i, robo-caller

Meet a king of the political robo-call.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Push polling is one of the dirtier, yet mostly legal, tricks in a political operative’s bag of last-minute campaign tools; robo-calling software makes it dirt cheap to place millions of calls to a single swing district. And the game is changing: Reports after November’s election suggested that some races were tipped to Republicans after voters endured a slew of “false-flag” calls, which take the art of voter suppression to a new level. With the 2008 race approaching, things are only going to get nastier. Meet one of the kings of the political robo-call.

Name: Gabriel Joseph III, president of FreeEats.

Odds that you might hear from him: FreeEats can make up to 3.5 million phone calls a day. “We generally talk to more people than watch television, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper combined,” says Joseph.

Who’s calling: FreeEats is also known as Advantage Research, ccAdvertising, Data Research, Election Research, fec Research, fecads, Political Research, and Public Research. It has been accused of disguising or “spoofing” its caller IDs; Joseph has reportedly said his company has “thousands” of aliases.

Who’s really calling: Joseph’s clients have included Tom DeLay, the National Rifle Association, Americans for Tax Reform, the Minutemen, the Family Research Council, and the Economic Freedom Fund, a new group bankrolled by Bob Perry, the Texas builder who funded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The m.o.: When you pick up the phone, a recorded voice announces it is conducting a short “political survey” before asking a series of loaded questions. For example, “Congressman Baron Hill voted to allow the sale of a broad range of violent and sexually explicit materials to minors. Does knowing this make you less likely to vote for Baron Hill?”

Block the vote: In a 2003 email to a GOP honcho, Joseph explained how recordings can “deliver a voter suppression message.” In one such technique (not linked to FreeEats), the false-flag call, a robo-call begins, “I’m calling with information about candidate X.” Those who hang up quickly will think the call came from X’s campaign, since the real source (often the National Republican Congressional Committee) isn’t revealed until the end, which is a violation of federal regulations. The robo-caller then redials several times, leaving recipients annoyed at candidate X.

Called out: FreeEats has been fined for breaking anti-robo-calling laws in North Dakota, and a federal judge banned it from phoning Indiana voters under similar statutes.

Parting shot: Joseph warns Mother Jones: “If someone writes something that I don’t like, I can make their life…I can make them understand a few things if I choose.”

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate