Get ready for the phone calls, most of them recorded, about the 2008 presidential election.
Almost all will be from anonymous sources.
Some will be from innocuous names like “The Committee to Preserve American Values” or “Citizens for a Just Society.” The calls will tell you something about a candidate—mostly Barack Obama—that is distasteful, if not shocking, in hopes that you will vote differently than you might have intended.
Most of these calls will come from groups known as 527 committees, so named because of reference to them in the U.S. tax code.
They are unregulated, independent, and do not work officially for or against a particular candidate.
Historically, Republicans have made much more use of them than Democrats, an acknowledgment of their ability to raise large amounts of money from relatively few sources. They will certainly do that now.
Usually, 527s are used more by the losing party, and their messages can be ugly.
They are legal and they are protected by free speech provisions of the Constitutions.
And, I would argue, they are part of the totality of the election process. Some messages will be so absurd that you will chuckle; others will make you angry.
Regardless, it’s now that time in the election cycle when 527s will be omnipresent.
Get ready. Their messages will tell you a lot about the state of the presidential campaign.