Robocall from Shadowy Right-Wing Group Says Ohio Vote is Wednesday [UPDATED]

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As Ohio voters head to the polls to cast ballots on two much-anticipated referendums—Issue 2, a referendum to repeal Gov. John Kasich’s anti-union law, and Issue 3, a constitutional amendment to block the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate—a conservative outside spending group is blanketing the state with misleading robocalls that could potentially hurt turnout. 

The calls, funded by the Iowa-based American Future Fund, urge Ohioans to vote yes on Issues 2 and 3 on Wednesday—Election Day is Tuesday—to uphold Kasich’s law and pass the constitutional amendment. The message was received around 9:30 am Tuesday by an Ohio resident and employee of the Services Employees International Union, who recorded the message. The SEIU employee, Josh Schafer, said the caller ID listed the number the call originated from as “000-000-0000.”

Here’s the script of the call, followed by the audio itself:

Hi, I’m calling to remind you that tomorrow is Election Day. It is critically important that you go vote to protect the future of our country. Tomorrow, please go to the polls and vote yes on Issue 2 and vote yes on Issue 3. Paid for by American Future Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 866-559-5854.

American Future Fund Nov. 8 Ohio Robo-call (mp3)

A 501(c)(4) non-profit, the American Future Fund, which spent $25 million in the midterms, can raise unlimited funds and does not have to disclose its donors. As a so-called “social welfare” organization, the group can engage in pure political advocacy but cannot make it the majority of what it does. During his 2010 re-election campaign, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) revealed that AFF’s official listed address was in fact a mailbox at a UPS store in Des Moines, Iowa.

This isn’t the first time the American Future Fund has fudged the truth in its messaging. FactCheck.org found that four of AFF’s ads targeting the federal health care reform bill featured false or misleading information.

The American Future Fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We’ll update this post if and when we hear back.

[UPDATE]: A spokeswoman for the American Future Fund told Politico the erroneous phone call was the result of “gross incompetence by our phone vendor.” The spokeswoman, Mandy Fletcher Fraher, added, “If they don’t get a live caller, the person gets a recorded message and our phone vendor produced that message. Obviously, we support Issues 2 and 3. It was not intended to be misleading.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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