September 27, 2012Remember the huge push polling scandal that was on the front page of the News & Record for days in late July. It was such a hot topic that News & Record Editor Jeff Gauger wrote one of his rare columns about push polling and The Rhino Times coverage of the scandal.
The News & Record accused City Councilmember and District 27 state Senate candidate Trudy Wade of being responsible for the push polling with the headline "Wade denies role in calls." And under the front page above the fold headline – "Voters getting 'push poll' calls," the subhead says, "The calls purport to be a political survey but turn into a campaign pitch for Trudy Wade."
Wade evidently put a stop to the News & Record attack pieces by writing the North Carolina State Board of Elections and asking for an investigation. When the state investigation started, suddenly the articles stopped.
Marshall Tutor, the investigator for the State Board of Elections, said progress on the investigation was "slow." He said, "Of course, the problem seems to be that no one has been able to come up with a recording." He said, "We are trying to find someone that we could take their phone records and see if we can trace it to a number." He said so far no one has been willing to allow the state investigator to look at their phone records for the time period of the calls, and he added that it appeared all the calls in question were made in a 24-hour period.
Tutor said unless someone who had received a push poll call would agree to let them look at the phone records, he would have trouble moving forward.
However, there is talk of subpoenaing the telephone records of the two individuals who the state has been able to establish claim to have received push poll calls.
One of those two is Eric Townsend, a former News & Record reporter, who now works for Elon University and has some history with Wade.
Townsend made the story odd from the beginning because he was the first, and, for a time, the only person the News & Record identified as saying they had received a push poll call. The only other person that the state investigator has been able to establish claims to have received a push poll call is not someone who was written about in the News & Record, but someone who sent an email to Wade, and she turned that email over to Tutor.
Wade said she had been told by the State Board of Elections staff that of the names they had received from News & Record reporter Joe Killian, who wrote about the supposed push polling, they had only been able to verify that Townsend said he has received a push poll type call.
One call doesn't seem like a lot to write a series of front-page articles about, but maybe it was a slow news week.
If the state does not subpoena the phone records it would appear the great push poll scandal may be over. However, if the state does subpoena the records then it should not be difficult to determine whether there were actually any push poll calls or not.