AG takes stand on negative push polls
CONCORD — A New York Times report Thursday that the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office is “threatening legal action against some of the nation's most prominent polling firms” based on the state law governing push polling has prompted a strong response from Attorney General Michael Delaney.
The Times reported that the American Association of Political Consultants is warning its members to “be very careful” about making polling calls to New Hampshire because of “enforcement actions” being taken by the attorney general.
The story cited a settlement agreement announced in January in which OnMessage Inc., of Virginia agreed to pay $15,000 after being accused by the attorney general of failing to properly identify the candidate it was calling on behalf of when it conducted push polls for U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta's campaign in September 2010.
Neither Guinta nor his campaign was accused of any wrongdoing.
State law says that as long as proper disclosures are made, pollsters are allowed to conduct “push polls,” which are defined in state law as “calling voters on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to any candidate for public office” and presenting negative information about that candidate.
“Until we are successful in keeping this law from being wrongfully enforced against genuine survey research, be very careful when conducting legitimate survey research in New Hampshire,” the American Association of Political Consultants wrote to its members on Feb. 15, according to the Times.
Veteran pollster Whit Ayers told the Times the New Hampshire law is “poorly drafted legislation.”
Attorney General Delaney responded to the report in an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Delaney wrote: “Many New Hampshire citizens don't like receiving these telephone calls. These push polls are lawful, and the Attorney General's Office is not blocking these calls in any way. But, we are enforcing a straightforward New Hampshire law that requires a candidate conducting a negative push poll to disclose up front the candidate's name responsible for placing the telephone call.”
Delaney continued, “The law provides some transparency for our citizens so they know which candidate is making telephone calls containing negative statements about opposing candidates under the guise of conducting a survey. The Attorney General's Office receives many complaints about illegal push polls from citizens, elected officials and political campaigns. We are simply enforcing a common-sense law requiring disclosure and transparency for the benefit of our citizens.”
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