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Election 2010: Democrats push ffor inquiry on illegal calls

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Further action is being sought against a man charged with making illegal political calls involving six S.C. House District races, including House District 108.

Former state Rep. Vida Miller, a Democrat who lost the District 108 seat to Republican Kevin Ryan two weeks ago, said she can’t give details yet, but confirmed she and other candidates targeted in the calls are going to pursue the matter.

Miller doesn’t believe the phone calls are what cost her the election, she said, “but they did have an impact.”

“This kind of activity needs to be stopped,” Miller said, and she will do whatever she can to help that happen.

The calls, known as robo-calls, went out from an Automatically Dialed Answering Device on Sept. 23 and did not properly disclose the identity of the originating party to the call recipients, a violation of state law.

Robert Charles Cahaly, 41, of Anderson County, has been charged with making the calls, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He is a campaign consultant who worked on Republican campaigns this year including that of Ken Ard, who was elected lieutenant governor this month.

Cahaly was arrested on the charges the day after Election Day when he turned himself in to agents with SLED. He was released after a bond hearing.

SLED determined that the calls were made through a Richland County landline phone number registered to Gadsden and Greene Strategies, which is owned by Cahaly.

Miller said SLED officials told her on Oct. 31 that Cahaly was being charged with making the calls, but the information wasn’t released until Nov. 2, just before the polls closed.

The calls made in Miller’s district falsely stated that Miller planned to campaign with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and asked listeners on the other end of the line to press a number to agree or disagree with that action by Miller.

Similar calls were made in the districts of five other white, female Democrats running for state House seats.

“I would question whether candidates who use these type of tactics in their campaigns can be trusted when they get into office,” Miller said.

Miller, a 14-year incumbent, was the main target of the Georgetown County Republican Party’s campaign activities this year, but neither the party, nor Ryan’s campaign, knew anything about the robo-calls, said Tom Swatzel, county GOP chairman.

“We were as surprised as anybody and certainly wouldn’t engage in that type of activity,” Swatzel said.

He referred to the calls as “a pretty clumsy effort.”

As for Cahaly, Swatzel said he knows the name from Cahaly’s work with Republican campaigns, but doesn’t know much else about him.

The party also had no information about, or involvement in, a mailer targeting Miller that was sent out by the Foundation for Governmental Excellence, Swatzel said. The mailer again linked Miller to Pelosi and claimed Miller and other Democrats “will not stop until our nation and state are socialists.”

Neither Democrats nor Republicans are familiar with the group, which records show was formed as a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., in May. Its registered agent is a registry firm.

Its address is a post office box.

Michael Thompson of the state House Democratic Caucus said he tried to track down the group, but “there’s no paper trail I can point to.”

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