Telephone “Town Hall Meeting” With Tom Campbell

My answering machine picked up a very interesting variation on the robo-call last night, from Republican Tom Campbell – currently running for governor.

It was a “live telephone town hall meeting”. It began with a brief recorded introduction by Campbell and an invitation to “stay on the line and be transferred to the live call”. Then it switched to a conversation in progress between Campbell and “people like me”.

The live portion began with a voice talking about “…waste, fraud & abuse, like other government programs”.  Campbell responded, “Yes, less government, more freedom and individual liberty – that’s the slogan of my campaign for governor”. Then he said that there are 1300 health insurance companies in the U.S. and if they were all able to bid to cover low-income people “there’d be tons of competition.” He said that he’d like to promote the interstate sale of health insurance and repeal anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies to increase competition…”let’s give that a try… it’s called the free market!”

Then the caller spoke again and identified himself as a union construction worker, who “works union, because that’s where the money is”. He said that he was opposed to “card-check” (unpatriotic, we should stick with secret ballot) and Campbell agreed, noting that “they’d insist on a secret ballot to get out of  the union. The “card-check” is only to get into the union not to get out”… and “we know what that’s about.”

Then an operator spoke, and introduced a new caller (with first and last name) “You’re on the line with Tom!”  This was a woman who wanted to be able to buy health insurance only for “major” medical problems, and pay for my “routine checkups and tests” from her own savings, “maybe with the help of her own health savings account” – but she can’t get one in California.

Campbell said that actually she could get an HSA here. “They’re hard to get”, he said, but he knew people who had them. He apologized for not having some phone numbers for her to call. He said that the HSA’s are currently capped… then the recording ended.

My first suspicion was that this entire thing was scripted and recorded, but I think not. It’s a very clever and efficient way to get people engaged with a candidate.

I do believe that it was probably directed at Republican households. My wife is still a registered Republican because – well, she’s still an old-fashioned fiscal conservative – and she delights in giving the party a hard time about reproductive rights when they call her up for donations.

The calls were no doubt screened by the operator. Anyone suspected of being “unfriendly” could be pushed to the back of the queue without ever knowing it. I’d just sit there and listen until I got bored and hung up.

Does anyone know anything more about this “telephone town hall” system? I’d like to know how many people it has the potential of reaching. It’s certainly convenient for the candidate. S/He could do this from home, or from back east in Washington, or even a hotel room somewhere.