Brad Toft's 5th District Senate campaign sent an email to supporters late last week including an audio tape (which you can hear on YouTube) of a robo-call made to some voters in the 5th District, which appears to lead people to the conclusion that Toft is disreputable and asking them whether knowing this information they would vote for him.
In a press release about the call, Toft claims the Mark Mullet campaign is responsible for the poll.
The poll claims to be from the Opinion Research Center, an organization that doesn't exist, according to Justin Matheson, a campaign advisor. "The 'push' poll in question, starts by testing the race for President followed by the race for Governor to appear legitimate. However, when asking a voter for whom they will support in the 5th District, a vote for Toft is followed by a list of negative, exaggerated and untrue statements regarding Brad Toft and speeding tickets from his youth. The 'push' poll then follows up with a second ballot after spewing out negatives on Brad," Matheson said.
Mullet's campaign told Patch it hadn't heard of the calls until Toft published them, saying it did do a poll in July, but acknowledging that an interest group could have commissioned the calls unbeknownst to the campaign.
"There are a whole lot of interest groups. The one thing the American Association of Political Consultants makes you sign is (an agreement) to do no push polls," Mullet political consutant John Wyble said. The campaign and state Democrats also questioned whether the calls could legitimately be called a poll, saying it's not likely it reached a majority of voters in the district.
"When somebody does a push poll it’s late in the race, it’s explosive, it reaches some 30,000 voters. Why would you do it now," when there are still three to four weeks left, Wyble said.
Toft's consultant, Terry LaBrue, said Washington statute prohibits such calls, regardless of how many voters are contacted. He cited Washington RCW 42.17.120 (recently recodified as RCW 42.17A.005 effective January 1, 2012), which prohibits any contribution to be made, expenditure to be incurred, directly or indirectly, in a fictitious name, anonymously, or by one person through an agent, relative, or other person in such a manner so as to conceal the identity of the source of the contribution or in any other manner so as to effect concealment. In addition, LaBrue said, RCW 42.17.510 (recodified as RCW 42.17A.001, effective Jan. 1, 2012) requires all independent expenditure political advertising and election communications to include the name and address of the sponsor.
Other party officials from both parties have noted that such calls are not uncommon and are often used to "test messages" in campaigns.
Patch is looking into who may have paid for the calls, but Public Disclosure Commission reports for in-kind contributions made recently to campaigns will not be available until after the election.
Tell us what you think about the recording. Does it qualify as a push poll in your view?