Internal emails between senior officials at The Gallup Organization, obtained by The Daily Caller, show senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod attempting to subtly intimidate the respected polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to the president.
After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, Obama’s Department of Justice hit it with an unrelated lawsuit that appears damning on its face.
TheDC is withholding the identities of the Gallup officials to protect them from potential retaliation from Obama’s campaign and his administration.
In April, Axelrod tweeted that a poll showing Mitt Romney with a 48-43 percent lead over Obama was “saddled with some methodological problems,” directing his Twitter followers to read a National Journal story criticizing Gallup polls showing a Romney lead.
In that National Journal piece, Ron Brownstein wrote that the polls showing Romney leading the president had “a sample that looks much more like the electorate in 2010 than the voting population that is likely to turn out in 2012.”
Internally, Gallup officials discussed via email how to respond Axelrod’s accusations. One suggested that it “seems like a pretty good time for a blog response,” and named a potential writer.
In response to that suggestion, another senior Gallup official wrote — in an email chain titled “Axelrod vs. Gallup” — that the White House “has asked” a senior Gallup staffer “to come over and explain our methodology too.”
That Gallup official, the email continued, “has a plan that includes blogging and telling WH [the White House] he would love to have them come over here etc. This could be a very good moment for us to [show] our super rigorous methods compared to weak samples etc.”
The writer named several news organizations with their own polling methodologies, all of which resulted in numbers more favorable to President Obama at the time.
In response to that email, a third senior Gallup official said he thought Axelrod’s pressure “sounds a little like a Godfather situation.”
“Imagine Axel[rod] with Brando’s voice: ‘[Name redacted], I’d like you to come over and explain your methodology… You got a nice poll there… would be a shame if anything happened to it…’”
In a second email chain titled “slanderous link about Gallup methodology,” another senior Gallup official noted that a Washington Examiner story on Axelrod’s anti-Gallup tweet was “on [the] Drudge [Report] right now,” before writing that the episode was “[s]o politically motivated, it’s laughable.”
“As they say in b-ball: he’s trying to work the refs,” that official wrote to other senior Gallup staffers. “What a joke. Axel’s had a bad week. He got in the middle of the Ann Romney thing. Then said the country is going in the wrong direction. (Oops!) Now he’s swinging at us.”
The emails directly contradict what Axelrod’s fellow Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs told the Washington Times’ Kerry Picket this week about the campaign’s dealings with Gallup. Picket reported that Gibbs said he was unaware of any communications between the Obama campaign and Gallup.
“I was the press secretary for two years. I know and it was really smart not to get involved in discussing things around the Justice Department that I have no knowledge about,” Gibbs said at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Tuesday. “I have no knowledge of any discussions of anybody on the campaign side with Gallup.”
Since Gallup first roused Axelrod’s ire, Obama’s Justice Department revived old allegations against the firm that, according to now former Gallup employee Michael Lindley, the polling company violated the False Claims Act by over-charging the federal government for its services.
In August, Justice signed on to a suit Lindley filed in 2009. Lindley alleged, according to The Associated Press, that Gallup filed false claims with the federal government on contracts it had with the State Department, the U.S. Mint and other federal agencies.
A senior Gallup official told TheDC Lindley left Gallup on July 24, 2009, after working there since Feb. 25, 2008.
Lindley made his allegations under seal after leaving his Gallup job. A senior Gallup official told TheDC that the Justice Department began investigating the allegations in October 2009 and served the company with subpoenas in February or March 2010. Gallup, the source said, provided the government with about three terabytes of data responsive to those subpoenas.
Gallup, the source continued, did not hear from the Justice Department again for approximately one-and-a-half years.
“We did not have a substantive discussion about what they had subpoenaed until Fall of 2011,” the Gallup official told TheDC. “And the meeting came at our request, a request that had been outstanding from the time we were served [with the subpoenas].”
Lindley was a field organizer in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for then-Sen. Obama’s 2008 run for president before joining Gallup, a fact omitted from the DOJ’s legal filings and from most press accounts.
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This story was published in The Daily Caller on Sept. 6, 2012