By now, many of you have heard about the anti-Brownlee robocall sent out yesterday. To recap, many of the delegates to the RPV convention received a pre-recorded phone call from a childlike voice lamenting “John L. Brownlee put grandpa in jail!” The brief call goes on to repeatedly urge the listener to visit the website www.johnlbrownlee.com. You can find the call itself over at Bearing Drift.
Now last minute attack ads are nothing new. I recall hearing several, right before last year’s convention, and certainly the recent contest between McCain and Obama had numerous. The real question with this robocall is, who paid for it? In accordance with state law, all political ads must include a disclaimer mentioning who sponsored the ad. However, this call did not have such a tagline. So then, who made it? Let’s throw open the door to wild speculation.
Across the Virginia blogging community, most everyone seems to have some opinion as to who sent out this call. First of all, who would have had a list of the delegates phone numbers? Supposedly only the RPV and each of the eight campaigns would have such access. So who did it? First of all, what about Senator Cuccinelli’s campaign? From the polls I’ve seen, it appears that John Brownlee is Cuccinelli’s strongest competition and therefore lessening the threat of Brownlee would be seen as a priority. On the other hand, polls also tend to show that Cuccinelli is leading, so would the campaign gamble on a rather poorly created phone message? What about the Brownlee campaign? Could they have created the message in order to disgust delegates about the anti-Brownlee material floating out there? Then again, a good bit of what is posted at johnlbrownlee.com has not had much press time, so I doubt they would want to draw attention to that material. What about the Foster campaign? They could make such a call in the hopes of pinning it on Cuccinelli so that both Brownlee and Cuccinelli destroy each other. However, I haven’t really seen much either positive or negative coming from the Foster folks, so why would they spend the effort on a call like this one? How about Brian Gentry, the creator of johnlbrownlee.com, which the call repeatedly references? Certainly this call has generated considerable traffic to his site and his message. But if he did so, why would he not claim ownership of the call? After all, he isn’t shy, clearly listing his name on his website. Perhaps it is some other unknown pro or anti Brownlee group in conjunction with a campaign?
In the end, unless some person or group comes forward, I doubt that we will ever know who sent out the call. The real question is, will this call have any impact on the voting this weekend? Only time will tell.