Attorney General Michael Delaney said his office has reached a $15,000 settlement with a firm hired by the 2010 Guinta for Congress campaign. The firm, OnMessage Inc., accepted responsibility for the call script, but "denies liability and wrongdoing and is entering into this agreement to avoid further dispute," according to the settlement.
UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, a Republican from Manchester who represents New Hampshire's 1st District, will have a statement in response later today.
Here's Guinta's statement:
"I am pleased that the Attorney General has concluded this inquiry and reached an agreement with OnMessage. I do not condone the use of push polls. In fact, in 2010 my campaign specifically instructed OnMessage to comply with New Hampshire law regarding telephone polling. To say that I am disappointed in OnMessage for their lapse of judgment is putting it mildly. The campaign has not done any business with OnMessage since. Because this is a matter between OnMessage and the Attorney General's office, I refer all questions to them."
Attorney General Delaney's press release follows in full:
Attorney General Michael Delaney announced today his Office has reached a settlement agreement with OnMessage, Inc. (“OnMessage”) following complaints that the company was engaged in push polling in a manner that violated New Hampshire’s push polling law. Under the terms of the Consent Agreement, OnMessage will pay the State $15,000 to settle the dispute.
The State has alleged that OnMessage was hired by the 2010 Guinta for Congress campaign and wrote the push poll script used in the 400 calls that were made to New Hampshire residents in September 2010. OnMessage’s script failed to disclose the telephone number used to conduct the push poll, in violation of New Hampshire law. In addition, OnMessage’s script did not inform the recipient of the calls the name of the candidate on whose behalf the push polling was being made. Rather, the script contained instructions to disclose the candidate’s name only if a New Hampshire citizen affirmatively asked for that information at a certain point towards the end of the phone call. Under New Hampshire law, the person placing a push poll phone call must disclose the candidate’s name and the phone number being used to make the call at some point during a push poll call regardless of whether the recipient of the call ever asks for such information. As a result, the State alleged that OnMessage engaged in push polling in violation of New Hampshire law. OnMessage has cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Delaney said: “An essential element of our democracy is vigilant enforcement of New Hampshire’s election laws. My office will continue to vigorously investigate election related complaints, and initiate civil or criminal enforcement actions against those who violate New Hampshire’s election laws.”
A copy of the settlement agreement is attached.
Under New Hampshire law, push polling is defined as
(a) Calling voters on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office by telephone; and
(b) Asking questions related to opposing candidates for public office which state, imply, or convey information about the candidates character, status, or political stance or record; and
(c) Conducting such calling in a manner which is likely to be construed by the voter to be a survey or poll to gather statistical data for entities or organizations which are acting independent of any particular political party, candidate, or interest group.
RSA 664:2, XVII.
While push polling is legal in New Hampshire, any person who engages in push polling must include the following information at some point during the call:
(a) that the telephone call is being made on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to a particular candidate for public office;
(b) identify that candidate by name; and
(c) provide a telephone number from where the push polling is conducted.
RSA 664:16-a, I.