Conservative 'Robocalls' tricked voters in last election


mentalfloss
#1
'Robocalls' tried to discourage voters
Caller pretending to be Elections Canada told voters their polling stations had been moved

Elections Canada has traced fraudulent phone calls made during the federal election to an Edmonton voice-broadcast company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country.

Also, the Conservatives are conducting an internal probe. A party lawyer is interviewing campaign workers to find who was behind the deceptive "robocalls."

Elections Canada launched its investigation after it was inundated with complaints about election day calls in Guelph, Ont., one of 18 ridings across the country where voters were targeted by harassing or deceptive phone messages in an apparent effort to discourage Liberal supporters from voting.

In Guelph, a riding the Conservatives hoped to take from the Liberals, voters received recorded calls pretending to be from Elections Canada, telling them their polling stations had been moved. The calls led to a chaotic scene at one polling station, and likely led some voters to give up on voting.


CALLS TRACED

Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen have found that Elections Canada traced the calls to Racknine Inc., a small Edmonton call centre that worked for the party's national campaign and those of at least nine Conservative candidates, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign in Calgary Southwest. There is no evidence that Harper's campaign or any of the other candidates were involved in the calls.

Racknine says it was unaware its servers were being used for the fake calls.

Fred DeLorey, a spokesman for the Conservative Party, declined to say how much business the party did with Racknine during the campaign. He said the party does not know who was behind the calls, and he did not respond to a question about its internal investigation.

Elections Canada came to Racknine after an elaborate digital chase that began with a single telephone number that showed up on call displays. Investigators traced it to a disposable cellphone registered in area code 450, in the city of Joliette, northeast of Montreal. Using telephone billing records and Racknine server logs, Elections Canada investigators identified the Racknine account holder who sent out the calls.

Matt Meier, owner of Rack-nine, said he was unaware one of his customers was involved in the calls until contacted by Elections Canada in November.

"We couldn't possibly have known that it was Racknine that was the initiator of the fake calls," he said. "I had no idea what the content of the calls were." The company does not monitor outgoing calls made by customers through its auto-mated service, Meier said. He estimates 10 million or more phone calls from about 200 accounts went out during the campaign.


COOPERATING WITH PROBE

Meier and his company are cooperating fully with the probe, he said.

He said he knows whose account was used for the calls, but could not reveal the owner, because of client confidentiality and concerns about interfering with the investigation. He said it was someone "down East" - meaning Ontario or Quebec.

The robocalls received in Guelph were recorded in female voices in both French and English. They told voters their polling stations had moved to a shopping mall in the city's downtown, where parking was scarce.

A Citizen-Postmedia investigation has found calls misdirecting voters were also reported in ridings across the country: Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestaga, London-West, Parkdale-High Park, Winnipeg South Centre and Sydney-Victoria. It is possible that they were caused by robo-dialling errors.

Liberal supporters in a dozen ridings, mostly in Ontario, reported mysterious harassing calls, often late in the evening or early in the morning, where rude callers from a phone bank pretended to be working for the Liberals. The calls seem to have been an attempt to alienate Liberal voters in ridings where the Liberals and Conservatives seemed to be in close contests.

"What I provided to Elections Canada was comprehensive," Meier said in an interview this week. "They know everything. They have every single message recorded by the individuals who did this. That's something I hope will assist them greatly in determining who made these calls."

He realized his firm was linked to the deceptive calls only when Election Canada investigator Al Mathews showed up unannounced at his company's office in Edmonton in November, armed with an order to produce records.

Mathews has travelled to Guelph to interview people who received the calls on election day, including United Church minister Sue Campbell, who was the wife of Green Party candidate John Lawson.

Campbell had just returned home after voting on the morning of election day when a call came in saying her polling station had been moved to a mall in downtown Guelph. "At first, I thought. 'Oh, that's strange,'" Campbell recalls. "Upon reflection, I thought, 'This can't be right. Why on Earth would it change on the day election?'"

She wrote down the digits on the caller ID - the number in Quebec - and called Elections Canada to complain.

Internal Elections Canada emails obtained under Access to Information legislation show officials were rattled by the calls.

At 11: 06 a.m., election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to to legal counsel Karen McNeil with the header: "URGENT Conservative campaign office communications with electors." Hawdur reported that returning officers were calling to ask about the calls.

McNeil responded by asking Hawdur to alert Rennie Molnar, the deputy chief electoral officer. He later emailed Michel Roussel, a senior director: "This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process."

Around the same time, Guelph Liberal MP Frank Val-eriote got a call at his home, telling him his campaign staff was hearing from Liberal sup-porters about the same kind of bogus Elections Canada calls.

What they first thought were a few nuisance calls, the Vale-riote campaign recognized was an orchestrated campaign to discourage his supporters from voting.

Voters who ended up in the wrong place and were turned away were unlikely to persist and go to another polling station. A campaign worker was quickly dispatched to the mall, armed with a binder of polling maps, so he could redirect sup-porters back to the right place. Within an hour, more than 100 voters had turned up at the mall.

Despite the dirty tricks phone calls, Valeriote won the election in Guelph.

If Mathews and the Commissioner of Canada Elections find evidence of wrongdoing over the bogus calls, the case could be referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders, who would decide whether to lay charges.


HOW RACKNINE'S CALLS WORK

1. The customer sends identification and credit card information to the company for approval. Once approved, the customer is given an account name and password.

2. Through the company's web interface, the customer uploads an electronic list of telephone numbers to call.

3. The customer uploads a file with the prerecorded message or calls in to a toll-free number to record the call. The customer can set the caller ID to any number.

4. The service automatically "robocalls" numbers on the call list, charging the customer between 1.9 and 3.5 cents per minute for the calls.


FOLLOWING THE TRAIL

1. An investigator interviewed recipients of the calls in Guelph. They provided the incoming caller ID that displayed.

2. The investigator found that the caller ID belonged to a disposable cellphone with a number in Joliette, Que.

3. The investigator issues a subpoena for the outgoing calls from the phone. One call is to the Racknine toll-free number.

4. Elections Canada files subpoenas for billing records that trace the inbound calls to recipients in Guelph through data carriers used by Racknine.

5. The investigator obtains a production order that requires Racknine to hand over records that identify which account made the calls and the records associated with the account.

'Robocalls' tried to discourage voters (external - login to view)
 
MHz
+1
#2
"If Mathews and the Commissioner of Canada Elections find evidence of wrongdoing over the bogus calls, the case could be referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders, who would decide whether to lay charges."

I would think voiding the election results should also be part of the 'clean-up'. They used to hang people for stuff like that, now is it a slap on the wrist?
 
petros
+2
#3
It's probably the Cons who phone daily from a different number everytime offering to lower the interest on my credit cards.
 
relic
+3
#4
Sorry MF,but your time is wasted on the harper zealots,I used to find their stupidity amusing,but their insistance on being stupid has gotten dull.
 
DaSleeper
+2
#5
 
Cannuck
+2 / -1
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by DaSleeperView Post

Wow indeed.
 
Spade
+1
#7
I am not wowed by dishonesty.
 
Dexter Sinister
+5
#8
Interesting, read the same story in my local paper this morning. Constituency organizations generally know, from their door to door work and telephone canvassing, who their supporters are and aren't. Whoever put this together had to have access to that data from multiple constituencies, somebody had to do a lot of data entry and uploading to Racknine's servers, and arrange a contract with Racknine for the autodialing services. That takes money and an organization. This does not suggest some misguided private citizen who's a Conservative supporter, it suggests a dirty tricks department inside the party.
 
Cliffy
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by Dexter SinisterView Post

Interesting, read the same story in my local paper this morning. Constituency organizations generally know, from their door to door work and telephone canvassing, who their supporters are and aren't. Whoever put this together had to have access to that data from multiple constituencies, somebody had to do a lot of data entry and uploading to Racknine's servers, and arrange a contract with Racknine for the autodialing services. That takes money and an organization. This does not suggest some misguided private citizen who's a Conservative supporter, it suggests a dirty tricks department inside the party.

But, don't ya know that Harpo and the cons can do no wrong in the eyes of his sheeple?
 
relic
#10
Two wows,thats pretty lame,c'mon sheeple,let's see you jump to the supreme leaders defence on this one.
 
DaSleeper
+1
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by relicView Post

Two wows,thats pretty lame,c'mon sheeple,let's see you jump to the supreme leaders defence on this one.

WHAT??? Do you really mean a better response to the same ol' same ol' constant Blather of partisan Copy&Pastes??

That's all they deserve.......
 
damngrumpy
+1
#12
I think if there was wrong doing prosecutions are in order. Who paid for the company to perform
the acts in question? If the offending party won the riding based on this kind of activity the riding
should be taken from the offender. There is a section in the elections act that can prosecute.
The person committing the offence can lose their seat and be banned from running for a period of
years, I think its five years but I am not sure.
 
Cannuck
+2 / -1
#13
It's interesting that Dasleeper (one of this site's Conservative Party apologists) considers election fraud as "same ol', same ol'. Doesn't it say alot about the type of people the party attracts?
 
Bar Sinister
#14
One more cut in the death of a thousand cuts the Harper government is currently suffering. It is a few years to the next election, but a few more scandals like this one will eventually sink the Tories at the polls.
 
Dexter Sinister
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by damngrumpyView Post

I think if there was wrong doing prosecutions are in order.

Seems pretty clear there was wrong doing, character assassination ads and spin doctoring, offensive as they can be, aren't illegal, but subverting the electoral process itself is a pretty serious offense. But I find it hard not to be a little cynical. Racknine did some legitimate work for the Conservative Party, if you consider telemarketing during an election campaign legitimate, and that almost certainly means the CEO is a Conservative supporter and contributor with contacts in the party organization, and probably fairly high up, the company did work for Harper's campaign in his Calgary seat. You don't get that kind of work by a competitive bidding process, it's who you know.

There'll be a scapegoat found, but it probably won't be the guy who really set this up. That'll be some sleazy back room guy who'd have known people at the cabinet level couldn't afford to know so he made sure they didn't, and some lower level functionary of his will take the fall, unless he was really stupid about it and didn't properly cover his ***. That's what destroyed Grant Devine's Conservative Party in Saskatchewan. Cabinet ministers got caught in that one, but only because they were stupid and thought having power meant they *were* the law. Harper's smarter than that, though some of his ministers may not be. And I'm sure similar crap was going on with The Little Guy From Shawinigan, but he was smart enough not to try subverting an election, though it certainly looks like he allowed things to go on that would destroy his successor. Subverting an election is without a doubt the dirtiest of dirty political tricks. I've no doubt somebody's head will roll over this, but it probably won't be the right one.
 
mentalfloss
#16
Just wanted to pre-emptively apologize as the subject header is inaccurate. While the company that distributed these calls is linked to the CPC, there is no hard evidence to show that they were behind this. With the mention of the linkage, the fact that this took place in 18 swing vote ridings, and the recent Cotler thing, it appeared as if there was a direct connection, but that is yet to be confirmed.
 
petros
#17
Coincidence?
 
mentalfloss
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by petrosView Post

Coincidence?

I know, if it quacks like a duck, but it would be nice to have a smoking gun.
 
DaSleeper
+1
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by CannuckView Post

It's interesting that Dasleeper (one of this site's Conservative Party apologists) considers election fraud as "same ol', same ol'. Doesn't it say alot about the type of people the party attracts?

And it's interesting that you try to twist the meaning of other people's posts to suit your own bullshyte....so why don't you wait to dance with Bear after he finishes work....you look so pretty in your "tutu"
You should know by now, that I state my opinion...period....I don't dance for hours on the same subject.....
 
Spade
+4
#20
Wow!
 
PoliticalNick
#21
I would like to think that if this traces back to the CPC and its leadership that the GG would throw out the election results and force another election.

What does it say about our process if a fraudulent election is allowed to stand.
 
lone wolf
+1
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by PoliticalNickView Post

I would like to think that if this traces back to the CPC and its leadership that the GG would throw out the election results and force another election.

What does it say about our process if a fraudulent election is allowed to stand.

It says: Well played.... Can we afford another election? The bigger question is: can the Grand Poobah?
 
Goober
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by lone wolfView Post

It says: Well played.... Can we afford another election? The bigger question is: can the Grand Poobah?

Appears a 23 year old staffer did this all on his own. Yeah Right.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...rticle2349329/

A young Conservative staffer involved in a controversial 2011 election campaign in the Ontario riding of Guelph has just left the office of MP Eve Adams.

Michael Sona, 23, had been working for about a week in the office of Ms. Adams, the Conservative MP for the Toronto-area riding of Mississauga–Brampton South. A source said Mr. Sona resigned Thursday evening after his name started circulating in the media in relation to automated crank calls made in Guelph on election day last year.

There is no public evidence Mr. Sona had any link to the matter, which is being investigated by Elections Canada. His departure from Ms. Adams’s office came less than 24 hours after the Ottawa Citizen revealed that the crank calls were made used a robo-call company in Alberta that frequently worked for the Conservatives and other right-wing parties.

The voter-suppression case has spurred Bob Rae to call for an emergency debate in the House. In a letter to Speaker Andrew Scheer, the Interim Liberal said the democratic rights of Canadians are sacred.
Last edited by Goober; Feb 24th, 2012 at 05:27 PM..
 
JLM
+2
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Just wanted to pre-emptively apologize as the subject header is inaccurate. While the company that distributed these calls is linked to the CPC, there is no hard evidence to show that they were behind this. With the mention of the linkage, the fact that this took place in 18 swing vote ridings, and the recent Cotler thing, it appeared as if there was a direct connection, but that is yet to be confirmed.

Yeah, I suspect when the "dust settles" this "tempest in the teapot" will be mostly bullsh*t! Of course the Libs or N.D.P. never did anything like that! Actually I couldn't think of a more stupid stunt for a party to try when they were already on the virge of winning a majority. Common sense is lacking somewhere. There is an old adage- "Believe 10% of what you see and nothing of what you hear"
 
lone wolf
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by GooberView Post

Appears a 23 year old staffer did this all on his own. Yeah Right.
Tory staffer leaves MP’s office in wake of voter-suppression probe - The Globe and Mail
A young Conservative staffer involved in a controversial 2011 election campaign in the Ontario riding of Guelph has just left the office of MP Eve Adams.
Michael Sona, 23, had been working for about a week in the office of Ms. Adams, the Conservative MP for the Toronto-area riding of Mississauga–Brampton South. A source said Mr. Sona resigned Thursday evening after his name started circulating in the media in relation to automated crank calls made in Guelph on election day last year.
There is no public evidence Mr. Sona had any link to the matter, which is being investigated by Elections Canada. His departure from Ms. Adams’s office came less than 24 hours after the Ottawa Citizen revealed that the crank calls were made used a robo-call company in Alberta that frequently worked for the Conservatives and other right-wing parties.

Quote has been trimmed, See full post: View Post
Isn't that ALWAYS the way?
 
Goober
+1
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by JLMView Post

Yeah, I suspect when the "dust settles" this "tempest in the teapot" will be mostly bullsh*t! Of course the Libs or N.D.P. never did anything like that! Actually I couldn't think of a more stupid stunt for a party to try when they were already on the virge of winning a majority. Common sense is lacking somewhere. There is an old adage- "Believe 10% of what you see and nothing of what you hear"

The Cons have a communications and research Juggernaut. Well oiled, everything is framed to certain voters. Their ability to get a message, regardless of veracity is almost Stainesque in how it is implemented.
 
Ron in Regina
+2
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

I know, if it quacks like a duck, but it would be nice to have a smoking gun.



No smoking gun.....but how 'bout a smoking duck?
 
Cliffy
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by Ron in ReginaView Post



No smoking gun.....but how 'bout a smoking duck?

I used to raise those ducks. Smarter than any politician I've met. A lot more fun too.
 
Ron in Regina
+2
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by CliffyView Post

I used to raise those ducks. Smarter than any politician I've met. A lot more fun too.


You raised those ducks? I hope you grew your own tobacco for them too,
as I could see that getting very expensive very quickly. Where they
pack-a-day ducks? How do they light those smokes anyway?
 
Cliffy
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by Ron in ReginaView Post

You raised those ducks? I hope you grew your own tobacco for them too,
as I could see that getting very expensive very quickly. Where they
pack-a-day ducks? How do they light those smokes anyway?

Mine didn't smoke. LOL
 

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