A few days before Election Day, voters in East Hampton received calls and heard the voice of one of the candidates for East Hampton Town Supervisor, David Gruber, on the other end. It seems the Fusion Party paid to have the Alexandria, Virginia marketing firm Groundswell Communications robocall voters in East Hampton so that when people picked up the phone, Mr. Gruber’s voice would deliver a pre-recorded message urging the listener to vote for him and his fellow Fusion Party candidates.
This is not an uncommon thing to do, but in this case, things went horribly wrong. The marketing firm wanted to use a local East End phone number. Thus, it would seem the call was coming from a neighbor.
Larry Cantwell, a popular former Town Supervisor, was soon inundated with messages on his cellphone asking him why he was calling.
Cantwell was puzzled at first, but as the messages piled up, he looked into it and soon found that the Virginia firm that had caused this had chosen what one assumes they had expected would be a random East End phone number, but which turned out to be Cantwell’s number. Cantwell’s name was popping up, saying these calls were from him.
As this rogue robocall happened a few days before Election Day, The East Hampton Star reported that Cantwell went public with the error and also texted Gruber that he did not appreciate that Gruber’s campaign had hacked his phone—although to be honest, that is not what happened.
Gruber told the Star that he asked the Virginia firm to explain this. How did they somehow screw this up? I would think the chance of this happening were about 1 in 50,000. They are still looking into this.
Gruber apologized publicly, and also noted that there was no way this happening was in any way to his advantage. And it wasn’t. He lost.