Friday, August 03, 2012

"By extra-legal means..."

Roger Ebert reviews a film called The Queen of Versailles, about a couple who built the largest private home in the United States. The founder of that feast was a man named David Siegel, who became a billionaire via a time-share company called Westgate Resorts. Here's the part that should interest political bloggers:
He [Siegel] boasts that his money got George W. Bush elected, and then adds with a twinkle in his eyes, "by extra-legal means." He confesses that he lost some enthusiasm for Bush after his invasion of Iraq.
Intriguing. Just how did this man contribute to an "extra-legal" election victory? Earlier today, Business Week looked into that matter:
“I’m not bragging, I’m just stating the fact: I personally got George W. Bush elected,” Siegel told me during two days of interviews. “I’m not proud of it. I feel like I’m responsible for all the problems in the world.” By that he meant, mostly, the then-deteriorating situation in Iraq.

Here’s Siegel’s account of how he swung the election in Bush’s favor: “Whenever I saw a negative article about [Al] Gore, I put it in with the paychecks of my 8,000 employees. I had my managers do a survey on every employee. If they liked Bush, we made them register to vote. But not if they liked Gore. The week before [the election] we made 80,000 phone calls through my call center—they were robo-calls. On Election Day, we made sure everyone who was voting for Bush got to the polls. I didn’t know he would win by 527 votes. Afterward, we did a survey among the employees to find out who voted who wouldn’t have otherwise. One thousand of them said so.”
Robo-calls are illegal -- usually. What surprises me is that they are effective. If you use irksome means to push me into action, I will tend to go in the opposite direction.

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