Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tarleton Claims "Suspicious Robocalls" Are Harassing Voters in Her Name

Posted by on Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 10:42 AM

More drama from the 36th district (Ballard, Fremont Queen Anne, Belltown, etc.), where port commissioner Gael Tarleton and Washington Bus board member Noel Frame are duking it in a Democrat-on-Democrat race for a seat in the state legislature. (For previous drama, see here.)

Yesterday, Tarleton's people announced they would launch an investigation into "suspicious robocalls harassing 36th District voters while identifying themselves as part of her campaign."

Apparently, voters contacted the Tarleton campaign to complain that they'd gotten "up to a dozen calls" on Thursday night (some of the calls after 8 or 9 pm). "Voters who contacted our campaign were very clear that the volume of non-stop calls from the 720-number was relentless until they picked up the phone," said Sue Evans of NW Media Allies (Tarleton is one of her clients). "They were also upset that the calls occurred as late as 9 pm or later."

District voters are talking about the "venomous" and "incessant" phone calls over on this forum.

The calls have been traced to phone number 720-862-2044, area code Colorado, and a company called J2 Solutions. (There are a few J2 Solutions companies out there, and some operate call centers, marketing, and campaign services.)

Are the calls part of a Tarleton campaign screwup? (Accidents will happen.) Or are they, as Evans theorized, "dirty tricks" from Frame's people (and/or the independent organizations that are spending money to fight the Tarleton campaign)?

Hopefully we'll find out before Tuesday.

UPDATE at 6:11 p.m.: Frame's campaign consultant, Lisa MacLean, sent this statement to say they had no part in the robocalls: "The Frame campaign is not involved, and equally concerned about, this harassment. We have contacted about 1,900 voters since Thursday night and have not heard any reports of these calls. We are asking supporters to provide any additional information that could help determine the source."


Comments (22) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Fnarf 1
Robocalling operations are run with all the delicacy and attention to detail of a carload of drunk gang members cruising for someone to race against. The experience of being war-dialed dozens of times in a row by the same campaign is TYPICAL, not extraordinary. It should be illegal. Any campaign phone call should be required to be a live person, with the death penalty for candidates who violate it. No -- Guantanamo.
Posted by Fnarf on November 4, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
Since the harassing calls to voters had a live person on the line when the voter answered (that is, these weren't robocalls) and some calls were made late in the evening (after 9 PM), the idea that this incident could have been a foul-up by the Tarleton campaign is just not credible. Maybe this effort to annoy voters, and to get them talking about their irritation, was mounted by somebody (HW?) who has had it in for Tarleton for a long time.
Posted by Gorn on November 4, 2012 at 11:51 AM · Report this
Right. Teamsters spend $100,000 against Gayle and this is something SHE screwed up. Yeah that makes sense. Wow, the Stranger really is in the bag for Noel. Does it totally defy logic that Gayle would go to the press with this if this was her screw up? Of course it defies logic. She'd be embarrassed and not broadcast it.
Posted by SeaMariner1 on November 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM · Report this
#4: Agree completely. This "false flag" operation to anger voters, who would blame Tarleton, probably was funded by the same groups who put up $100K to take down Tarleton and put little Noel Frame in office. (Take a bow, The Stranger: you've certainly done your part!)
Posted by Gorn on November 4, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Colorado? Smells like bullshit dirty tricks to me. Lots of nasty campaign BS here.
Posted by rainbird on November 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Report this
roddy 7
@#4 the notion that a candidate or her allies would spend precious dollars to run a call center in support of her opponent doesn't pass the guffaw test. It's the kind of silly paranoia that opponents of I-502 would embrace.

Tarleton didn't "go to the press" with this, she was being called out in a forum on And blaming your opponent for a screwup by you or your allies is, sadly, consistent, in this case.

Fnarf is right. It's the kind of over-zealous, slipshod operation that happens all the time in poorly run campaigns.
Posted by roddy on November 4, 2012 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Heroic. Two days before the election, The Stranger finally mentions the giant fungal 100K tumor of shadow money dropped on this race by Noel Frame's puppeteers. Even now, Brendan won't add up the number. He touches the subject under duress; this putrid phone ploy makes it impossible to avoid.
Gorn perceives correctly. These weren't robocalls. They weren't phone bankers, either. Not even the dumbest campaign would pull something like this as a supportive move. But it works beautifully as opposition. 
@7, if you think it's so unlikely, think back two years. By remarkable coincidence, one campaigner in this race has a record of such crap, including bogus robocalls she recorded herself in 2010. She sounds suspiciously like the commenter at position 3 in this thread.
Posted by Relling on November 4, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Roddy: You missed the central point -- this bogus phone-calling operation was intended to piss off potential Tarleton voters and get them complaining about it on social media. And guess what? In that sense, this unethical maneuver worked! People actually were annoyed, they attributed the harassing calls to Tarleton, and they complained about the calls to Tarleton and on What is so hard to understand about that? And don't claim that little Noel Frame's supporters would never, ever adopt such shoddy, deceptive tactics.

Moxie Media played dirty pool against State Senator Jean Berkey in 2010 (and it worked then), but Lisa MacLean (Frame's campaign manager) incurred a huge fine as a result and probably wouldn't risk another major campaign violation so soon. More likely, a group (the Teamsters?) or person (the charming Heather?) behind the $100K independent expenditure to smear Tarleton decided to use leftover spare change to stir up more trouble for Tarleton. The local Teamsters have been on a jihad against Port Commissioner Tarleton for a few years running now because she pushed a program to reduce toxic truck emissions at the Port of Seattle without forcing the drivers to unionize. To the Teamsters, this was unforgivable sin. And, to rub salt in the wound, the Port's clean-air program has proven to be successful too.

The deceptive phone calls to potential Tarleton voters obviously are highly unethical (and possibly illegal). But for a certain kind of "progressive," any means evidently are justified to drive voters away from the super-manipulative, evil Tarleton, who surely is plotting new ways to crush workers, pollute the environment, mislead her fellow commissioners, and start new wars at this very moment. To their everlasting credit, the good progressives at The Stranger have done all they could to expose Tarleton's wicked ways at the Port and tip the balance toward the wonderful, saintly Ms. Frame.

Posted by Gorn on November 4, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
Hmm. Let's see. Working Washington PAC reports $946 worth of anti-Tarleton calls on 11/1 (Thursday). Coincidence? Do some research, Brendan. And "duh" to Tarleton team for not pointing people in that direction. Missed opportunity there.…

That took me about two minutes, btw.
Posted by SeymourButts on November 4, 2012 at 6:52 PM · Report this
The link isn't working so here it is in another format:

Posted by SeymourButts on November 4, 2012 at 6:57 PM · Report this
The late SF author Robert Heinlein once wrote a fairly straight story (post WWII) drawing on his own experience running for office. He mentions both A) putting stickers on people's windshields, with REALLY STRONG glue and the opponent's name, and B) hiring winos, feeding them up on a good stew laden with onions and garlic, and sending them out to pass out handbills, again with the opponent's name on them.

The technology changes, but the tactics remain the same.

(The story is "A Bathroom of Her Own", for those interested.)
Posted by DonServo on November 4, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
It's nice that Lisa MacLean has denied any involvement in the bogus, harassing phone calls. It would have been very foolish for MacLean to engage in more dirty tricks after being fined so heavily for her anti-Berkey crap in 2010. But what about the groups and individuals behind the $100K of attacks ads to make voters think Tarleton is the enemy of workers and the environment? (Got anything to say on the subject, Teamsters?)

Regarding MacLean's subtle attempt to throw doubt on whether harassing phone calls actually were made on Thursday night, did Frame's campaign ASK the voters they contacted if they had received such calls or did it just expect them to volunteer the information for some reason? MacLean's statement on this point means nothing. After all, people who got the annoying calls did complain to the Tarleton campaign and did express their disgust on Did the Tarleton campaign invent these people, Ms. MacLean?
Posted by Gorn on November 4, 2012 at 8:16 PM · Report this
Unfortunately, the perps of this little screw job probably won't be revealed until after the election. The damage is done.
I don't know who's going to win this thing. I have my guesses. But the sad part is The Stranger's meek surrender of its independence with respect to coverage of this race. That happened a long time ago. The corpse is rotten.
I don't expect scruples from political consultants. I'm not a fool. But I'm still sentimental enough to expect a vestige of integrity from news organizations. Whether they style themselves as impartial refs or informed advocates, the duty remains.
That duty includes a willingness to be fearless, even with people you're inclined to like. It means risking disapproval from friends by asking a hard question now and then - not because you're working against them (or anyone), but because it's what you're supposed to do.
On that front, The Stranger has failed miserably. The absence of any reporting on the independent money dumped on Tarleton until this late date is only one piece, though an outrageous one (and this post barely tries - other outlets at least give the numbers and the sponsors).
But the trail is longer. It stretches back to the spring.
Look back through The Stranger's coverage. Try to find one tough question - just one - directed to Noel Frame. You won't find it.
I'm looking at a Paul Constant post just a few clicks above this one that says endorsements don't matter. The Stranger dutifully reported every endorsement Noel received, sometimes more than once.
Other candidates in the 36th primary (Brett Phillips, Evan Clifthorne, Tarleton) took smacks from The Stranger. Often, Noel was given the whip hand to deliver them.
Yet Noel never felt that sting. She was never asked to account for herself. It wouldn't have been hard to do, and it didn't have to be nasty. Something simple, like asking her to name the board members of Progressive Majority - you know, her employer - would have shown a little nerve.
The Stranger set its coverage ground rules early on:
1) Talk only to Noel's backers.
2) Talk only to Tarleton's critics.
3) Repeat.
That's heads-I-win-tails-you-lose journalism. Nothing to be proud of.
Posted by Relling on November 4, 2012 at 8:35 PM · Report this
Enough conspiracy theories! The Working Washington PAC report referenced above was for staff time engaged in canvassing - and the report notes that staff were also canvassing for Inslee and for Democratic candidates Hans Dunshee and Mary McNaughton up in Snohomish county. Multiple similar reports have been filed for similar activity over the last several weeks, for Noel as well as Dunshee, McNaughton, Tami Green, Bud Sizemore and other progressive candidates. Neither SEIU, nor Working Washington, nor People for Progressive Leadership have done any robocalls in LD 36. Period.
Posted by Adam Glickman on November 4, 2012 at 9:00 PM · Report this
@16: As the article stated, the calls appeared to be sourced from "J2 Solutions" at a Colorado number. So no, technically, none of the organizations you name "did" them. Will you state bluntly that neither SEIU, Working Washington, nor PPL, nor anyone associated with the Frame campaign contracted for or is in any way responsible for those calls?
Posted by DonServo on November 4, 2012 at 9:13 PM · Report this
Calling the Teamsters and Heather Weiner -- would you care to make a statement? You couldn't have provided any money for this, right? So, who DID pay for the calls made by J2 Solutions to get voters angry at Tarleton?
Posted by Gorn on November 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM · Report this
Oh, for Christs' sake. Yes, neither SEIU, Working Washington or PPL contracted for, paid for, suggested, or was in any way responsible for or associated with those calls. OK?
Posted by Adam Glickman on November 5, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
Okay! You've finally convinced me that the bogus, harassing calls made in Tarleton's name were just some sort of weird, random event, and that nobody was behind it. J2 Solutions of Bergenfield, New Jersey, obviously decided to call voters in the 36th District on Thursday night to bug the crap out of them because...well, just because.
Posted by Gorn on November 5, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Watching one of the heads of the SEIU spend election eve feeding the trolls in a hilariously stupid conspiracy theory comment thread instead of winning votes is the best online entertainment I've had all day. You guys keep the idiocy cranked up high while I go get popcorn, ok? Gorn, keep moving those goalposts back and I'll keep laughing when Lucy pulls the football out from under Adam's foot when he (idiotically) decides to keep kicking.
Posted by Juris on November 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Juris: Don't make fun of me -- it hurts my feelings.
Posted by Gorn on November 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
@19: Thank you for the straightforward and unambiguous answer.
Posted by DonServo on November 5, 2012 at 5:36 PM · Report this
This article reminds me of this consumer complaint posted against a political robo-caller. It said there that these robocallers, be it political, telemarketing or scam call, all share the same motto: "Catch me if you can. If not, then it's business as usual for me."

Won't you agree?
Posted by yvonnefaust on November 8, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy