Mechanics of Robo-Calling: Not a fluke or rogue campaigner. Someone who had ACCESS did these things.

It’s been awhile since I posted here. Quite awhile in fact. I make no bones about my dis-enchantment with the Green Party of Canada, and life is just too short to spend hours flogging a dead horse here. BUT with the breaking of the Robo-Call scandal, I am just so outraged I cast around for a venue to express myself, and here is my trusty blog to fall back on. I very strongly suspect an organised conspiracy exists with the purpose of suppressing the vote of non-Conservative voters by fair means or foul. The evidence appears to be mounting that the foul has expanded from somewhat reprehensible tactics to the criminal misrepresentation as Elections Canada officials diverting voters to phony non-existent polling stations. I personally have no direct evidence (yet) that an actual conspiracy existed, but please allow me to explain how robo-calling works, and the tools required to target a high volume vote suppression campaign.

First of all, I do not believe there is anything wrong with robo-calling. If a commercial enterprise were to conduct robo-call campaigns, they would be severely restricted and curtailed by privacy laws that support the do not call lists available to all Canadians. The privacy laws specifically exempt calling ‘for political purposes'(which in and of itself is peculiar wording don’t you think?). So under the letter of the law, anybody professing to call you for political purposes is exempted from the legal obligation to respect your wishes not to be telephoned. It isn’t only the letter of the law, the fact is that politics is all about communications, so there is even a good rationale for allowing politicians to call you, despite your desires not to be telephoned by strangers just as you sit down to a nice dinner. In my view, this scandal has absolutely nothing to do with the medium, it is the specific message.

So on to robo-calling process. I have used demon diallers for political campaigns before, and the actual process is simple. What you do is contact a robo-dialling company, and set up an account, normally using your credit card. You then upload a list of telephone numbers to the dialling companies servers. Next step is to either upload a voice file, with a pre-recorded message, or you can dial into your account, and record your message over the phone. Normally you have to sign (or click a button to confirm) that you are not doing anything illegal. The robo-dialling firms are all aware that do-not-call lists are not applicable to political communications, so you do not have to promise that your phone list has been scrubbed of all those folks who do not want their dinner interrupted. Well, obviously anybody with a spreadsheet of phone numbers, and a credit card could have impersonated an EC official, but wait…What kind of people can get their hands on accurate lists of Liberal, NDP, and Green Party supporters in ridings all across the country? And how many of these people will have access to considerable funds dedicated to an illegal vote suppression scheme?

Well, these kinds of lists SHOULD exist in every political party that wants to be a contender. The Party which has the absolutely best, most comprehensive identified voters lists is of course the Conservative Party. They call it CIMS, and there is an enormous amount of data on every Canadian voter stored there. The Conservatives have been updating this database continuously. Whether there is an election happening or not, the CPC has friends and allies making calls all day every day, and every time they identify what Party a voter supports, that info goes into CIMS. This database has been built over quite a few elections, and when you add in all the voter contact and issues identification that goes on between elections, you would probably be amazed at how much the Conservative Party knows about what issues are of importance to you, what charities you contribute to, and what has happened to your voting intentions over time. Commercially available data includes what you spend on your credit cards, which is a goldmine of data about YOU and your habits. And remember, because the data is used for POLITICAL purposes, way more data than is commercially legal can be traded and swapped into and out of CIMS. I have a typical anecdote for you to illustrate how this kind of database gets built over time. I own a small business, and many commercially available databases will list me as a business owner in central Ontario. I receive phone calls regularly from a certain Edmonton Based telemarketing firm recently in the news. Two or three weeks ago I received a call, purportedly raising money to ‘help keep our kids off drugs’. That was the intro in the political/fundraising operatives script, but as soon as I responded that I was too busy to chat about keeping kids off drugs, the reply was the ‘Dalton McGuinty is making life way too busy for honest businessmen down there in Ontario.’ Bingo, the call was sooo obviously an attempt to identify people who are burning to keep our kids off dope, and who do not like Dalton McGuinty. I ditched the call, and I am willing to bet folding money that there is an entry next to my name in CIMS to the effect that I do not care about kids doing drugs. Mind you the call was probably not illegal at all. The marketing firm will have quite a number of Conservative friendly charities happy to pay the tab to raise funds. They will not be displeased if their donors make it into a Conservative database, and the data is being used ‘for political purposes’, so it is not a breach of my privacy under the act. The issues will change over time. They will cover everything under the sun, but they will all have in common that they are issues that the CPC feels they either own, or can make inroads on.

So this database is owned by the Conservative Party of Canada. They have spent many many millions of dollars on building their database over time. They have traded, bartered, and otherwise acquired data from third parties, and issues based advocacy groups. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL THE CONSERVATIVES OWN! It has propelled them from a rump party to majority government in one short decade. I have heard arguments put forward that the CPC has nothing to do with any illegal calls, that there was a rogue staffer, or some shadowy figures that did the dastardly deeds. I do not believe it, and here’s why. At this moment, Elections Canada claims that over 31,000 people have come forward with complaints that they were mis-directed by phony Elections Canada workers to vote at non-existent polling stations. These complaints probably only represent a small portion of people who actually received those calls. Our household received such a call on election day, but I did not preserve a record, and did not complain to Elections Canada. I am sure I am not alone in this. So the mis-direction was NOT isolated to one riding, it happened in many ridings across the country. The implication is that the person who uploaded that phone list to the robo-calling company was not relying on a local riding level database, they had access to the whole national Database.
Then there is the sheer volume of calls. Robo-calling is fairly cheap, but it isn’t free when you start calling tens of thousands of people. Many of these calls were reported as coming from live telemarketers. Folks, live calling is many things, but cheap it is not. Even if only 10% of the 31,000 complainants to date were substantiated, that still adds up to a lot of money. And it is probable that if there were 31,000 reported incidents, there were many times that number that went unreported. That is a surmise, but I do not for a second think that the number of suppression calls was limited to the 31,000 complainants.

So here we are. If indeed the Liberal and NDP vote were suppressed by a rogue Conservative operative, then the perp was someone placed highly enough in the Conservative Party that they enjoyed an enormous amount of trust. They were trusted with unfettered access to the most valuable political database in Canada. They had the tools and skills to search that database, and abstract lists of Liberal, NDP, and Green Party supporters from different postal codes across the whole country. They had access to considerable funds, and multiple contacts with robo-calling companies, and telemarketing firms with live operators. That is quite incredible isn’t it? And I mean incredible in the exact sense that it is beyond credulity; unbelievable even.

So let us assume, without prejudice, that it was in fact some rogue in the CPC who implemented this campaign. How could they be ferretted out? One potential key would be to gain access to the phone lists uploaded to the robo-dialling companies server. If these lists could be correlated to any direct search of the CIMS database, then it would be extremely convincing evidence that the data originated with CIMS. In other words, if the RCMP were to gain access to CIMS, and if any of the uploaded phone lists correlated precisely to say, identified Liberal, NDP, and Green supporters as at the date of the data upload, then the odds that the data was in fact abstracted from CIMS would be astronomically in favour. CIMS is well enough protected that there will be records of who had access, and what exact searches and downloads were performed by password protected account holders. I think that if the lists of illegal calls matched a list downloaded by a specific operative, that would be a pretty good clue to work on. If there were in fact multiple different lists, uploaded, or supplied to different telemarketing firms, then the possibility that it was in fact a rogue operative decreases. If there were in fact multiple different lists, and they correlated to downloads performed by more than one operative, then it immediately turns into a criminal conspiracy.

The evidence is accruing that a criminal, or criminals conducted a relatively sophisticated and highly effective voter suppression campaign. This is not a small thing. It is worthy of a Russian election, or some of those quaint ‘democracies’ in poverty stricken resource rich countries. It offends Canadians of all political stripes that such things took place on such a scale. Because it affects the very basis of our Civil life; That the voters decide, and that an impartial civil service shall ensure a fair and free vote. I believe that a full scale judicial inquiry is called for. It will take the coercive powers of a Judge to compel testimony and secure evidence from the various actors involved. Can you imagine how long it will take for the Police to follow through with all those different robo-calling and telemarketing firms? How about compelling Government Ministers and elected MP’s to co-operate? Can you see the Mounties resisting the urge to whitewash their political soul-mates? To do a proper job, they would have to drill down to the actual operators making the calls, finding out who developed the script they used, who paid for it all. That is the second unexplored element to the scandal, who the heck paid for it all? Was it disguised as legitimate elections expenses? If that were the case, then once again the Canadian electorate will have been defrauded when the political entity that falsely reported these as elections expenses got a 60% rebate of election expenses from the Taxpayer. If it was NOT reported as an elections expense, then it was a criminal breach in a second respect, that being unreported spending. Either way, a crime was committed in addition to the vote suppression. Do you begin to see why a Judicial inquiry is called for? The implications are HUGE! There is no way that one single law was broken, and I for one would prefer to have a Judge do the digging, with the authority to investigate beyond the original reported infractions. We simply must get to the bottom of this. It started in previous elections with sleazy voter suppression techniques that bordered on the illegal. Now we have systematic electoral fraud going on. If we do not care about living in a banana republic, then I guess we can ignore these kinds of criminal acts by our political elites. If however we are disgusted, and find this behaviour un-acceptable, then it is time for a public shaming, and jail sentences for the scum-balls who perpetrated these crimes.

20 Responses

  1. Good post and well said !!
    Yes you have been gone a long time and I do not blame you as I know why I think

    But….With so some many other out right crimes done even openly by the Cons ignored by the public and the obvious cowardly or bought off media and by my own belief that even Crime Minister harper himself attacked me personally when he and his uglier older sister elizabeth painted me as an anti semite for my cannabis issue work in 2008 …that I say that the canadian public has the attention span of a mere tsetse fly and it will only be by those silent in disgust rising up again that this will have any chance of removing these disgusting goons with obvious damaged and self serving weak egos

    Good to hear you again Matt

    I wish you luck with your singular blogs attempt to raise awareness

    Out here in Vancouver we are joining one another and taking it to the streets ourselves

    I missed you at the Green Party Wake

    And myself of course and every last person (and then some) that I had ever brought to that dead party has not stayed on in its replacement party…… the e may party

    Bravo… to all who did as I just said !!
    You are not deaf dumb and blind
    Lets hope we can do the same nationally !!


  2. […] the scope of the RoboCall Conspiracy? Another Green blogger explained how to find Poutine, and narrow down who else could be involved, at least a day before the National Post figured it out […]

  3. You have a big-time error in this blogpost. There have not been 31,000 “complaints”, as you alluded to. There have been 31,000 “contacts”, the result of an online petition from Leadnow, a group that includes mostly people with NDP ties, Ian Capstick and Robin Sears for example.

    CBC, along with all the major news organizations have already mentioned this. The opposition parties ran with that 31,000 complaints claim story until they got busted when EC released the actual details.

    In fact, as of September 2011, EC had received roughly 30 official complaints of misleading robocalls.

  4. @paulsstuff I glance over at my calendar, and lo and behold, it is March 2012, not Sept 2011. The 31,000 complaints were from numerous sources, and according to elections Canada that number was left in the dust last week. And what is relevant is that there were a large number of complaints from people all across the country. Whether there were 300, 3,000, or 30,000 instances does not really have much bearing on my post or the conclusions. I still do not trust Elections Canada to investigate, and my preference is still for a judicial inquiry. A judge will have the powers to get to the bottom of this stinking mess, and a judicial inquiry will remove any suspicions of behind the scenes arm twisting. At this time, all we have is a huge number of seemongly well founded allegations being investigated by Elections Canada. It took EC far too long to start interviewing people, and I personally found it outrageous that the Conservative Party was conducting a full audit of all files, voice logs, and recorded conversations and materials in the call centre where the live calls were originating, long before any investigators showed up.

  5. Even without this latest scandal any sane person knows and always probably knew crime minister harpercrit was merely a corrupt goon in a long line of corrupt goons…he or it are no mystery

    And no one will do a thing about it …I mean those in a position to do so
    If I got to manage a $ 270 billion dollar fund just by screwing with a few half asleep citizens even I might be tempted

    Watching him self destruct in the coming 2013 will be worth the wait I am sure

    Sadly though the canadian public will still probably remember next to nothing by the next hockey season

    If its complaints you care about or more to the point if they would actually accomplish anything I am sure millions would bother to rise and complain

    I am quite sure they have done far worse than all this childs play …stealing elections

    At least no one is talking about him destroying the countries fiances

  6. Again, you are wrong. Don’t believe me. Google it.

    “John Enright, a spokesman for Elections Canada, said Thursday that an investigation into 31,000 contacts regarding the last federal campaign is ongoing but that no specific details are being released.

    “We’re not confirming any ridings at all. So unfortunately I can’t offer you any more than that.”

    He also stressed that it’s not yet clear what proportion of those 31,000 contacts are actually complaints.’

    You can see the petition here:

  7. You do have one thing right, That number was left in the dust. That’s because more people signed the petition, which was by the way at 31,000 when the opposition and media claimed 31,000 complaints, rather than contacts.

    “Elections Canada received 119 complaints regarding misleading and abusive telephone and “robocalls” made to constituents during the 2011 general election, as of September 28, 2011. Of these, only 30 complaints referred to false information regarding changes to poll locations”

    “And what is relevant is that there were a large number of complaints from people all across the country. Whether there were 300, 3,000, or 30,000 instances does not really have much bearing on my post or the conclusions.”

    Actually it does. You incorrectly reference the number of contacts as complaints, and then go on to say the the CPC CIMS is the only voter database capable of having the needed information to put out a mass robocall of that scope. I’m not excusing whoever the guilty party(s) are who made the misleading robocalls, and hope whoever did it goes to jail.

    If the Conservative Party is culpable in the calls, I won’t vote for them for a very long time. But you might wanna cut through the partisan rhetoric and bending of the truth from all sides and let EC find those responsible.

    As for the 31,000+ contacts, the majority are simply people in the organization, who themselves are being used for attempted political capital. Cheers, Paul

  8. You know what Paul? I actually know one of the people who documented, saved a recording of a crimnal mis-direction to a non-existant poll, and provided that to elections Canada. I also received a call myself, which I listened to briefly, looked out the window at my polling station (whcih was open and people were voting), So spare me the obfuscation. I really do not care if there are 30,000 or 10,000 criminal acts, what I care about is that if the election was stolen, that the perps are called to account. What I care about is that there be a bare modicum of respect for the electoral laws intended to ensure free and fair elections in Canada. That respect is sorely lacking, and I would say that if a proper investigation ends up with everybody involved being prosecuted, and sent to jail then we will be spared this kind of crooked crap in the future. It is disgusting, and given the volume of complaints, and the anecdotal eveidence presented in some instances, something terribly wrong happened in 2011. So why are you quibbling about numbers of complaints instead of demanding that your Government institute an unbiased, unequivocably neutral inquiry, and publicly determine the truth?
    I am NOT a partisan, not anymore anyway. even if I were, I still possess a critical faculty, and I would be incensed at anybody who did this thing. Every Party has some kind of a database, and every party tries to record voting intentions. The Liberal party has failed to win majorities in large part because their national databnase is not comprehensive. Every riding guards their own lists and will not share their data. It is because those l;ists are solid gold for internal politicking, and the Liberals would rather campaign for Leadership contests than win national elections I guess. the dippers have better data in some rspects, the Greens have GRIMES (LMFAO), which probably has HUNDREDS of non-greens identified, but really…they have enough trouble figuring out what GOTV stands for, let alone getting engeged in dastardly schemes of suppressing their own vote. No the probable cuplrit is the CPC, or at a minimum a group of people with access to the national databse.

  9. Well, if you wanna read back on my blog a little further, you would find I also received a misleading robocall. Considering I was listed as a Conservative supporter, volunteered on Chris Alexanders campaign, was invited to both appearances by the PM in Ajax, I’m guessing it wasn’t the CPC that called me trying to supress my vote.

    The campaign office also received calls from supporters pissed off that the office had called several times in one day, with some calls being late at night. Problem was the campaign had not called anyone on that day. The caller identified themselves as being from the Conservative party, which is illegal. CBC also reported on May 2nd, 2011 that Conservative reporters were also complaining about misleading calls. The media seems to keep that quiet right now.

    A complaint from the campaign office was filed at the time. That the CPC has not released details of misleading calls through the media, choosing rather to let the proper channels, namely EC and the RCMP to do their work, speaks of their thoughts on the integrity of EC

    I agree one illegal call was too much. Let the authorities do their work. Here in Ajax, the Green candidate did very well in the debates, but was pretty much thrown under the bus by May and her team, with no support. The Green candidate also did well, and I worked with her sister for a number of years. Sadly the candidate from Oshawa was killed by a drunk driver over the Christmas holidays.

    Until May realizes she’s about the party, rather than the party is about her, the GP is doomed. Too bad to. I agree with a lot of their fiscal policies, and many of their enviromental ones as well. In my opinion May takes more away from the party than they gain by having her as leader.

  10. […] Posted on March 11, 2012 by saskboy What’s the scope of the RoboCall Conspiracy? Another Green blogger explained how to find Poutine, and narrow down who else could be involved, at least a day before the National Post figured it out […]

  11. @paul Chris Alexanders campaign spent approximately $19,000 on ‘election surveys or other research’ which is a catch-all for robo-and live calling. Most of these calls were outsourced to racknine, or campaign research, or other Conservative comminications firms. Your candidate disguised the recipients of funds spent on his campaign by paying virtually all election expenses through the EDA, which is pretty damned curious. That enables him to hide who is the service provider, as normally the campaign contracts directly for all election expenses. I bet this raised some eyebrows at Elections Canada.

    So it is quite possible, that the calls were made by a call centre that could be pretty well anywhere in the country, ( or even in the states).

  12. sorry that link did not work. you have to go to the elections canada database and search on campaign financial returns for Ajax Pickering. You will see that all the campaign expenses were funnelled through the EDA, that is curious, because it allows the EDA to withold the information from the public domain for years. The reason the campaign has to file public returns is so that people like you and I and the press get to see who the campaigns gave their money too after an election. I wonder what they are trying to hide, I have never seen anything like this before.
    Actually, I know that it is illegal for an EDA to accept donations during the writ period, I am surprised that this is legal, allowing campaigns to funnell 100% of their expenditures through the EDA. I am curious haw they handled their audit. It is wrong that EC cannot comment on it, clearly this is an attempt to shield campaign spending from scrutiny. Given the recent history of the Conservative Party conviction for stealing money from the taxpayer through illegal in and out transfers, it is suspicious that they would try to circumvent public reporting of expenditures

  13. That really was sleazy of the Alerxander campaign laundering everything through the EDA.

    I’m waiting to see how this reply works before saying more.

  14. The EDA does not have to file until the end of May- and it is well known there are no consequences for filing late, even a year late.

    And unlike the campaign, the EDA never has to show in public records who was the recipient in expenses- so this is at a minimum a way to get around what every other campaign has to do as a matter of public record.

    There are zero donations shown for the campaign. The campaign shows that it got all its funding in transfers from the EDA. Even if that is letter of the law true, what is the likelihood that a campaign took in no donations whatsoever? Let alone a fundraising machine like that one, which raised enough surplus over and above spending $100,00 in 2009 and 2010 to fund the 2011 campaign.

    Matt is correct that the EDA is barred from taking donations during the writ period. Are we supposed to believe that all the people who always volunteer unbidden to donate to the campaign were told “no thanks?”

  15. I was interested Paul in reding your blog entry about your misleading robocall- to an obvious Conservative.

    But I couldnt find it on your blog.

    And by the way, if the CPC is holding its fire about publicizing misleading calls to Conservatives, out of respect for EC… then they just found religion.

  16. That is a very good point Ken, I wonder what happened to any prospective donors? This started as a curiosity when a Conservative Commenter mentioned the campaign he worked on. I figured I would take a peek, and what a surprise I got.
    Sounds like the basis for some digging….

  17. EDAs are not allowed to make any advertising purchases after the writ has dropped.

    And the campaign is paying the EDA for having secured advertising during the campaign… its the biggest portion of those invoices from the EDA being shown as campaign expenses.

    EC would determine either that the EDA made a prohibited advertising purchase, or that the EDA was making the purchase as an agent for the campaign, in which case I belief the itemized actual purchases have to be shown.

    It also may be as Matt suggested that ALL the expenses which the EDA paid for as agent have to be itemized on the campaign’s expense report.

  18. @Ken Summers

    You might have missed my blog post as you have to go back to older posts links. You can find the post here:

    Another Blogging Tory, Sandy who’s blog is called Crux of the Matter, also did a posting about the misleading robocall she received. Like me, there is no way she would be mistaken for a Liberal supporter.

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