Mitt Romney's campaign is calling on the Iowa attorney general to investigate phone calls being made to Iowa residents that promote rival Mike Huckabee and attack his opponents, one day after Huckabee disavowed the calls.
Romney's campaign wrote a letter to Attorney General Tom Miller Tuesday saying the calls may be illegal because they do not immediately identify the caller and do not provide contact information. The letter says the group making the calls, Common Sense Issues, appears to violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 by cloaking its identity.
But the campaign is also putting the onus on Huckabee to end the calls.
"Governor Huckabee cannot just stand by and feign outrage as these coordinated attacks are made in his name and for his benefit," Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades said in a statement. "The money men and organizers behind this effort headed a major Huckabee fundraiser less than one month ago and the executive director is a former associate of Huckabee’s campaign manager. Relying on the resources of an out-of-state soft money organization to run your ground game is awful politics and voters are right to be annoyed by this kind of conduct."
Huckabee called on the operation to shut down Monday.
"I just want everyone to know we have nothing to do with it and I wish whoever this is would stop because I don’t want this kind of campaigning on my behalf. It is not helpful to me, it violates the spirit of the kind of campaign I want to run," Huckabee told a caller during a guest spot on the Jan Mickelson radio show, based out of Des Moines, Iowa.
He said he had gotten several reports from voters saying they are annoyed with the calls, known as a push poll, which appear to start out as an independent polling survey, but then turn toward criticism of one candidate over another.
"Maybe someone thinks they are trying to help me or maybe they are trying to hurt me by making it look like they are trying to help me. I don’t know because I don’t know who is doing it but it is not helpful, it is not approved, I repudiate it and I would ask it to stop because I don’t want to become president because I disabled the other candidates. I want to become president because people agree with ideas we have got," Huckabee said.
The push polling is being conducted by an independent group run by a former top aide at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Politico was first to report on Monday.
The group, which runs the "TrustHuckabee" Web site, is led by Patrick Davis, a Colorado-based political consultant who served as political director of the NRSC in 2004. Davis confirmed to Politico that the group launched the automated phone calls on Sunday and plans to continue doing so despite Huckabee's protests.
Davis said his group is "completely independent" of Huckabee's Arkansas-based campaign.