Democrats Cry Foul Over McSally Robocalls Allowed by New Senate Rules

Senator Martha McSally
Senator Martha McSally Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0
Democrats are up in arms over new robocalls from Senator Martha McSally, arguing that she is using her office improperly to boost her political prospects weeks before the November election.

But the robocalls are legal, per new Senate rules approved by former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Some Arizonans reported receiving McSally's robocall on the evening of October 13. It featured a recording of McSally giving an update on her work to "combat" COVID-19, including her recent vote to move ahead with the "skinny" coronavirus relief bill that Senate Republicans rolled out in response to Congressional Democrats' demands for another massive stimulus bill.

"Unfortunately, Washington's dysfunction stood in the way of its passage," she said in the call. "But I will keep fighting to break the gridlock and get more relief out to Arizonans."

McSally's floundering reelection campaign — she's been trailing Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in the polls for weeks — wasn't mentioned at all in the robocall. But that didn't stop some liberal recipients of the call from lambasting her on social for issuing unsolicited phone calls from her Senate office touting her accomplishments just weeks before election day.

"It seemed a little strange to be hearing from your office via #taxpayer funded #robocall just 20+ days before the election giving my the update on your efforts to help during #COVID," one user wrote.

Another person wrote, "I got a recorded call from #McSally to give me an update (coincidently early ballots are out and it’s 3 weeks from Election Day). Basically it’s a campaign call." He went on to show the number the call came from, which is the same as the number listed for her Phoenix office.

It appears that the calls continued the next morning, on October 14.

Amy Lawrence, a spokesperson for McSally, confirmed for New Times that the calls had been issued from the senator's Phoenix office.

Typically, McSally's robocalls would have flouted U.S. Senate rules, which prohibit members from using public resources to "transmit an unsolicited mass communication" during a moratorium period of 60 days before a primary or general election in which a member is a candidate unless its an uncontested race.

However, Amy Klobuchar and Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, both ranking members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, issued a waiver of the mass communication ban. They cited the pandemic as justification for the rule change: "As more and more Americans are being impacted by COVID-19, we understand the importance of communicating about the pandemic with those that you are elected to serve."

In a statement, Brad Bainum, a spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Party, didn't respond a question about the waiver allowing McSally to make robocalls this close to an election, opting to slam McSally's messaging on COVID-19 instead.
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Josh Kelety was a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety