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More GOP Staffer Hijacks Press Conference with John Kerry and Patrick Murphy

by Pamela Leavey

Yesterday, I posted about the tele-conference with John Kerry and Patrick Murphy that was slated to be about Iraq. The tele-conference took a couple of weird turn of events when the Chief of Staff of Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Murphy’s opponent, joined the tele-conference and challenged Murphy to a series of debates, which Murphy stated he had already agreed to.

Mike Conallen didn’t seem to know when and how to give it up yesterday. Liberal blog Fact-esque thanked the “bloggy gods” for the tapes, and Fact-esque blogger transcribed them. Here’s the transcripts from Fact-esque, sans the analysis:

Tape #1:

Conallen: This is Mike Conallen with the Fitzpatrick campaign? I have a question for Patrick Murphy. Pat, the congressman has invited you to a series of specific policy discussions including the War in Iraq. Why, why, won’t you, uh, agree, uh, to meet and discuss your five …

Sen. Kerry: Is this a member of the press asking a question?

Conallen: different positions on the war in Iraq?

Murphy: Mike, this is, uh, typical, because just yesterday I hand delivered a letter saying that we already agreed to five debates and we’ve already said that we’re going to do two more joint appearances before an editorial board, and this is exactly what’s wrong with politics. Because you want to stretch the truth. And I will stand there and I have agreed to at least three now and possibly even more …

Conallen: Why not agree to them right now? Agree to them now. We’ll set them up and we’ll talk specifically about Iraq and we’ll talk about your five different positions on the war.

Murphy: Mike, again: hand delivered letter, certified, saying that we’ve agreed to these debates. I will agree to debate the congressman and we’ll …

Conallen: Will you agree to a specific debate, um, this month on your position, your five different positions on the war?

(laughter)

Murphy: Mike, I’ve already agreed to one. Yes I will and I look forward to doing it. I think it’s important to go back to what we just talked about earlier, uh, I just the other day, I got a [unintelligible] I got an email from one of my students, one of my cadets I taught at West Point, he’s now a captain over in Iraq and he said to me, he said, “Sir, you’re absolutely right.” He’s like, I’m over here and he offered, he said I can use his name but I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to jeopardize him, put him in the middle of a political debate here but he said to me, “You’re absolutely right. The Iraqis over here think we’re going to be here forever and until we turn over the battle stations and until we articulate a timeline saying when we’re going to do it, they think, they’re just going to stand on the sidelines and wait until we go home.”

So we need leaders who are going to stand up, who will say, “This is a timeline. This is how we’re going to win the War on Terror. This is how to refocus our mission on how to win this war on terror and that’s why I [unintelligible] an opportunity to do so.”

Sen. Kerry: Obviously Patrick doesn’t need any defense for himself but I find it kind of fascinating that members of the campaign staff get on a press conference call and ask questions. That’s sort of a new tactic.

Tape #2:

O’Neill: This particular site offers long form interviews to candidates so they can be widely known and get a chance to have an unedited interview. Um, so I really do try to take a view of candidates that allows them to be more transparent. Do you think it’s appropriate to try to hijack a conference call that was specifically for press, that was specifically for the endorsement of one person by another – do you think it’s appropriate to hijack that conference for your own partisan political use?

Conallen: Um, I think it was appropriate to try to get Patrick Murphy …

O’Neill: No. You didn’t answer the question, sir.

Conallen: I’m answering your question. I do think it’s appropriate to ask Patrick Murphy a question about whether …

O’Neill: Do you think, sir, that it was appropriate to hijack …

Conallen. Yes.

O’Neill: … a specifically scheduled conference, that was closed to anyone but the press and use that for your own partisan political purpose?

Conallen: Sir. Can I answer the question?

O’Neill: Of course you can, if you answer it in an actual answer, other than repeating your own political agenda.

Conallen: Well, I don’t know what that means.

O’Neill: That means yes or no, sir.

Conallen: The answer to my question was yes, I thought it was appropriate because, uh, Patrick Murphy, uh, has, failed to publically agree, uh, to discuss the issues most important to the Eighth Congressional District.

Woman 1: How about if you invite us all on, all on to your next press conference?

O’Neill: Well, let’s not worry about that. Let’s not worry about that.

Conallen: You’re more than welcome to participate in any press conference we have.

O’Neill: I understand that, sir. Thank you for that. What I perceive from this conference is that Mr. Murphy has already agreed to five cons, has said send him a hw letter, he’ll agree to more.

Conallen: We’ve done that.

O’Neill: You keep harping as if he will not. You have hinted, you have intimated that this veteran of the service, you have intimated many things in front of major press and in order to get your message out to major press, which you may not be able to do in any other way … And I think that, sir, as someone who’s been participating in the political process since 1966, up and down from the top to the bottom, I think that is, sir, not an appropriate tactic. And I’m mentioning that as someone who has been there and actually is involved in several campaigns now beyond my press operation.

Conallen: Well, I certainly appreciate your view and experience and, um you know, thanks for offering it.

Woman 2: Who do you work for?

Conallen: Uh, Fitzpatrick for Congress.

Woman 2: No, the man who was asking you the question.

O’Neill: I have a site called Political Interviews.com.

Woman 2: And what’s your name?

O’Neill: Stuart O’Neill.

Man: Mr. Conallen, how exactly did you get this number?

Conallen: Ummmm .. how did I get the number? Uh, we, we, were calling press trying to get press to come to uh, um, another event of ours and they told us that they were participating in this conference call.

Woman 2: So a reporter gave you this number?

Conallen: Yeah.

O’Neill: And invited you to the call? Or did you just take that …

Woman 2: From what? From where?

Conallen: I’m not going to say which particular reporter or outlet. We got it from several places actually. We were doing a press conference on some funding for Big Brothers/Big Sisters uh, today and we were trying to generate some press coverage of that conference and most of the local papers told us that they weren’t able to come because they were covering this conference call.

(long pause)

O’Neill: So are we finished?

Woman 1: What is your official role with the camp?

Conallen: Uh, I am an advisor. I don’t have an official title.

Woman 1: Didn’t you just say that you’re Chief of Staff?

Conallen: I do. I serve as his Chief of Staff.

Woman 1: Okay, so you just flip-flopped there because you said you didn’t have an official title but before you were the Chief of Staff.

Conallen: With the Campaign, I don’t have an official title. No, ma’am.

Woman 1: Oh, but you did say, because I wrote it down, that I am Fitz’s Chi o S.

Conallen: Yeah, that’s on the official side, the congressional office.

Woman 1: Okay, so you are in his congressional office as his cos but you don’t work for the PAC.

Conallen: The PAC?

O’Neill: Or his, his campaign committee

Woman 1: His campaign committee.

Conallen: I’m not paid by his campaign, no.

Woman 1: No, but you’re chief of staff in his congressional office.

Woman 2: So have you been doing this phone call on congressional time?

Conallen: Nope! This is my own personal time.

O’Neill: Oh, you took the day off.

Woman 2: So, you took the day off?

Conallen: Yep! I’m actually in my house right now.

Which means nothing. I work from home. I’m in my house twenty-three hours a day.

O’Neill: So you took the day off to have a campaign event for the candidate and made sure that you were at your house promoting that same thing – or the campa office – promoting that same event while you were still on the federal payroll – even though you took the day off – while you were still on the federal payroll and simply exempted yourself from pay this particular day by taking a personal day. Do I get that correctly?

Conallen: I don’t know what that means.

Woman 1: Oh, please.

Woman 2: I think he wants to know, did you take a personal day? A sick day? What did you take? A vacation day?

Conallen: This is a vacation day.

Woman 2: So you’re getting paid for your vacation day.

Conallen: Yeah, most people do.

Woman 1: Yeah, yeah, you’re getting paid for your vacation day and you’re on congressional staff and you’re not supposed to be campaigning.

Conallen: We’re allowed to campaign on our own personal time.

Woman: Not when you’re getting paid for a vacation day.

Conallen: (stammering about being able to do what he’s doing)

Stuart O’Neill: Well, let’s not, you know. I think probably there’s an issue there that could check with the ethics office with because I think there’s a possibility that collecting federal vacation day money and campaigning at the same time could be an issue but I’m no expert. Uh, but it’s interesting to me – I just can’t get over the fact that you would call into a private press call as a non-press person and use it to confront a candidate. It’s a tactic I have not seen on teleconferences previously.

That one so surprises me and now we’re on to a whole new teleconference uh, with the original participants gone, um, and the original organizers gone. This is a very surprising turn of events for me, sir. I just don’t get it. I don’t get why you would do that when it would be easy enough to call up your local papers and send out a press conference and send out a well-constructed uh, uh, news release or news advisory there and then hold your own press conference on the same issue and get lots of local coverage. Do you perceive that you’re gonna get lots of local coverage off this with one paper that spoke up?

Conallen: No, I, wuh, our goal here was to try to get the candidate Patrick Murphy to agree to a series of policy discussions so that we can inform the voters of both candidate’s positions on the issues.

O’Neill: Seems to me that you did.

Conallen: Yeah, I know, that, so, you know, that was a, that was a, that was a good turn of events.

O’Neill: Seems to me, according to him, he had done that previously.

Conallen: Well, as I said, what he mentioned was previously agreed to trad uh, um, camp debates

O’Neill: Which is where you bring up, sir, which is where you bring up specific campaign issues and you make sure the campaign format, which I’m sure both sides would agree to, which is lengthy enough so that people can talk. You only have two candidates in the race, you don’t have forty-five.

Conallen: Right. Well, we thought that these issues were important enough to have further discussion. So. Alright! …

Woman 2: Is Congressman Fitzpatrick aware of you calling in?

Conallen: Uhhh, I don’t know if he is or not. I never talked to him about it.

Woman 2: So you just, as his CoS, you just came up with this on your own?

Conallen: Yeah.

Woman 3: Did you request permission from the campaign manager?

Conallen: Uh, no.

Woman 2: Is anybody on the staffing of the campaign aware of you being on this call?

Conallen: Uh, no.

O’Neill: And yet you’ve got national press listening to you?

Conallen: Um.

Woman 2: But nobody at the campaign knows what you’re doing?

Conallen: Uh, I didn’t talk, I don’t think I talked to anybody on the campaign.

Man: Is there any way to know that you’re actually at your house and not calling from [unintelligible]

Conallen: (laughs) Well, I mean ..

O’Neill: I’m sorry, we couldn’t hear that.

Woman 2: Is there any way to know that you’re calling from your house instead [unintelligible] from your congressional office or a federally paid for resource?

Conallen: What do you want me to give you my address and send someone over here to see that I’m in my house?

Woman 2: No, I believe the question out there was is there any way to know that, to verify that, could you offer any means of verification?

O’Neill: Perhaps to one of the major media outlets who could share it with other people and you could do that in email or something.

Woman 4: Is anybody still on from Murphy’s office?

Conallen: How would I do that? I don’t think so.

Conallen: How would want me to do that?

O’Neill: Well, get a statement from your candidate.

Woman 2: Well, I think it’s up to you.

Conallen: A statement from me that I’m in my house?

O’Neill: No a statement from your candidate that this was an authorized activity and that you were, in fact, operating on non-federal time.

Anyone with a Typepad loggin can let the gal at Fact-esque that the transcript is appreciated. I already posted there and emailed her.

P.S. My apologies to eRobin at Fact-esque for the mix-up!

6 Responses to “More GOP Staffer Hijacks Press Conference with John Kerry and Patrick Murphy”

  1. I’m not sure why you want to do this in public but here we go: I didn’t get this story from you. I didn’t get the audio files from you. I didn’t know that you existed prior to reading a comment you left at my place. I got my copies of the audio files on my own and so do not need to credit anyone for anything on that score. I’m a woman. My blog is not written from a right wing perspective, although it remains amusing that you think so. It’s not so amusing that you’re spreading incorrect information.

    You’re welcome to the transcription. I’m very good at what I do.

  2. eRobin

    I was not aware that the Murphy campaign had released the tapes to any bloggers. Sorry for the mix-up – I am editing the post re the mixup on you being rightwing. I was in a hurry this morning to pick up my daughter at the airport.

  3. Thanks. I assure you that if I had found your post first, I would have linked to it. I’m scrupulous about that. But I make mistakes. I forgot to link to MyDD, where I first saw the tip, in my orignial post.

  4. eRobin

    Obviously we all mistakes – I am not immune to them myself.

  5. Where is the MSM on this story? If it had been a CoS of a Dem congressman it would be all over the airwaves.

  6. FedUp

    I’m not sure where the MSM is – sleeping obviously. I happen to know that atleast two reportes were on the 2nd half of the call where Conallen revealed all.