Monday, April 21, 2014

ElectRight & Prime Contact Group - from a former candidate

An election candidate who paid $22,000 to a voter contact/robocall firm in 2010 for a "Mayoral Victory Package" has a warning to similar aspirants for 2014 :  Ontario Candidate Watchdog. It's an interesting read.

According to John James' account, following the election he lost to his municipal rival, he and his rival shared notes about their respective voter contact firms - James used Prime Contact Group and his rival used ElectRight -  and found they'd both been sold the exact same polling information and, James contends, both were serviced by the same rep.
"What surprised me at the time was that his numbers were almost exactly the same as the poll numbers I had received from Prime Contact in August 2010. I went back to review my files that night and realized they weren't just close, they were exactly the same, down to the tenth of a percentage point for all candidates.  
The next day, I asked him if he had received a similar house by house report from his ITR as I had received and if he would mind sharing it with me. The response numbers were exactly the same, every single response was exactly the same. These two ITR polls that had supposedly been conducted two weeks apart got responses from the same exact phone numbers and the same exact responses for all the candidates and undecided voters. 
I realized right away that we had both been sold the same poll results. My only consolation was that my friend had paid significantly more for his than I had for mine. Over the next few weeks we also compared our live call results and realized they matched exactly, except for the signs that had been requested for each of us. I also found out that my old friend Derek [his Prime Contact Group contact] had also been the client rep for Electright and had communicated with the other campaign as he had done for me."

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his account as he has no contact info on his blog which was just set up last Thursday. And he does admit all this is legal.

But if true, it raises some interesting questions. Do ElectRight and Prime Contact work together and share outreach staff and information? Do they both use the same in-house resources or those of some other third party? Is there a parent clone company for both somewhere?

The Windsor Square interviewed Josh Justice, President of Prime Contact, in January 2012:
"A licensed provider of Canadian Data Services, Prime Contact offers such services as virtual town halls, live voter ID calling, automated surveys, market research, data services and polling.
The company, with an office in Hamilton and headquarters in Tampa, Florida, started up 10 years ago consulting focusing on municipal elections. It has since grown to become Canada’s largest firm of its type “specifically on the municipal side,” according to Justice.
Among the company’s successful clients include Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi."
From a York Region interview in 2010 regarding a telephone townhall in Vaughan in October 2010:
"PrimeContact president Josh Justice said the company has done hundreds of these sessions across North America, mainly in the United States."
I wonder if these US and Florida references about Prime Contact Group can be correct, given there's a little "Made in Canada" flag up there on their website?
"PCG Research owns and operates a series integrated in-house research call centres in Ontario, Canada in which 100% of our domestic research is conducted.
"Our successful international market research brings elements together to deliver research programs which enable our clients to address critical issues both locally and globally. PCG Research International is network flexible and we are not compelled to work with local subsidiaries or franchisees. 
We select local partners based on quality, track record, and compatibility. For qualitative work we will always send a team member to brief the local partner and engage in the local fieldwork process from beginning to end. Wherever possible, we try to meet local stakeholders and gain firsthand experience of local markets. "
 Ok then.

There have been a few glitches, as when they mistakenly mis-identified the NDP candidate as a Green Party candidate in a PCG National Research robocall poll in the London West election in July 2013 and no one could find out who had contracted the poll. 

And Steve's then Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro used parliamentary resources to have them do a poll in support of a former staffer who was a provincial Con candidate in Del Mastro's riding ...  

which must be what the Cons mean in their Fair Elections Act when they say they want to see politicians push the vote instead of Elections Canada.

So ... questions about two robocall/voter contact companies' alleged collusion from an ex-candidate.

I do have some reservations about Ontario Candidate Watchdog's conclusions though :
"With potentially dozens of resellers all using Prime Contact's call centres and databases, including Electright, is it possible that this is the solution to the robocall mystery? Is the Derek that called me back in 2010 the real Pierre Poutine behind the voter suppression that confused tens of thousands of voters across Canada? Was it just a mistake, did Prime Contact call Liberal supporters by mistake with a suppression message, or did they just give the data to Electright?"
Mixed up the Lib and Con lists by mistake? No. Because what possible benefit would a list of wrong polling place addresses and phone numbers to make offensive phone calls be to anyone but the Cons for the purpose of misleading their opponents'  supporters - the ones who actually got those calls.
So no - no mistake.

Edited for typos, clarity.


Anonymous said...

Crappy spelling for a release written for a company *founded by government and political staff*

" was founded by a team of government and political staff for the purpose of providing affordable and accurate polling to politicians and corporations. Since opening there doors Pollstra Research and have worked with the government of Canada, Brazil and India providing public Opinion Polling and research"

Anonymous said...

Toronto Star October 2010

"Doug Ford told the Star that, while running the Chicago-area office of their family label business, he had seen first-hand how telephone town halls and other innovative campaign tools were put to good use by candidates, including Illinois senator Obama.

“This is a first for Canada, I think, and Rob is reaching thousands of folks. This technology is amazing — we can target specific parts of the city,” Doug Ford said at the time, declining to reveal how much it costs.

Josh Justice, president of Prime Contact and Pollstra Research, said six mayoral candidates in Ontario have chosen to use it, including former Hamilton mayor Larry Di Ianni, Windsor mayoral hopeful Michael Mosgrove and Jeff Lehman, who wants to become mayor of Barrie."

When were these guys incorporated again?

Alison said...

Anon@1:20 : Pollstra Prime was registered to Josh Justice in
May 22, 2009. Server located in New Jersey

However according to the G&M in August 2010:
"Pollstra Research is a little-known, two-year-old polling firm whose Canadian offices are based out of Hamilton, Ont. Its parent company, Prime Contact, specializes in voter identification for campaigns in Canada and the U.S."

The same server which hosts Pollstra also hosts The Stratics Group - another "leader in campaign telephone services: Live Agent Voter ID, Virtual Town Halls, Voter Data, Polling, Voice Broadcasting," etc etc "We Win Elections" - registered to Josh Justice Long in Tampa, Florida

Anon@7:06 : Pollstra's PR presser is indeed pretty weird :

"There current markets include political polling, corporate market research, government relations and targeted consumer and corporate data services. The accuracy of our services combined with our unique pricing has allowed them the opportunity to work with the largest names in government and business domestically and abroad"

Yet Pollstra predicted the Rob Ford win, even as Prime Contact helped get him elected.

Anonymous said...

Toronto Taxpayers Coalition Advisory Board:

"Jim Ross is a national political consultant with clients in five provinces and at all levels of government.

Jim spent four years working as a political staffer in the federal government from 2007-2011, for MP Rick Dykstra and Hon. Jason Kenney. Jim's federal role included the leadership of the government staff on the citizenship and immigration committee, management of the office of Rick Dykstra, M.P., the organization of national consultations on the temporary foreign worker program, and the administration of the caucus advisory committee process.

Since leaving government, Jim managed the winning Conservative campaign in St. Catharines in the 2011 federal election, and provided political consulting services (primarily voter contact) to federal, provincial, and municipal clients in five provinces."

Anonymous said...

*The Stratics Group started out as a firm that provided backend support and technology to political consultants and political resellers. We are proud to now directly serve the interests and needs of campaigns and candidates at the grassroots level.*

I see.

Alison said...

Anon@7:09 Huh. Yes, that does seem to explain a couple of things.

Much of the wording on both Prime Contact Group and Stratics Group is identical, as in :

"Ethnic Match: The Stratics Group/Prime Contact can match over 70 ethnic types to our records assuring accurate assignments to almost all voters."

Anonymous said...

See also for same text:!services/cee5

second link registered to Wyngate International

Anonymous said...

Jim Ross no longer listed on Toronto Taxpayers

Alison said...

Same text would be explained by
"The Stratics Group started out as a firm that provided backend support and technology to political consultants and political resellers"

Also note the "About us" sections usually do not contain bios but just generic biz conference pix repeated across many industries.

What I want to know is - what is the nature of the ubiquitous template?
Is it just a web-based template for business or a real life one?
Are these voter contact companies just arms of political parties with some staff straddling both?

Because if a parent voter contact company is representing two opposing candidates, then they are controlling who wins.

Anonymous said...

or arms of energy companies?

Alison said...

Notable that news stories on corp/gov intersection only come to light through some fuckup on the gov's part - probably because it's gov that is at least somewhat accessible to us in its role as corp representative and we are still quite fond of our idea of democracy.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting story connecting Prime Contact's Josh Justice with Nick Kouvalis - maybe you will remember it. I did not:

That puts the former Ford teammates on a collision course. "Knowing him personally from the Ford campaign, I have tremendous respect for him," said Mr. Justice. "If there's one firm I don't want to go against in the country, it's his. If it happens we are battling in the same ridings, expect a great showdown."

Alison said...

Huh. Didn't know that.

Anonymous said...

”ElectRight – $11,300
There’s got to be some website template that includes pre-written copy and stock photos for all of these “direct”/”live campaign call”/”virtual townhall”/”IVR” businesses that exist to only serve Conservative-leaning candidates across Canada. I know my torrented copy of Adobe Creative Suite doesn’t include it, so I’m at a loss. What I do know is that every internal poll of theirs I was able to obtain has Dean Del Mastro’s letterhead all over it (it takes up over half the page). Oh, and it wasn’t just this instance. However I’m curious about the Peterborough-Willowdale connection. Regardless, I’m printing out Dean Del Mastro’s letterhead because it could double as a life-size model of Parliament Hill.”

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