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Was it a Push Poll? Brad Toft Publishes Tape of Call to Local Business

Brad Toft's campaign released a recording of an automated call citing run-ins with the law, ascribing it to Mark Mullet's campaign, which said it didn't commission the calls.

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?

jimu October 13, 2012 at 01:39 AM
So if you combine this dirty campaign call with The Cheryl Pflug scandal It sure seems there's a lot of dirty politics that surround Mark Mullet, while he denies everything. I also don't like the fact that he is using Wyble who backs a lot of the "establishment" democrats. I don't know a lot about Brad Toft, but I'm growing cautious about Mullet.
Jeanne Gustafson October 13, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Thanks for your comment, jimu.
Terry J. LaBrue October 13, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Thank you, Patch, for bringing this troubling issue before the public. All independent expenditures for or against any candidate should be clearly labeled or identified. Interested parties can go to YouTube and listen for themselves to decide if this "poll" was a legitimate exercise in gauging the political current or was it designed to damage a candidate. It's no wonder these "push" polls are outlawed in Washington state.
Diana Moss October 13, 2012 at 06:05 AM
I got the same kind of call last night ... But, I live in the 1st District ... not the 5th ... The call I got was slamming Republican candidate for State Senate, Dawn McCravey ... So, Mullet's not exactly responsible ... since McCravey's running against Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe ...
Jeanne Gustafson October 13, 2012 at 07:06 AM
Thanks for your comments, Terry and Diana. Diana, I think you raise a good point here which cannot be ignored. As the Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert has so expertly pointed out through his own actions, nearly anyone can form a Political Action Committee (PAC) and use resources to forward any campaign. For independent expenditures by PACs, the federal government guidelines say: Political committees may support (or oppose) candidates by making independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are not contributions and are not subject to contribution limits. The upshot here, I think, is that calls such as you mention may not be paid for or known of specifically by the candidates who may benefit by them. Anyone interested in learning more can review the rules for "nonconnected committees" here: http://www.fec.gov/info/publications.shtml#guides
Randall October 13, 2012 at 04:38 PM
With Toft's history of stretching the truth, I wouldn't be surprised if the "call" actually came from his campaign (or a Republican aligned group). How easy would it be to create a fake call (and don't actually call anyone with it, since that's illegal), then send it to the Toft campaign. The Toft campaign can then release it to undermine the credibility of Mullet. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but it's IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW exactly what happened, with the screwed up campaign finance laws we have. Literally anyone from anywhere could have paid for the ad.
Bob McCoy October 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Yes, that was definitely a push-poll. As Jeanne notes, it's pretty easy to hide the source of funds. What's more surprising, though, is that the man who answered the phone (Brian) had a recorder going, and failed to provide the 'beep' that would indicate the call was being recorded. A random call into the district just happens to hit partisan Brian who knows to record the call, before he answers. Additionally, the tape was edited, denying us the pleasure of hearing all choices and selections made by Brian, so we could know how he progressed through the poll. I note that neither candidate has bothered to answer any of the questions posted for their Patch online debate (http://sammamish.patch.com/articles/participate-online-5th-district-senate-candidate-forum-on-sammamish-issaquah-patch). It's time we got out the side-by-side dunking chairs, and test them to see who's telling the truth and who's the best candidate. I know it's not as modern as a waterboard, but it does have a certain tradition behind it.
Jeanne Gustafson October 13, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Thanks for your comment, Bob. I would like to note that the Toft campaign sent me the unedited version of the tape to verify. The edited portion is at the beginning of the call and deletes the name of the business (no indication when he answers that the call is being recorded). I called the recipient to ask how he came to record the call, and left a message to that effect, and did not hear back from him. I've listened to the tape carefully, and though I'm no forensic expert on recordings, my interpretation is that when the recipient pushes 1 or 3 to respond, the call skips immediately to the next question, rather than those portions being deleted. Also, the executive summary provided by the Toft campaign on its own recent poll indicates that respondents heard both positive and negative messaging about both candidates and then were asked who they would vote for after hearing those messages. So, testing negative messaging is not outside the realm of polls, and I guess the main thing at issue here is if the poll only used negative messaging about one candidate.
Jeanne Gustafson October 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
By the way, Bob, I'm not meaning to imply that the recipient did anything wrong in recording the call. Many businesses have a message indicating a call may be recorded for quality assurance that the caller hears before anyone even answers the phone.
jimu October 13, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I agree with Bob McCoy that Brad Toft wasn't forthcoming on his positions in the above link. The other thing that bothers me about Toft is not his past, but rather that he RECENTLY worked to try to keep his past from being found out. This makes me wonder: What does he have to hide? Why is he afraid of his past or his stand on different issues? It's starting to seem to me that we may have to decide between two less than ethical politicians. I may be writing in my vote for the 5th. Would Mr McCoy or Ms Gustafson like a vote for State Senate? :D
Diana Moss October 14, 2012 at 09:06 AM
I'm in the 1st LD and got a similar call. The choices are "Press 1" for the Republican candidate, "Press 3" for the Democrat candidate and "Press 9" if Undecided for each question. It went through President / Governor / State Senate ... If you pressed 1 for State Senate, it launches into an Anti-Republican spiel against the particular candidate for the district that you live in ...
Diana Moss October 14, 2012 at 09:16 AM
Jeanne - I went back & listened to the audio on YouTube. It's the EXACT same female voice/name as the call that I got about McCravey vs McAuliffe in the 1st LD. It's the exact same questions. The only difference is the spiel offered up against McCravey compared to Toft. It's a Left-Wing hit piece, plain & simple. The only questions are: Who's paying for it? Who's doing them? Who are they targeting (all Republican candidates for WA State Senate)?? More people need to read your article, so that they can find out about these calls. I didn't even know about it until someone directed me to Toft's twitter account & he had posted a link to it ...
Jeanne Gustafson October 14, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I prefer the DMZ, myself, jimu!
Pieter Hart October 15, 2012 at 03:10 AM
The stench of desperation Mullet's supporters rises in these comments. To suggest that a candidate would make up a call like this against themselves is so silly, its hard to respond to. What is concerning along with this push poll is the allegation of bribery and corruption perpetrated by Mark Mullet, Cheryl Pflug and Governor Greqoire by a Democratic candidate for the House which can be read about on Patch, http://springforhouse.org/index.php and http://theolympiareport.com/democrat-backs-gop-house-hopeful-says-gregoire-bribed-pflug
Randall October 15, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Hi Pieter, I wasn't saying that Toft made up the call, I meant to say that: A) Toft has shown time and time again that he is dishonest. Just Friday that news came out that he lied about both of his college degrees. B) It's impossible to know the origin and purpose of the "call." So it's unfair to blame anyone. The only thing we know for sure is that it didn't come from the Mullet campaign, as that would be illegal. Right? I mean, both of those things are true.
Pieter Hart October 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Randall, your exact words in accusing Toft: "I wouldn't be surprised if the "call" actually came from his campaign (or a Republican aligned group). How easy would it be to create a fake call (and don't actually call anyone with it, since that's illegal), then send it to the Toft campaign. The Toft campaign can then release it to undermine the credibility of Mullet." Are you saying that his campaign created the call or not? The only thing we know for a fact is that Mark Mullet is being accused of bribery and collusion from within his own party, that he has a corrupt writer in his pocket at the AP who has been discredited by other journalists, and that he & the Democrats have been using illegal push polls throughout this campaign. Mark Mullet tries to create an image as a nice guy, but he will say anything and do anything to get elected.
Randall October 15, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Hi Pieter, Once again, what I'm saying is that I don't know. I don't think it's fair to blame the Mullet campaign, it could have just as easily come from the Toft campaign. I suspect that it came from a Dem-aligned PAC, since the same calls were received in other districts. It was probably a survey to gauge the effectiveness of negative advertising. Which is awesome (sarcasm intended). Regarding your other statements: 1. Mullet being accused of bribery and corruption - there hasn't been a single shred of evidence to support these claims. Not one bit! 2. Corrupt writer at the AP - What? I've never heard of this. Please fill me in.
Mark Mullet October 16, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I would like to restate again that our campaign had nothing to do with any of the polling that is being referred to by Brad Toft's communication manager, Terry LaBrue. The weekend of September 29th I had somebody come into Zeeks saying they had received a poll asking if they supported Mark Mullet and his government take over of healthcare. We learned it was a poll being done by an independent group, and we never mentioned it again. Independent polling is an unfortunate reality of this political climate. What we have learned on the Patch chat is that both Republicans and Democrats are tired of independent groups having unlimited campaign spending limits combined with unlimited contribution limits. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to put in as many controls as possible to limit the influence of these independent groups in our Democratic process.
Jeanne Gustafson October 16, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Thanks for commenting directly here in response to the comments, Mark. I appreciate it.

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