Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The campaign chairman for presidential candidate Ron Paul this morning was investigating a link between anti-library recorded “robo” calls bombarding homes and cellphones in Carroll. The calls urge residents to vote against a new library today to send a message to the Carroll City Council for a decision last winter prohibiting firearms on public property.

Some of the calls originated from the Iowa office of GOP pPresidential candidate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who strongly supports the Second Amendment.

“This is nothing we have done,” said Drew Ivers, campaign chairman for Paul.

Ivers did say the Paul campaign had for a time been associated with the Iowa Gun Owners (IGO), a firearms-rights organization that other Second Amendment groups have sought to distance themselves from because of the IGO’s tactics.

“Frankly, they are too abrasive,” Ivers said. “That’s their style.”

The director of the Des Moines-based Iowa Gun Owners, Aaron Dorr, said his organization is not behind the calls, that the IGA doesn’t get involved in local bond issues. But he agrees with the content and mission of the calls in Carroll.

“I’m not saying we’re ashamed of the calls,” Dorr said this morning.

He said Carroll-area gun owners should be frustrated with any decision from local elected officials that strips Second Amendment rights, and he urged people to vote against the library today.

“I hope the folks in Carroll take action to send a message to the town hall on this,” Dorr said.

Dorr speculated that the calls were financed by some individual gun owners, perhaps even people living in Carroll.

Ivers said Paul has a strong track record on gun rights but that the campaign wants nothing to do with the IGO and Dorr.

“He wants to associate with Ron Paul, but he’s not a team player,” Ivers said.

Other gun-advocacy groups said the connection between Paul and the IGO is well-known.

“You will find that the Iowa Gun Owners has fairly significant ties to Ron Paul and their organizations,” said Jeff Burkett, president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is not involved in the Carroll calls and finds them distasteful and counter-productive to the gun-rights cause, Burkett said in an  interview Monday night.

“The Iowa Firearms Coalition most certainly was not responsible for the recent phone bombardment in Carroll,” Burkett said in a follow-up statement “We are a pro-Second Amendment organization, and we echo the NRA’s stance against the city council’s illegal ban on firearms, but we simply don’t see any value in trying to undermine efforts in Carroll to build a new library. It’s simply not a Second Amendment issue. There are other options for voicing concerns against the council’s previous anti-gun policy that we advocate which doesn’t involve politicizing the decision to build a library as a Second Amendment issue. I expect that most reasonable citizens in Carroll will consider the balance of the issues in reaching their decision on how to vote.”

Ivers confirmed that the number which showed up on caller IDs in Carroll in connection to the robo calls against the library was  in fact one for Paul campaign headquarters.

He said the connection was “not good” for the presidential campaign.

“We are very anti tactics that are not ethical,” Ivers said.

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said in a phone interview that her organization was not behind the calls.

“We don’t know anything about those calls,” Rachel Parsons said.

Regardless of who made the calls, the fact that they don’t identify the source is not a violation of Iowa campaign law, said Megan Tooker, executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Phone calls are not specifically listed as political communications that require attributions as newspaper and radio advertisements do, she said.

“The robo call did not have to indicate who paid for it,” Tooker said.

Tooker said the Legislature has eyed the issue as a potential loophole that needs closing.

“It is an interesting issue, and I know it is something that some legislators are concerned about,” Tooker said.

The calls took issue with the council’s February vote to ban weapons from city property.

“This turned peaceful  citizens using these city properties that they helped pay for into prime targets by the criminal class when they know the peaceful citizen is disarmed,” a man’s voice on the call says. “And now city hall wants you to pay more property taxes to expand these really victim zones.”

The caller asked people to vote against the library as signal of support for the Second Amendment.

“We will never approve their attacks on the Constitution and on our liberty,” the call goes on to say. “You can help send that message to city hall by joining us and voting no this Tuesday.”

About 12 hours after the Carroll City Council passed a resolution this winter prohibiting firearms on city property the politically muscular National Rifle Association said it would challenge the vote as an infringement on constitutional rights and an end run around a new state law. The council voted 5-1 with Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann dissenting to prohibit firearms and certain other weapons on city property.

Ironically, library director Kelly Fischbach said the Library Board of Trustees supports gun rights in the library.

“The library board of trustees would defend the Second Amendment just like they defend the First Amendment, if that decision had been left up to them and their policies,” Fischbach said.