A screengrab of WBFF anchors Jeff Barnd and Jennifer Gilbert
In May, I reported on Baltimore-area homes receiving mysterious robocalls voiced by WBFF anchorman Jeff Barnd asking residents a series of questions about Lyme disease, same-sex marriage and the alleged agenda of Gov. Martin O'Malley. Read that here.
At the time, WBFF acknowledged commissioning the calls, but WBFF General Manager Bill Fanshawe declined to name the company that executed the robocall campaign.
I have since been able to confirm that the name of the company is ccAdvertising, of Centreville, Va. And from its website, the firm appears to be heavily engaged in right-wing politics, including push polling in at least one state against same-sex ballot initiatives like the one Maryland is expected to have in the fall.
The firm's website lists among its clients Grover Norquist's American's for Tax Reform, the Alaska Republican Party and Answers in Genesis, whose website describes it by saying, "Answers in Genesis seeks to give glory and honor to God as Creator, and to affirm the truth of the biblical record of the real origin and history of the world and mankind."
So why is a such a partisan political outfit calling Maryland homes and asking about Martin O'Malley?
"My company doesn't have a policy of talking to the press," said Gabriel Joseph, who is listed as president in letters posted on the website of ccAdvertising. "My clients are confidential ... so I have no comment on anything you are saying."
But the firm does identify clients on its website and says it will provide the names of others if you call the phone number I called.
Here's one of the push polls ccAdvertising conducted in Oregon to identify those opposed to a bill that would have made same-sex marriage legal. It is linked on the firm's website. (Note the loaded language and the way the questions are structured to shape opinion as much as sample it.)
"Recently, the Oregon legislature passed a bill permitting same-sex marriage, which entitles homosexual couples to receive nearly all the rights, benefits and privileges previously reserved for married couples only. The passage of this bill is in clear violation of the Oregon constitution and circumvents the expressed will of Oregonians. Are you upset at how our legislature has ignored our will and the Constitution and undermined traditional marriage?
Many in Oregon agree with you and are cirulationg a petition to place this bill before voters to accept or reject it before it can take effect. Would you be willing to help with this important cause by making a contribution and signing the petition?"
In the wake of the General Assembly passing and O'Malley signing legislation to make same-sex marriage legal, Maryland is expected to have a referendum on the ballot that could reverse it in November.
Could that be what the May robocalls were really about?
Whatever the case, why in the world would any news operation be involved with such a highly politicized and partisan entity as ccAdvertising?
Raquel Guillory, communications director for O'Malley, did not have an immediate comment on ccAdvertising being the firm behind the calls. As previously reported, she received one of the robocalls in May and questioned the politics behind it given that WBFF is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a Hunt Valley Company with a history of supporting conservative candidates and causes.