GOP pollster Moore Information in court today on NH push-poll subpoena

Last night, KGW reported that Moore Information - the Portland-based Republican pollster - is headed to court today to defend itself against a grand jury subpoena from the New Hampshire Attorney General. (Previous BlueOregon coverage here.)

[The NH AG] will ask the judge to order Portland pollster Bob Moore, and his employee Kristina Britton, to travel to New Hampshire and answer questions from a grand jury.

The grand jury is investigating whether Moore and his company, Moore Information, illegally conducted a “push poll” on New Hampshire voters before the 2007 presidential primary.

The question: Who was their client? Who paid for the poll? Both the McCain and Romney campaigns have denied involvement.

KGW also obtained the controversial questions at issue here. Here's a few:

Here are some statements about John McCain. After hearing each, please tell me if you are more likely or less liely to vote for McCain for President. IF MORE/LESS LIKELY: Is that much more/less likely or somewhat more/less likely?

Q9: McCain is a decorated navy fighter pilot who spent six years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. While a prisoner of war, McCain was tortured on a regular basis. ...

Q20: Next, Mitt Romney is a member of the Mormon Church. Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible. Mormons claim the Book of Mormon was given to a prophet in the 1800's by the Angel Moroni. On any given day, the Mormon Church is working to baptize thousands of people who have already passed away so they can be converted to Mormonism and join in the Glory of God.

Based on this, would you agree or disagree with those who say the Mormon Church is a cult religion not in the American tradition? IF AGREE/DISAGREE: and would that be strongly or just somewhat agree/disagree? ...

Q31: According to a 2007 Boston Globe story, Romney has not served in the U.S. Military. Instead, while many people his age went to Vietnam, the Mormon Church got him a deferment so he could be a Mormon missionary in France. After returning from France he got a student deferment so he avoided military service all together.

Moore Information has acknowledged conducting the poll, but flatly denies that it's a push poll.

Moore Information has never, currently does not, nor will it ever engage in push polling. ...

In a November 2007 survey of 400 New Hampshire GOP presidential primary election voters, we explored a variety of issues about GOP presidential candidates. All of the information we tested in the survey was in the public domain, either in media articles, on internet blogs or in other campaign related communications. Our assignment in the survey was to determine how widespread the information was and what impact it could have on public opinion. Some of the questions apparently made some our respondents uncomfortable, but asking direct questions about controversial information is sometimes part of an opinion research company's job.


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    There's a certain plausibility to Moore's denial. But it begs the question of what exactly constitute's a "push poll" if the difference is, as Moore indirectly asserts, the motivation rather than the questions?

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    Which is to say that Moore's denial seems more like a gigantic loophole than anything else. Just claim that you were doing research and anything goes.

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    The real distinction between a "push poll" and a legitimate opinion poll is the size of the sample. If you are calling hundreds people, it's pretty clear your purpose is to gauge public opinion. If you are calling thousands of people, it's pretty clear your purpose is to affect public opinion.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Covering the Moore Information polling flap is interesting and all, but aren't any of the Blue Oregon editors/contributors embarrassed that this site hasn't linked ONCE to the Betsy Johnson stories in WW and the Oregonian? Come on, one of our own is being investigated by the FBI, possibly for using her political office to pressure the director of the Hatfield School at PSU, and we're just ignoring it?

    At every other water cooler I hang around, we talk about the good AND the bad.

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    I suspect that many of us remember well Carla's takedown at Loaded O of WW's and the O's attacks on Betsy Johnson last year.

    That the FBI is apparently involved is interesting... after a fashion. But, having gotten excited once only to find out that the allegations had holes bigger than New Orleans' levies after a hurricane, we're a bit skeptical this time around.

    After all, we know from the recently dismissed allegations against Kulongoski by Herr Lars that just because there's an official investigation, that doesn't mean there's substance to the story.

    Where's the beef???

  • Skeptical (unverified)

    Then shouldn't that same standard be applied to this Bob Moore story? We don't know that he did anything wrong, so maybe we should wait to post on Blue Oregon about it til we know something. Just like Betsy Johnson.

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    Apples to Oranges comparison, Skeptical. Both Willy Weak and The O have a track record with Betsy Johnson that leaves anything they have to say on the subject suspect. That's simply not the case with Moore.

    Beyond that, it certainly appears based on the earlier coverage that I mentioned that someone has a vendetta against Betsy Johnson. Which is why I referred to Herr Larson's charges against the Big K.

    Show that there's actually more to this story than what a reasonable person could infer from the history, which is a big fat 0, and maybe it'd be newsworthy.

    Apples to Oranges.

  • Miles (unverified)

    As I recall, Loaded Orygun's main point was that the people who were most likely talking about Johnson to the press also had long-running conflicts with her. That's good to know, but the fact that a whistleblower has an ax to grind doesn't necessarily undermine what the whistleblower has to say. I think the original story gained traction because a lot of people know that Betsy Johnson throws her influence around pretty freely in order to get what she wants, and those stories fit with that profile.

    That the FBI is apparently involved is interesting... after a fashion.

    The fact that the FBI is investigating makes it newsworthy. Period. Whether they turn up anything is another question, but the FBI doesn't usually get involved simply on the basis of a vendetta. There has to be at least enough to warrant an investigation. But to be honest, I'm not trying to hash out the details of something that we don't know the details about. I'm more interested in knowing why this wasn't an "in the news" item at the progressive watercooler. Do you really think B.O. wouldn't be posting about a Republican legislator being investigated by the FBI?

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    Breaking: They agreed to testify just before their hearing:

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    Trying to re-hijack the thread back to the topic:

    Moore's claim that this isn't a push poll seems disingenuous at best. Anyone can see that the statements are loaded in McCain's favor, especially after reading all of them. It's very hard to believe that affecting the voter's opinion wasn't the purpose.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    (BTW, backbeat12's response bringing the thread back on topic was made while I was composing mine.)

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    (BTW, backbeat12's response bringing the thread back on topic was made while I was composing mine.)

    LOL and thanks!

    (Kari has chided me on more than one occasion for being a bad girl....going off-topic)

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    Wonder if KGW will release the entire list of questions. I agree with you that they make McCain sound like, well, a god or something.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    It's like asking a republican, "Would you be more or less inclined to vote for my opponent if you knew he was a child molesting, granny raping, evolution believing, Pro-Choice, stem-cell research supporting, gun hating, Gay-loving, tax-increasing atheist rapper?" It's a me, 'good', other guy, 'bad,' kind of 'poll'.

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    From the questions asked, it sounds like the poll was designed to find out what arguments might be effective for McCain and against Romney. If the purpose was to convince voters to vote for McCain and against Romney, you'd call 40,000 voters, not 400.

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    We can't and don't cover everything. I can't speak for the other editors, but I've never managed to understand the ins and outs of the Betsy Johnson story. At least not well enough to cover it myself.

    Back on topic.

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    Hello? Hello?

    Why is it that not a single person addressed Jack Roberts' point? This was a sampled poll. About 400 calls. That, by definition, cannot be a push poll!

    There is nothing wrong with a candidate polling his own and his opponents strengths and weaknesses, posing the attributes in all sorts of ways to test messaging and wording. Every candidate does it and there is nothing unethical or sleazy about it.

    Bob Moore does not do push polls, and this was not a push poll.

    It is that simple.

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    Rob, Rob, Rob... and Jack, Jack, Jack...

    We can argue all day long about the technical definition of a push poll. But the whole point is that the New Hampshire Attorney General can't determine whether it's a push poll unless they get the information they're seeking from Moore Information.

    From the KGW story:

    Under New Hampshire law, a push poll exists if all three of the following criteria exist, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. 1. The call is on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office; 2. The recipient is asked questions relative to opposing candidates which state, imply or convey information about the candidate’s character, status, record, or political stance; and 3. The call is conducted in a manner likely to be construed by the voter to be a survey or poll to gather statistical data for entities that are independent of any political party, candidate, or interest group.”

    Now, that sounds like an overbroad definition of "push poll" to me. But that doesn't mean it's not the law in New Hampshire.

    Why shouldn't Moore Information comply with a subpoena lawfully issued by the Attorney General of New Hampshire?

    Attorney General Kelly Ayotte is, by the way, a Republican - so you don't get to claim partisan dirty tricks...

  • Miles (unverified)

    We can't and don't cover everything.

    Okay, but when's the last time any member of the Oregon legislature was investigated by the FBI for anything? Much less for potentially using the power of her office to threaten someone?

    This is political news by any reasonable definition.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I wonder what court challenges this NH law has withstood. Courts seem to favor the free speech right to scurrilous political behavior over the integrity of the political process almost without exception.

  • MegaloMan Tee (unverified)

    Kari writes, "We can't and don't cover everything. I can't speak for the other editors, but I've never managed to understand the ins and outs of the Betsy Johnson story.

    Gordon Smith could fart in a restroom at McDonalds and B/O would write about it. But a Democratic legislator is being investigated for corruption and it defies understanding.

    Give me a break! Paging Mr. Tooth Fairy.

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    Kari: What would be the point of "conveying" information about a candidate via a push poll that called 400 people?

    If this poll is a push poll, then so is ANY poll that a candidate committee commissions that tests messages about the opponents record.

    If I was Moore, I'd be fighting this too.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Perhaps this push polling failed to move voters in the desired direction, so the project was dropped after 400 calls. But Rob Kremer has a point: perhaps the poll tested scurrilous statements for other uses that are protected speech, like TV and radio ads.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Here's a thought....

    Both Romney and McCain deny commissioning this poll. and..

    Moore, and others who know more about polling than I do, don't think this is a push poll. and...

    If a republican candidate commissioned this poll, but not McCain, why would they say nice things about McCain, since no Republican candidate want to help their competitors in a primary. and...

    Clinton has been known to put out negative campaign literature against one opponent (Obama in Iowa), and imply in the way the literature was written that it was distributed by another of her opponents (Edwards) in order to keep her fingerprints off of it and to create a double hit piece. and...

    Clinton, thinking she may have the nomination after super Tuesday and be running against Romney, wants to get info ahead of time on how best to defeat him, or if against McCain, make McCain look bad to Romney supporters.


    It was Ms. Scarlett in the the Attic with the poll

  • steve HD26 (unverified)

    A legitimate poll would have a demographic strategy for selecting the 400 calls. A review of the pre-call plan and the final report would provide evidence of the purpose of the poll.

    And, it is somewhat implausible that Moore would risk his company on the earnings from a 400 call poll.

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    Jack Roberts' reasoning seems fine but so does Kari's point about New Hampshire law.

    I'm just as interested in the content if it's message-testing though, because part of the message-testing appears to be appeal to anti-Mormonism (= "cult"). Promoting that within your own party seems like it could really come back to bite the party if Romney should get the nomination.

    So none of the BO authors can decide what they think about Betsy Johnson. How about an "in the news" item? It probably would degenerate into "innocent until proven guilty" vs. stupid troll generalizations as far as Johnson herself is concerned, but are there other political aspects?

    Does this connect to Karin Immergut in any way, good, bad or neutral?

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    Posted by: MegaloMan Tee | Jan 16, 2008 11:50:03 PM Gordon Smith could fart in a restroom at McDonalds and B/O would write about it.

    So that's what Larry Craig was euphemistically doing in the restroom?

    Or is that just your personal stance on the issue?

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    My comments were not related to whether or not this particular poll violated New Hampshire's peculiar law. I was simply pointing out that, based on the information we have, this seems like a legitimate public opinion survey, not a "push poll" of the type I believe all of us abhor and which Bob Moore insists (and I believe) he has never conducted.

  • LT (unverified)

    Jack, you may be right. But given what happened in that state and the court case that resulted, I think NH has the right to be as zealous as it wishes in this sort of case.

    GOP Official Faces Sentence in Phone-Jamming Democratic Lines Were Blocked in 2002 as New Hampshire Elected U.S. Senator

    By Thomas B. Edsall Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, May 17, 2006; Page A10

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    What would be the point of "conveying" information about a candidate via a push poll that called 400 people?

    Rob, how do you know that it only went to 400 people?

    If that's a claim by Moore Information, it hasn't been attested to in court, now has it?

  • Norma Paarker (unverified)

    If ALL polling were banned we would have more honest elections and better government. How can we respect a candidate who has stooped to arrange push polling against his opponents through some arms' length transaction which he hopes to keep hidden?!

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    I was simply pointing out that, based on the information we have, this seems like a legitimate public opinion survey

    And it could well be. But apart from that, look at the hateful, horrible language the Right uses (the actual questions). Ugly way to run a railroad.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    since I know no more about this than the language contained, I will only point out that some 400 voters are more influential than other 400.

    What I know about the polling outfit is limited to "Republican" which only makes a statement about political affiliation - not a recommendation to me, but I do know honorable Republicans.

    The Betsy Johnson story covered by Carla was about a lot more that her attackers having an agenda. That's pretty dismissive of some good reporting, along with untrue. A Republican DOJ sends the FBI out to look at a Democratic legislator and ...

  • Chris (unverified)

    I don't why this is making such big news, I worked for a company in Eugene, Venture Data, that did thousands of push polls for the right. Many were farmed to us from "Moore research". I assume this is the same outfit.

    The irony was that most of the people that work there ranged from left of center to seething anarchist. I guess you have to pay the bills.

    <h2>I would have to say that in 2 years of working there I did not one legitimate poll, all were skewed at best and slanderous at their worst.</h2>
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