BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut – The owner of DataUSA Inc., a company that conducted political polls for the campaigns of President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and other candidates, pleaded guilty to fraud for making up survey and poll results.
Tracy Costin pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Costin, 46, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when she is sentenced Nov. 30.
As part of her plea agreement, Costin agreed to repay $82,732 to the unidentified clients for 11 jobs between June 2002 and May 2004. DataUSA is now known as Viewpoint USA.
According to a federal indictment, Costin told employees to alter poll data, and managers at the company told employees to "talk to cats and dogs" when instructing them to fabricate the surveys.
An FBI affidavit from 2004 quotes a supervisor of the company estimating that 50 percent of the data sent to Bush's campaign was falsified. FBI Special Agent Jeff Rovelli, who wrote the affidavit, said Thursday that investigators were not able to verify the claim related to Bush because that data was not located and analyzed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Chang said on several occasions when the company was running up against a deadline to complete a job, results were falsified. Sometimes, the respondent's gender or political affiliation were changed to meet a quota, other times all survey answers were fabricated.