Friday, December 21, 2012

RoboCon: RMG/Xentel/iMarketing Solutions revisited

Earlier this year the Cons' principal voter contact company Responsive Marketing Group came under heavy media scrutiny for
  •  its role as a partner in the Cons' CIMS data collection on Canadian voters used by 97 Con candidate campaigns in the last election,
  • allegations made by at least one former RMG call centre employee that their scripts were directing voters to the wrong polling stations, 
  • aggressive fundraising tactics for the Cons with pensioners, and
  • its merger with Xentel.

In March RMG put out a press release protesting the unfairness of being smeared by its association with Xentel, a company with a dodgy  robo/live call   history in both Canada and the US, that RMG had "acquired" two years earlier.
McMaher :
The company now operates under the umbrella of iMarketing Solutions Group. During the election campaign in the spring of 2011, the merged company was run by co-CEOs Michael Davis, formerly of RMG, and Michael Platz, formerly of Xentel 
As I wrote at the time, what was less clear was which company had acquired the other, with most news reports, like Bloomberg's Business Week for example, describing RMG as "a subsidiary of Xentel" and iMarketing Solutions as an "alternate name of Xentel".

Three weeks ago, iMarketing Solutions Group published its Canadian Stock Exchange Listing.
In the following excerpts, iMS is "The Company".
"On October 28, 2010, the shareholders of the Company approved a name change of the Company to iMarketing Solutions Group Inc. from Xentel DM Incorporated (“Xentel”) as an initial step in rebranding and reorganizing the operations. 
The Company merged with RMG on March 3, 2010. 
On behalf of political clients, the Company conducts direct tele-service contact with potential voters to assist in the assessment and evaluation of political and consumer attitudes.
The Company continues the practice of subcontracting some of its work.  This is done on a strategically selective basis where the subcontractor has superior data in a specific area and/or can execute the work on a more economical basis.    
Marketing List Rentals : The Company rents selected proprietary databases to not-for-profit organizations where they do not compete with our normal business activities. These databases are developed through our normal course of business. 

Re the CRTC's Do Not Call Lists, operated by Bell Canada :
A number of exemptions were made in the DNCL due to efforts of the Company and a group of diverse stakeholders. The following types of calls are exempt from using the DNCL:
(a) calls made by or for registered political campaigns, associations, candidates or persons seeking a political nomination,
(b) calls made to parties with whom the caller has an existing business relationship,
(c) calls made by or on behalf of a registered charity
(d) calls made for market research purposes
Throughout the report are numerous allusions to financial hardship with "substantial doubt that the Company will be able to continue as a going concern" without "access to additional financing".
Equipment purchases of $1,839,000 and $1,453,000 in 2010 and 2011 were "related mostly to the ongoing update of the Company’s dialing platform and information technologies".
The principals are making out ok though, with compensation packages of well over $½ million each  for Chairman Platz and President Winograd for 2010, not including their directors' fees.

David A. Winograd in Wisconsin was President of US operations of Xentel DM since 2003 - now President of iMarketing Solutions.
Michael Platz, Chairman, CEO, and "founder of the predecessor company Xentel", served as Co-Chief Executive Officer of iMS til Sept 2011 and Chairman til Jan. 2012. Now just a iMS director.
Andrew Langhorne, Mike Harris Voter Contact Director for 7 years and COO of RMG since Nov. 2006, now COO for iMS. 
Michael M. Davis, founder of RMG, is "Managing Director, Political"
Listed among iMS's 20 subsidiary companies like RMG and Xentel Inc - half of them Canadian and half US - is Stewart Braddick's Target Outreach for Republican campaigns.

Back in 2005, Sean Holman at Public Eye Online reported on a heavily loaded Xentel telemarketing poll leading up to the Vancouver civic elections. Their questions :
Number One: "The Vancouver Sun today says that the campaign is getting dirty and scare tactics are starting to fly. Does this make you more or less likely to vote?"  
Two: "It says in the Sun that Jim Green left COPE in tatters and with a great big debt. Does this make you more or less likely to vote?"  
And three: "Both Sam Sullivan and Jim Green are accusing each other of dirty tricks and negative campaigning. Does this make you more or less likely to vote?"
Xentel has merged with the Cons #1 voter marketing firm - working, as RMG puts it, "exclusively with right-of-centre campaigns ".  Does this make you more or less likely to vote?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Give a RoboCon barcode this Christmas

Are you tired of shlepping around the mall looking for a gift that will top that asteroid you had named after her last year?

This Christmas give that very special someone in your life the gift everyone across Canada is talking about ...
their own unique barcode in the Cons' CIMS data playbook.

Adopt a frowny/duh/smiley face just for her when you answer questions about Israel or the gun registry.

The CIMS Vote-O-Matic. It slices, it dices, it makes juliennefantino fries.
Operators are standing by.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RoboCon : Poutine made easy

Text : Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher
Presentation : Robert Cross
Ottawa Citizen

This excellent interactive visual has been around for a while but with 6 other ridings in court this week challenging election fraud, perhaps we could use a refresher on just how devious was the trail of deception from the diabolical Mr Poutine in Guelph. [h/t Toe at Bread 'n Roses]

Not mentioned in it is how undetermined staffers from the Con election campaign in Guelph came to share a Racknine browser session with Mr. Poutine at 2am on Election Day.

McMaher's liveblog of the day's proceedings here.

A couple of today's notable discrepancies ...

When Election Canada sent alarums about bogus phone calls re polling station changes to Con lawyer Arthur Hamilton 3 days before the election, Hamilton emailed in reply :
"A number of our candidates" have had to confirm polling station …"
 But it was actually RMG who made those calls on behalf of Con Party central.

Hamilton also stated today that Elections Canada never advised parties not to phone electors about polling station changes, however EC's May2 Election website states :
In response to an initial request from a member of the Conservative Party of Canada, the preliminary list of all election day polls was sent to all parties. Because a polling site can be replaced by another at the last minute, and to ensure that electors always have access to the most accurate information regarding their location, Elections Canada indicated to political parties that the list supplied should only be used for internal purposes and that parties should not direct electors to polling sites. Political parties were invited to refer electors to the Elections Canada Web site, their local Elections Canada office or their voter information card for locations, to prevent electors from being directed to incorrect polling sites. Some political parties did not comply with this request.
As noted at Saskboy's in comments, it seems more than a little odd that longtime Con Party  lawyer Arthur Hamilton is part of the case as well as the Cons' lawyer on the case.

Monday, December 10, 2012

RoboCon lawyers : It's all about Steve and money

... argued Con lawyer Arthur Hamilton today as he attempted to have the robo/live fraud calls case thrown out of Federal Court before it even begins.
Eight voters in 6 ridings, backed by the Council of Canadians, are asking the judge to overturn the election results in their ridings.

Shorter Arthur :
1) Council of Canadians doesn't like Steve.
2) The applicants' lawyer Steve Shrybman doesn't like Steve.
Therefore ... um ... I'm losing the legal argument here ...

Oh here we go : Pogge : You're only allowed to challenge an election result if you voted for the winner. 

Back in September, Arthur wanted the 8 voters to put up a $250,000 security deposit in order to get into court at all. Apparently in his view, defending democracy is a frivolous pursuit best left to people with a quarter of a million dollars to spare. 
Or as Judge Mosley asked him when he brought it up again today : "So we leave it to the wealthy?"
                                *cough* Court Challenges Program *cough*

Besides, continued shorter Arthur, the Council of Canadians stands to gain financially from backing this case, and from getting a brand new database of donors : "They're going to come out ahead." 
Thanks for the reminder, Arthur. Donate here.

Hamilton also unhappy that witness pollster Frank Graves of EKOS, whose statistical study on voter suppression is part of the applicants' case, donated $236 to Iggy or Rae or maybe the Libs but Graves' donation docs aren't clear which and neither is Graves.
Oh - brilliant witness credibility smackdown there, Arthur : Graves also donated to a Con candidate. 
Anyway, Arthur, please read Pogge again above.

So the election fraud case is all about Steve and money, according to Arthur so far.

I'm snagging all this live off twitter. 
To follow along at home :
CBC Laura Payton and Ottawa Citizen Liveblog

And a reminder of the 6 ridings represented in court here :

Nipissing-Timiskaming, Ont. won by Con Jay Aspin by 18 votes
Yukon, won  by Con Ryan Leef by 132 votes
Elmwood-Transcona, Man., won by Con Lawrence Toet by 300 votes  
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Sask., won by Con Kelly Block by 538 votes
Winnipeg South Centre, Man., won  by Con Joyce Bateman by 722 votes  
Vancouver Island North, B.C., won  by Con John Duncan by 1827 votes

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

RoboConduct Unbecoming : To Canada from North Dakota

3 days before polls opened in the last federal election, Elections Canada officials were using the word "scam" to describe election irregularities, making this statement from the EC commish throwing in the towel two weeks after the election even before any investigation is  begun all the more astonishing :

 Commissioner of Canada Elections May 16, 2011
"There was no conduct reported that would bring into question the integrity of the election result overall or the result in a particular riding. Although misconduct was reported in several ridings, there is no complaint that it affected the overall result. There is some speculation in the media that the dirty tricks may have affected the result in some close contests.
The investigation of complaints regarding web based conduct - particularly third party conduct - is difficult, time consuming and may be inconclusive. The same applies to telephone communications that flow through intermediaries and foreign call centres. Consequently, the dirty tricks complaints which definitely occurred may not be resolvable, if the conduct is illegal under the Act."
Foreign call centres.

Back in March, Dean Del Mastro gaffed when he mistakenly accused Liberal MP Joe Volpe's campaign of using a foreign call centre from "North Dakota’s 701 area code". 
Amusingly it turned out to be Del Mastro and 13 other Cons who used Ohio-based Republican call centre Front Porch Strategies to help win their 14 ridings.

So given that the Cons are prone to blaming others for what they themselves get up to, let's have a look at just where North Dakota showed up in our last election.

There's the now famous "Idiot, he can hear us" call from North Dakota directing a Winnipeg Centre voter to the wrong polling station. The voter recalled overhearing "people discussing voters in Ontario, particularly Guelph and Thunder Bay."

Liberal MP Joe Volpe asked Elections Canada to formally investigate reports that residents in his Eglinton-Lawrence riding were being harassed by repeated calls from someone with a North Dakota phone number claiming to represent his campaign. 

Kingston Ontario residents reported being woken up at 2am by callers claiming to be from the Liberal Party, ditto calls on Easter Sunday, and being sent to the wrong polling station. Some of these calls were traced to a North Dakota calling centre.

Joyce Murray, MP for Vancouver Quadra said “several” supporters in her riding got late-night calls from people purporting to be Liberals who were “harassing and rude.” The calls came from a number in North Dakota.

London West candidate Doug Ferguson reported calls from Florida and the Dakotas " repeatedly asking them to take Liberal lawn signs. Also on election day, we had calls from people saying they'd received calls saying the polls had been moved."

The Barrie Liberal campaign office reported complaints about calls at 11:30 at night and 6:30am purporting to come from the Liberal Party. Call*69 showed the call came from South Dakota.
Lib MP Mr. Wilfert’s campaign office in Richmond Hill received an automated message two days before the election, showing a number from North Dakota. 
Voters in Ottawa-Orleans reported live calls and robocalls - rude, late at night,claiming to be from the Liberal Party - from North Dakota and Montana. 
Well you get the idea.
800 notes lists over a thousand complaints about North Dakota phone number 701-509-8703 - mostly to do with credit card scams and phishing. Two thirds down page one is this one dated Mar 27 2011 (h/t commenter Lexy at Sixth Estate) : 

followed up on April 14 by a concerned Andrew Gill campaign person asking for more info.

Liberal candidate Andrew Gill ran against Con MP Rick Dykstra in St Catherines in the last election.
“We had a ton of people call in during the campaign saying they got harassing phone calls all hours of the day and night,” Andrew Gill said, “over-the-top aggressive” calls“The way we took it is they were trying to make our campaign look bad.”

Mr. Dykstra, now Parliamentary Secretary to Jason Kenney, has been mentioned on Creekside before in connection with rw US Republican robocallers Front Porch Strategies doing doorknocking for him in his riding, as well as his campaign manager joining FPS as the Canada-US liaison. 

Which is I think where we came in.

Poodling up on the world stage

I rather take exception to Glenn Greenwald's characterization of Canada in yesterday's Guardian as the US's "new rightwing poodle to the north".

Sure, we joined the U.S., Israel, and 7 other nations  to oppose upgrading the UN observer status of the Palestinian Authority from "entity" to "non-member state".

And yes, we stood on an even smaller world stage this week with the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau in voting against UN inspection of Israel's nuclear program - 174 to 6. 

But hey, when Israel announced it would "punish" the Palestinians for the UN vote by approving 3,000 more settlements, Canada made a point of declining to join the US in making a frowny face about it. 

So there. 

h/t West End Bob

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