Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The plausible deniability angle

That is what John Ivison is tackling in his latest column where he opines that the Conservatives' voter identification database system, CIMS, is a key to unravelling the robocall scandal. In the wake of Guy Giorno's very strong push back against the notion that the Conservative party's national campaign had anything to do with any of the misdirection, impersonation, harassing calls, etc., it's not surprising to see a watertight compartments theory of the Conservative campaign being considered.

It would go along the lines of this excerpt in the column, with a few comments on it below:
The strong suspicion among people familiar with the Conservative campaign is that the voter suppression effort may be the work of a rogue telemarketing company, employed by one or a number of riding associations to identify Conservatives and then get out the vote.

The most frequently mentioned company in connection with this regard is Toronto-based Responsive Marketing Group, which worked on the national campaign, particularly the 75 ridings on the Tories’ “target” list.

Yet, the consensus among those on the inside is that RMG will be cleared of any wrongdoing. For one thing, the company does not make robocalls. For another, it is understood to keep recordings of every call it makes, which should make the Election Commissioner’s life easier as he probes allegations that RMG’s call centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., misdirected voters to the wrong polling station.

But there are other companies that had the motive — they would profit from a reduced opposition turnout — and opportunity — they would have access to CIMS across the ridings on which they worked.
It's interesting that there is a "consensus among those on the inside" that RMG will be cleared of wrongdoing and that this is making its way out into the media. There are said to be about a half-dozen or so companies who were retained by the Conservatives in the election. Why is RMG alone getting the benefit of this Conservative spin?

That would be likely because of the longstanding relationship RMG has with the Conservative party in relation to the management of CIMS. See Flanagan quoted in recent reporting on RMG's instrumentality to the Conservatives' ongoing database effort since around 2003. The relationship between the Conservative party and RMG appears to be very important, arguably vital to the lifeblood of the party, money. That's why it's a little funny that Ivison just refers to them as a company "which worked on the national campaign."

Indeed, there is a lot of money being raised in the Conservative constellation in Canada. As Ivison notes above, there are "other" companies who "would profit from a reduced opposition turnout." Not sure what the exact gist there is. Contractually they would benefit? Or just in the sense that the more Conservatives were elected, i.e., to a majority, the more business there would be. Presumably this point would apply to RMG as well, in the sense of the opposition parties being suppressed and the conservative side's long term financial benefit, hypothetically speaking.

On the substance of the point that RMG is likely to be cleared, there is that investigation that's going on with respect to the live operators and what they may have said to voters. The operators sounded sincere in their stories of repeated instances of misdirection. So we'll see. The fact that they don't make robocalls suggests that maybe where they did identification work for candidates, possibly another company came in to do a post-identification robocall. In Guelph, for example, the Conservative campaign retained RMG but also has been linked to RackNine

That doesn't seem to be the pattern in Nipissing-Temiskaming, which was named in a Star report last night as being a new site of an Elections Canada investigation. There, only one company, Alberta Blue Strategies, was retained by the Conservative candidate.

Will leave off here with Ivison's conclusion:
But the Conservatives have form in this area. They remain the Nasty Party for too many Canadians. Even if it’s eventually proven the national campaign did not instigate a widespread robocalls effort, the Tories will be found guilty by association, if a company they employed has been subverting democracy.