Monday, November 06, 2006

Criminal Desperation

Josh Marshall (among others) has been busy documenting the latest Republican scandal that won't be reported by the press in time for tomorrow (but you can bet we'll be hearing a lot about it after the Election). As Nicholas Beaudrot notes in a nutshell:
Republicans are harassing voters while pretending to be Democrats.
That is, the Republican Party is rather brazenly (and openly) making "robo-calls" with not one, but two twists. At first, the pre-recorded call sounds like it's from the Democratic candidate in the race. But if you hang up (as most normal people do when they get such calls), you'll get the call again and again and again. The idea, of course, is to disgust Democratic and independent voters with their own candidates.

It doesn't surprise me that Republicans are doing this in, say, Kansas. But it's a sign of true desperation that they're doing this in New York, where the Republican Party has virtually imploded.

For the first time in years, there is no significant Republican candidate running for any statewide office. The only potential for a challenge would have come for the office of Comptroller, because of Alan Hevesi's malfeasance--but the Republican opponent is an inexperienced joke--and the race seems certain to go to Hevesi.

Granted, perhaps Republicans think that this strategy of harassment may work in a few Congressional races--there are surprising Democratic challenges against such Republicans as Sue Kelly and the wife-beating Party Monster John Sweeney and pederast-enabling Thomas Reynolds. But all of these Democratic challenges, particularly Kirsten Gillibrand against Sweeney and Jack Davis against Reynolds, were long-shot campaigns that are in play mostly because of Republican scandals that no last-minute dirty trick will erase.

Instead, the Republican Party in New York is in desperate need of regrouping and rebuilding, and the backlash against these types of calls--among voters and among the media, not to mention with prosecutors and elections commissions--could wipe out the party's credibility for good in this state.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is ultimately responsible for these calls, but local Republican officeholders who care about the party's future in New York could stop them with a few phone calls to Ken Mehlman. Perhaps the State Republican Party hopes nobody will remember this latest trick two years from now. Or have the Republicans really decided to sacrifice the entire state of New York in the long term in order to retain control of one or two House seats in the short term?

Addendum: For those wondering about the legality of these calls, which has already attracted the attention various state attorney generals, here's a partial answer:
One of the calls features a woman who opens by saying "Hello. I'm calling with information about Paul Hodes." She goes on to criticize his position on taxes and ends by saying the call was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to a tape recording released by the state Democratic Party.

According to the Federal Communications Commission Web site, automated calls must state the identity of the business, individual, or other entity making the call at the beginning of the message. [GOP committee spokesman] Burgos said the messages comply with all federal laws, but declined to comment specifically on the placement of the sponsor message.