GOP Senators Who Denounced McCain Robocalls Are Employing Same Firm

11/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Two of the four Republican Senators who have condemned John McCain's robocall campaign attacking Barack Obama are currently employing the telemarketing firm behind them for their own reelection efforts.

Sen. Norm Coleman, who criticized the automated call-efforts to tie Obama to Bill Ayers, has paid nearly $1.7 million for consulting services (including nearly $200,000 in the third quarter of 2008) to the firm FLS Connect, the same firm used by McCain. That total doesn't include the nearly $300,000 that Coleman's Northstar Leadership PAC has paid FLS-Connect for additional services.

The ties between Coleman and FLS go beyond the political. Coleman rented an apartment on the cheap from firm head Jeff Larson (the same man who reportedly bought Gov. Sarah Palin's expensive clothes on behalf of the RNC). And the two worked together closely to help bring the Republican convention to Minneapolis.

Sen. Gordon Smith, too, has criticized McCain's robocalls despite employing the same exact firm. The Oregon Republican paid FLS-Connect nearly $100,000, according to FEC reports, for services described as "telemarketing." This past week, Smith for Senate press secretary Lindsay Gilbride told the Huffington Post:

"They [the Ayers calls] are not taking place in Oregon and Senator Smith does not condone these sort of calls. Negative robocalls are not appropriate and have no place in campaigns."

It is unclear what services FLS Connect is providing in each of these Senate races. In Minnesota robocalls are prohibited. However, the company could contract out the telemarketing effort -- as it has done for the McCain campaign -- to firms that employ live callers, or simply do live calls itself. In Oregon, there have been reports of robocall efforts against Smith challenger Jeff Merkley. But none have been tied directly to Larson's firm.

It should also be noted that FLS Connect is a powerhouse within Republican circles, having been employed by the 2000 Bush campaign to run some of its robocall efforts. As such, their ties to individual GOP Senate campaigns are not, in and of themselves, surprising. But as Coleman and Smith call, sanctimoniously, for McCain to end his robocalls it may rub some voters as hypocritical for them to be making payments to the same exact firm.