A Nevada businessman blanketed Turlock with robocalls claiming Councilwoman Mary Jackson was wasting millions in taxpayer dollars last week, after the Fair Political Practice Commission subpoenaed his bank records in search of the source of anti-Jackson robocalls in 2008.
“I will not allow a government agency to bully me,” said Tony Dane, owner of AutomatedCalling.com, a robocalling service.
The subpoena seeks Dane’s bank records stretching back to 2008, in hopes of indicating the source of three 2008 robocalls which opposed Jackson during her City Council campaign: an impersonator who claimed to be Mary Jackson and supported same-sex marriage; an individual who stated Jackson was a special interest candidate, who claimed to represent an existing uninvolved group; and a fictitious group supporting campaign opponents Amy Bublak and Kurt Vander Weide.
In seeking the source of those calls, Dane said the FPPC has repeatedly skirted the law, cost him clients and attempted to obtain bank records through a California branch of his bank without his permission.
Dane said the FPPC told him, “All we want to know is who paid for the calls.”
“It’s none of their damn business,” Dane replied.
FPPC must show robocalls were illegal
In order for the FPPC to obtain Dane’s records, they must prove the law was broken when those 2008 robocalls were made.
Dane said it’s yet to be shown even one of the three 2008 calls broke the law, making the FPPC’s subpoena illegal.
While one message had a woman claiming to be Mary Jackson, it’s possible the speaker was a woman named Mary Jackson – just not Turlock’s Mary Jackson. The FPPC has to prove that the woman speaking was not named Mary Jackson in order for the message to be illegal, Dane said.
The second message claimed to be paid for by an organization which did not exist. But a court decision has found that such fictitious organizations are allowed under free speech laws.
A third message, which used the name of an existing organization without that organization’s permission, is a crime, Dane said. But, in that case, that organization was legally the injured party, Dane said, and that organization must file the complaint – not Jackson.
“Mary Jackson is crying like a little baby that she was injured. She won the election. She was not injured in any way or form. You’ve got to have a backbone in politics,” Dane said.
Dane said, even if a crime was committed, there was no way to determine if his computer placed the 2008 robocalls or not. As a business practice, to save space on his computers, Dane deletes all recordings, data files, and information which associate bank accounts with messages at the close of each election season.
Dane also said, as a middle man, he was not responsible for the content of messages. He said he doesn’t screen messages, and that the entire system is automated – hence the AutomatedDialing.com moniker.
Dane claimed to have no idea if the 2008 robocalls were placed using his system.
“Unless it was a big client or I wrote the message, I would never hear a message,” Dane said.
Investigation confirmed, but comments limited
FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter confirmed an ongoing, open investigation into the source of the 2008 robocalls. He said a legal subpoena had been served on Dane, and that Dane had filed a temporary restraining order in the State of Nevada in response. The order would be disputed in court, Porter said, before declining further comment.
Jackson responded to last week’s robocall only via a written statement.
"Like cockroaches, these individuals continue to work in the darkness and they will do anything to stay out of the light,” Jackson wrote in a statement. “They clearly must feel threatened by the legal process. From the beginning, I clearly stated, I will not be intimidated from completing and prosecuting anyone and everyone involved in the robocall investigation.”
Jackson said she expects the ongoing investigation to be completed soon, and declined further comment.
“If I was in the wrong, I’d be refusing to comment too,” Dane said. “If I was ashamed of that message I put out on Friday I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Howze relationship questioned
Dane believes he’s being targeted, in part, due to his preexisting relationship with Former Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze – a political foe of Jackson.
Howze contracted with AutomatedDialing.com in 2004, when he ran for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, and in 2006, when he ran for Turlock City Council.
As the service is automated, Howze said he did not speak with Dane. Howze also claimed he had nothing to do with the 2008 robocalls.
“I have no stake in whether his financial records become available to the FPPC or not,” Howze said. “Neither myself nor my campaign committee contracted any services through AutomatedDialiing.com in 2008.”
Howze said he has offered his campaign records to both Jackson and the FPPC, but neither requested a copy of those records. He said the FPPC has yet to contact him in any way.
Investigation bad for business
Dane said the FPPC had contacted one of his clients, HucPAC, a group supporting Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee, accusing Dane of committing a crime in Turlock and attempting to link Huckabee to the crime. HucPAC then discontinued its services with AutomatedDialing.com, losing Dane a $1 million account, he said.
“In politics it’s the kiss of death to be under investigation,” Dane said. “But we’re not willing to go quietly into the good night.”
As part of his fight, Dane offered a fully-funded campaign to anyone who wants to run against Jackson in 2012. He said the cost would be small compared to his lawyer fees and loss in business.
And Dane said he “absolutely” expected to place further robocalls about the investigation, so long as he is bullied by investigators, to continue drawing attention to this “unfair” investigation.
“Every time the FPPC does something or Mary Jackson makes one of her stupid comments, we’re going to challenge them every step of the way,” Dane said. “The people of Turlock are going to know what a bonehead they’ve elected.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.