Missouri Democrats counter Republicans with automated phone calls

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 8:04 p.m. CDT; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Democrats' new automated phone call, featuring Republican-cum-Obama -supporter Lynn Weber, is intended to counteract four or five automated Republican phone calls circulating throughout Missouri.

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents might be hearing something new when they pick up their phones. A Democratic automated telephone call that began circulating in Missouri this week is intended to be a "counter-punch" to those being sent by Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign, former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson said Thursday morning.

He spoke at Columbia's Barack Obama headquarters.

The automated calls, sometimes referred to as robocalls, are produced and sent out by campaigns. Both parties use them, but only Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s messages have featured prominently in national headlines thus far.

“They’re outrageous,” Wilson said. “It’s just nastiness thrown up on a wall to see what will stick.”

The Democrats' new automated call, featuring Republican-cum-Obama supporter Lynn Weber, is intended to counteract four or five automated Republican phone calls circulating throughout Missouri.

The McCain calls feature lines such as, “Hello, I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC, because Democrats are dangerously weak on crime” and “Barack Obama says Midwest folks like us cling to our guns because we're bitter.”

Wilson’s particular beef is that the voices used in the McCain calls are not identified and “firing from ambush," which is why he continually pointed to the transparency of the Democrats’ new phone call, in which Weber begins by identifying who she is and where she lives.

A resident of the Missouri River town of Marthasville since 1997, Weber is a Democratic campaign manager’s dream. She said she passively supported McCain in 2000 but was inspired to switch sides and start actively campaigning in the name of Obama. She said Obama has run his campaign with integrity and thinks he will make positive changes for the middle class.

Weber decided to help make the automated call not because she’s against negative campaigning but because of the timing, she said. The country is in the middle of its worst economic crisis in decades, she said, and the issues people should be concentrating on are the economy and health care. She objected to McCain using his time to send messages “creating fear and danger with voting for Obama” instead of suggesting solutions for the nation’s problems. 

Weber said she was particularly put off by an automated call she received that tried to link Obama to Bill Ayers, a Chicagoan known for radical activism.

McCain's calls are “distracting voters from what is really important,” Weber said.

Columbia resident Cheri Reisch, who is a Republican, noted that “under law, it is legal to send” automated calls and that “both parties use the system.”

“It’s just another means to get the message out, whether it’s a positive campaign message or a negative message,” said Reisch, who acts as vice chairwoman for the Boone County Republican Central Committee.

Asked whether she thought her automated phone call, which primarily addresses the actions of McCain's campaign, also moves the public discussion farther away from the issues, Weber said she is  just an "ordinary person," not a “political operative.” She said she couldn’t speak to possible political effects of the tactic but feels strongly the negative calls have "gone too far" and need to be addressed.

Weber did not write the script she used when recording the call from her home earlier this week. But she said some suggestions she made on a rough draft were incorporated into the final version.

“Our intention with the call is to set the record straight,” said Justin Hamilton, Missouri press secretary for the Obama for America campaign. The negative calls from McCain, he said, “point to a level of desperation.”

Reisch said she has received multiple automated phone calls and believes people can perceive the same messages as positive or negative, depending on their personal frame of reference.

“It’s up to the voter to research the issues and make an informed decision,” she said.


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Michael Minta October 25, 2008 | 4:20 a.m.

McCain's robo-calls insult the intelligence of hard working Midwesterners. The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 updating Governor Sarah Palin's wardrobe. When was the last time a working class family spent that much money on some clothes. While many of us are making tough decisions on whether to buy our medicine or pay our gas bill, Governor Palin is deciding on whether to shop at Neiman or Saks.(see story at

I am sure the 2400 laid off auto workers in Fenton, Missouri could think of better ways to put that money to use ( Let's see they could pay their mortgage, buy clothes for everyone in the family, pay the car note, buy groceries, you get the point. Please stop insulting our intelligence Governor Palin and Senator McCain.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 25, 2008 | 10:28 a.m.

That was privately-donated money sent by donors to the RNC. They might have a beef on how the party spent the money, but it was not public money and really a non-starter, no matter how much the Missouri Democratic Party wants to make it one.

(Report Comment)
Michael Minta October 25, 2008 | 4:37 p.m.

So, private money means officials can be less accountable to the donors? I am sure donors don't expect their hard earned money to be spent on $150,000 worth of clothes. When I privately donate money to my church, I don't expect my pastor to spend $150,000 updating his wardrobe at Neiman or Saks.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 25, 2008 | 5:09 p.m.

Michael Minta it is obviously ok for the Republicans and other parties to do but if the Democrats do it then it is not ok. This has been the theme this entire election cycle.

(Report Comment)
Ed Nelson October 26, 2008 | 7:53 p.m.

New youtube video about ACORN that Republicans don't want you to see. They want to take away your right to vote.

Watch for yourself, get the truth and then pass it on.

(Report Comment)
Ed Nelson October 26, 2008 | 7:59 p.m.

I love the disconnect of people going to a McCain / Palin rally because they are for "hardworking" people. The only hard work McCain does is try to remember which of his 7 houses he is currently at, which of his 13 cars he last drove and where he parked it. And Sarah Palin has the RNC buying her clothes now, $150,000 worth.

Wake up people the Republicans have been picking your pockets for decades. Alaska is in the top three of so-called socialist states, that is for every $1 dollar they pay in taxes they get back $1.84 in federal dollars. Talk about pork and earmarks.

Decades of "trickle down economics" has been a colossal economic failure. Remember Bush's tax cuts and economic stimulus rebate that he gave all of us? This was suppose to create jobs. Guess what the economy is in the crapper and 800,000 jobs have been LOST just this year. Our retirement accounts and 401k have lost 30% of their value in just the past month. Our health care premiums are up 80% and $700 billion of our money has gone to Iraq to pay for a war that was a mistake. Now another $700 billion of our money has gone to bailout Wall Street to try to fix Bush’s mess.

The Republicans have been redistributing wealth FROM the middle class TO the ultra-rich 5% for decades. The middle class has seen their annual wages decrease by $2000.00 over the past 8 years and their taxes go into the pockets of the ultra-rich. That is the real wealth redistribution that the Republicans don’t want us to know about. It is high time the middle class get a tax break like the one Obama is proposing.

(Report Comment)

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