By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Local phones began to ring on the eve of the Republican primary with a message from “Homeschoolers for Huelskamp.”
The problem is, according to prairiepolitics.wordpress.com, there is no such organization registered with the Federal Elections Commission or the IRS, and their message didn’t do Huelskamp any favors. A similar call was made to those in the Hays area about candidate Sue Boldra, but instead of using home schooling, the caller said that Boldra was a “pro-choice woman when she is actually pro-life. The call “for” Huelskamp said he was in favor of home schooling and called public school teachers “incompetent.”
This, of course, is highly illegal, according to Chapman Rackaway, associate professor of political science at Fort Hays State University
“I study this stuff for a living.,” Rackaway said. “The situation is pretty simple — the FEC meant to insure accountability in a campaign. If you attack someone, you can be attacked back. If you lie, you can suffer the consequences. Any group that produces any political content has to have a committee formed at the FEC with the name, treasurer, how they get their money and where they spend it. Any content has to have a designation, ‘paid for by so and so.’ It’s a good thing to have. It insures accountability.”
But tracking down the person who funded the calls can be difficult, and may require a subpoena. Meanwhile, the damage has been done, and it can not be reversed once the votes have been cast.
“It depends on how far someone wants to push it,” Rackaway said. “The FEC can fine a campaign or group behind it, but you can’t remove someone from the ballot, and there’s no jail time involved. The FEC does not have criminal sanctions. What you would hope is that if it happened earlier on, it would be exposed and the embarrassment would cause a backlash against the sponsoring campaign. That’s why they wait until last minute so they can get away with it. There is no incentive for the campaign who comes in a close second because it won’t change the outcome of the election.”
Huelskamp campaign manager David Ray believed that it was an opponent that placed the calls against Huelskamp, and he planned to file a complaint with the attorney general.
“Rather than running on their own records, our opponents are issuing desperate, 11th hour attacks that are not only outright falsehoods about Tim Huelskamp, but they are also illegal,” Ray said. “They are calling voters claiming to represent our campaign, but all they intend to do is spread lies about a good man and seek to ruin his good reputation.”
Rackaway also called the robocalls against Huelskamp and Boldra lies.
“I have no problem with comparative politics,” Rackaway said. “Attacks on candidates often give voters very useful information. But if you’re going to attack, you need to be held accountable. That means saying who really sponsors the group. Creating a fake group in robocalls to falsely attack another candidate is the sleaziest form of dirty pool, and they’re all too common. In a close race, even a few percent matters. It’s just sad that some campaigns can stoop to bald-faced lies to get those percent, hiding behind a smokescreen.”