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January 3, 2008

Push Poll Investigation Surfaces

Remember the push poll around Thanksgiving that "asked" voters in New Hampshire if they had awareness of some aspects of the Mormon religion? Both Mitt Romney and John McCain filed complaints with the state Attorney General for violations of New Hampshire's laws against push-polling. At the time, no one would 'fess up to hiring Western Wats to conduct the attack. Now the AG has found the next-level cutout, and it wants witnesses who can show where it leads:

Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying who employed Moore-Information of Portland, Oregon to conduct a poll in New Hampshire, in November 2007, which has been alleged to be a push-poll. New Hampshire’s voters deserve to know whether any candidate in our Presidential Primary violated New Hampshire’s push-poll statute.

On Friday, November 16, 2007, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office received complaints from both Mitt Romney for President, Inc., and John McCain 2008, Inc., alleging that an illegal push-poll was being conducted in New Hampshire, contrary to New Hampshire RSA 664:2, XVII and RSA 664:16-a. As a result of these complaints, this Office commenced an investigation.

Moore Information hired Western Wats; who hired Moore Information? Jim Geraghty has its client list in politics, and it looks pretty exclusively Republican. They mostly do work in the interior West, with a lot of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon officeholders and candidates on the list. The only current presidential candidate on the list, though, is Ron Paul. Geraghty mentioned this during today's Heading Right Radio show, but it's not exactly conclusive linkage to the push polling.

Western Wats obviously got set up as a cut-out, a middleman step to keep investigators from tracking down the campaign that initiated this. Moore Information appears to be either another cut-out or the firm that arranged the Western Wats cutout. With Q4 FEC filings due, the campaigns have to list all of their outlays. If one has Moore on their list, then we have some significant linkage to the push poll. If no one does, then Moore is another cut-out.

The candidate to whom this gets tied can kiss their future good-bye. With all of the time that has passed, the issue will not be so much the creepy religion-based push-polling, but the dishonesty of not taking responsibility for it immediately and firing someone over it. If the AG succeeds in finding the connection through the cut-outs, it will ring down the curtain on the prospects for that campaign.

UPDATE: I have searched the FEC filings for those candidates who have already submitted their Q4 campaign records, and see no disbursements for Moore Information. That includes Romney, Giuliani, Paul, Huckabee, Thompson, Clinton, and Richardson. McCain hasn't filed yet, but he co-initiated the complaint, which makes him a very unlikely suspect.


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