January 03, 2008
Portland pollster Bob Moore, a fixture in Oregon Republican circles, is involved in a strange fight with New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte over a series of telephone calls that supposedly contained disparaging information about Mitt Romney's Mormon religion.
On Thursday, Ayotte identified two firms it said were involved in a "push poll" aimed at Romney. One was Western Wats, of Orem, Utah, that made the calls, and the other was Moore Information, which hired Western Wats, according to the AG's office.
Push polls are designed to sound like opinion surveys but are actually aimed at spreading negative information about a candidate. I couldn't reach Moore on the phone - and a woman at his office said he wouldn't talk to me about the case. But the firm did e-mail me this statement:
In 27 years of business, Moore Information has never, currently does not, nor will it ever engage in push polling. American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), provides definitional information on push polling. Moore Information adheres to the standards and ethics outlined by AAPOR for all survey research. Moore Information, Inc. is a public opinion research company, specializing in campaigns and public affairs, using standard sample sizes and methodologies. In accordance with standard industry practices, confidentiality agreements prohibit comment on specific surveys.
That statement, of course, leaves a lot of unanswered questions. In many cases, pollsters include negative information about a candidate just to test how voters will react. Maybe this is what Moore was up to. It would certainly be strange for Moore, a Mormon himself, to be involved in attacking Romney over his religion.
The mystery also deepens because Moore Information has been fighting a subpoena from Ayotte to produce records showing who hired Moore to conduct the polling. On Wednesday, according to a Multnomah Court official, Circuit Judge Jean Maurer blocked an attempt to produce the records until a hearing on Jan. 16, eight days after the New Hampshire primary.
The New Hampshire AG is involved because it is illegal to conduct push polls without telling the person being surveyed if the call is being made on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate. In addition to slamming Romney, the calls also supposedly praised Sen. John McCain. The senator denied he has had anything to do with the calls. The Huffington Post, which has been covering this story closely has speculated that the Romney campaign was behind the calls in the hopes they would generate sympathy for Romney and cause a backlash against McCain. The Romney campaign denies that is the case.
The Manchester Union-Leader also reported that Western Wats - which has several employees who contributed to Romney's campaign - has conducted polling for the Tarrance Group, which works with yet another candidate Rudy Giuliani. As I said, it's a strange story.
Oregon Democrats will no doubt use this story to point to the polling work that Moore does for Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. It's all caused quite the fuss in New Hampshire. We'll see what happens in Oregon.