, in Durham, N.C., says there’s no hard evidence that the robocalls were meant to suppress the pro-Obama vote. “We can’t show that there’s any formal or direct connection,” he says.
But … what do you expect from the Hillary contingent?
Other interesting news about Women’s Voices, Women Votes:
In 2006, the organization paid Integral Resources Inc. nearly $800,000 for phone services. That company’s CEO and founder is Ron Rosenblith, who is married to Women’s Voices president, Page Gardner. The contract represents 16 percent of the nonprofit’s budget. The group is funded mostly through foundations and individual donations.
“I think it’s a really big concern,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy in Chicago. “It does give an appearance of a conflict of interest.”
The question, he and other charity experts say, would be whether Integral Resources profited from its inside connections. Women’s Voices did not make anyone available to comment.
The organization also paid several million dollars more on contracts with companies run by five additional members of the nonprofit’s leadership team.
Is it any wonder that in a recent poll of Democratic voters by the Pew Institute were asked to rate the New York senator’s character traits, only 57 percent found her honest, compared with 75 percent for Barack Obama? What’s more, in the same poll, 35 percent of Democratic voters said she was a “phony,” while only 19 percent said the same thing about Barack Obama.
C’mon Hillary … do you really think people’s views of you are going to IMPROVE between now and November, especially if you continue to use Republican tactics in order to take out the competition? Do you really think that after being as especially divisive as you have been over the past couple of months (not to mention the past 16 years), that you’ll be able to bring people together?
Get real! And get out of the race before you blow the election for the Democrats!