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RNC Robocalls Hit Ayers Issue

By Alyson Klein — October 17, 2008 1 min read
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Well ... this just isn’t going away, not even a little bit.

Sen. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have started using robocalls--prerecorded phone messages for voters--to continue to highlight Sen. Barack Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, the education professor who was once a member of the radical 1960s group the Weather Underground.

Media accounts--including Education Week’s--have found that the association between the two men was basically limited to work on Chicago’s portion of the Annenberg Challenge, a national school reform effort and the fact they live in the same Chicago neighborhood. Ayers once threw a fundraiser for Obama early in his political career.

But, listening to the robocalls, a voter who hadn’t been following the issues might come to the conclusion that they bombed buildings together or something. Here’s the text of the call:

Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500


The thing is, if the RNC and McCain campaign really wanted to get voters thinking about what the Democratic nominee’s work on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge might say about a potential Obama administration, there’s plenty of much more substantial ammunition.

For instance, the project has been criticized for not having much of an effect on student achievement. From Education Week’s story:

In the end, a 2003 study conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School Research concluded that the Annenberg project “did not achieve an overall effect on student outcomes.” “[W]hile the challenge contributed to the improvement of a number of Annenberg schools, there is little evidence of an overall Annenberg school improvement ‘effect.’ Any improvements were much like those occuring in demographically similar non-Annenberg schools,” the report said.

I guess a robocall saying that voters should be aware Obama helped lead a school reform project that doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect on student outcomes just isn’t as sexy.

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