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Kim consultant clarifies statements on robo-calls

Friday, May 9, 2008 by Austin Monitor

With Saturday’s City Council election looming, a spokesman for the Public Utility Commission has contradicted statements made by a Jennifer Kim campaign consultant about the status of robo calls from the campaign attacking opponent Randi Shade. And Kim’s consultant, Elliott McFadden, has “clarified” statements he made to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.


After the Kim campaign used what is known as an auto dialer to make calls from “your neighbor Lisa” to convince voters that Shade had promised to raise public safety spending, the unions for police, fire and EMS employees attacked the Kim campaign, saying the call was untruthful.


Spokesmen for the Austin Police Association, firefighters and EMS workers said they were considering filing a complaint about it with the Public Utility Commission.


Following a news conference on Wednesday, McFadden told reporters that the campaign had contacted the head attorney for the PUC on Monday regarding the robo-call. “We gave them the script, we told them what happened, and we said if there was an unintentional violation that we would pay a fine and take care of it. They told us there was no problem,” he said. McFadden identified that attorney as Gary Mann, who does work for the Legal Division of the PUC.


However, PUC spokesman Terry Hadley said Thursday that the commission had not pre-approved any robo calls from any campaign. “We don’t do that. We do not preapprove any announcement on the dialers,” Hadley said. He added, “In this case, we didn’t even hear what the message said.”


Hadley noted that members of the PUC staff had issued a permit to make automated calls on Monday, May 5. However, some calls were made last week, prior to issuance of the permit, including one to APA President George Vanderhule.  Hadley said, “You need a permit before you make the calls.” Hadley stressed that no complaint had been filed against the Kim campaign and that the PUC would not investigate a call unless there was a complaint.


Also Thursday, Elliott McFadden of Ignite Consulting, Kim’s consultant, issued a written statement “to clarify any misunderstanding about information I gave to the press about the auto-call we made last week (about Shade) . . . and our conversation with personnel at the Public Utility Commission.”


According to McFadden, “On Monday, Marcus Sanford, representing the Jennifer Kim Campaign and Ignite Consulting, proactively met with PUC staff regarding the issues surrounding the call. Ignite Consulting at that time said that if there was an inadvertent technical violation of the PUC rules on automated call messages with that auto call, Ignite wanted to do whatever was necessary to correct the situation.”


McFadden wrote, “We were told that it was PUC staff policy that there would be no penalty for one event/auto call that violated PUC policies, especially in a case like this where the entity that made the call was pro-actively trying to resolve the situation. PUC staff never reviewed or approved the contents of the recorded message. When we made the contact with the PUC last Monday, there was no complaint from anyone in the public.”


Public safety union representatives have said they intend to file a complaint with the PUC about the call.

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