When Smearing, Robinson Turns to the Pros
Vernon Robinson, who is challenging Brad Miller for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, has generated headlines all over the nation for his outlandish advertisements. His ads employ a template: vintage television theme songs overlaid with stentorian imprecations against homosexuals, illegal immigrants and the incumbent, his opponent Brad Miller.
For those new to Robinson’s campaign tactics (he has run for Winston-Salem City Council and North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District), the ads might seem eye-poppingly extreme. But for the first half of the year the notoriety they garnered resulted in large infusions of cash for the underdog. Robinson’s war chest has rivaled his more established counterpart since before the primary, and both are pushing the million-dollar mark.
The most recent reports to the Federal Elections Commission filed in July revealed an increase in fundraising for Robinson, who has raised $561,086 since April compared to $362,467 for Miller.
Robinson’s spending, much of which is devoted to more fundraising, has continued apace. Expenditure reports show that the Winston-Salem Republican, who has bragged about raising the bulk of his funds from individuals, paid political consultants from around the Washington area tens of thousands of dollars for campaign activities.
Robinson credited Kay Daly with masterminding his ad campaign. Daly received a total of $10,000 from the Robinson campaign between April and July. In exchange, she helped author radio salvos such as the recent “Beverly Hill-Miller” spot. Over the familiar banjo picking of the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song, a voice intones these words:
“Come and hear me tell about a politician named Brad, he gave illegal aliens everything we had’… Well, the next thing you know old Brad’s a congressman with all the sneaky aliens eating from his hands.”
The spot ends with these words: “Hey all you illegals, put your shoes on. Go home. Don’t come back now, y’hear?”
When not working on the Robinson campaign, Daly heads a nonprofit called the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, which is described on the website as an umbrella for 75 grassroots organizations. The organization last posted a press release in January, and posted a link to a report dated in May of this year. The organization is devoted to supporting President Bush’s judicial nominees.
Daly’s consulting business, listed on the reports as Daly & Associates, keeps a lower profile than Daly herself, who also hosts a conservative radio show. The business was incorporated in North Carolina with a Charlotte address.
In 2004, Daly and Robinson teamed up in an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 5th District Congressional seat. During the campaign, an e-mail ostensibly from someone supporting Nathan Tabor, one of Robinson’s challengers, contained allegations that Tabor had bribed a police officer.
The thinly disguised smear campaign came from “Pastor Randy” and urged Tabor supporters to offer their prayers, according to The Hill. The message read in part:
“If you have heard someone say that [Nathan’s] current legal troubles, that is NOT TRUE ‘… THERE WERE NO DRUGS INVOLVED IN THE CURRENT CRIMINAL TROUBLE, PERIOD.”
The Hill reported that the Tabor campaign traced the e-mail back to an IP address registered to Jack and Kay Daly, who denied charges of launching a smear campaign. Daly did not return phone calls for this article.
Another benefactor of the Robinson campaign with a less-than-squeaky-clean past is direct mail company Eberle Communications Group. The company consists of several subsidiaries, and Robinson has split a total of $36,315 between three of them: Omega List Company, ECG Data Center and Campaign Funding Direct.
The companies specialize in targeting and soliciting donors to conservative causes, and Eberle’s client list reads like a who’s who of the extreme right. Eberle Communications Group represented Stacey Koon, one of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating, and the anti-environmentalist Mountain States Legal Foundation.
Eberle Communications’ most notorious client was Operation Rescue, a group organized purportedly to rescue American prisoners of war from Vietnam. Eberle Communications designed their appeals from 1983 to 1986 and raised about $2 million for the group, according to the State Senate Select Report on POW-MIA Affairs. Operation Rescue spent 88 percent of their revenue on fundraising, according to the report. Robinson, a former intelligence officer who graduated from the Air Force Academy, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In addition to serving their client through list management and direct mail services, Bruce Eberle donated $2,000 to Robsinson’s primary campaign earlier this year.
Robinson and his consultants have also used the internet database of conservative news organization NewsMax Media from West Palm Beach, Fla. to find donors. NewsMax Media, which has come under fire for publishing false stories about Hillary Clinton and incorrectly stating that a U2 concert was a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), received $37,500 from Robinson.
Gulf Direct, another direct mail operation out of Houston, received $50,000 from the Robinson campaign during the last four months.
All this list-mining has proved profitable for Robinson. Daly posted a press release on her blog stating that Robinson had more individual donations than any House candidate in history. Although the amount of money from North Carolina residents accounts for less than 10 percent of his donations, Daly stated that Robinson’s small donors outnumber Miller’s in the state.
Miller does boast a larger funding base from political action committees, organizations Robinson dismisses as special interest fat cats from Washington, DC. Of the $968,430 in Miller’s war chest, $433,181 came from political action committees. Robinson has earned a scant $3,000 from such groups.
Miller, who has the incumbent advantage of serving two terms representing the 13th District, has spent far less than his rival. His expenditures for the second quarter amounted to a third of Robinson’s at $111,351.25.
Like his challenger, Miller has employed the services of agencies that specialize in fundraising. The beneficiaries of his campaign expenditures included Kennedy Communications, which received $5,571 for consulting, the Political Development Group, and AB Data in Milwaukee, which received $21,025 for direct mail expenses.
He also paid for the services of a polling group, Cooper & Secrest Associates. As of press time, none of their poll results have been published online. So the mystery of whether successful fundraising equals votes on Election Day will have to wait until Nov. 2.
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