Voters in Senate District 35 got a mysterious robocall Thursday that evoked a familiar voice.
The robocall falsely claims former President Barack Obama has endorsed candidate Daphne Campbell, a former Senator who was voted out from her District 38 seat in 2018. The robocall stitches together a recorded Obama message and a female voice repeatedly saying Campbell’s name.
“Hi, this is Barack Obama calling on behalf of my friend, [Senator Daphne Campbell],” the recording says, according to a copy obtained by the Miami Herald. “Today is Election Day and it’s critically important that you get to the polls, cast your ballot and make your voice heard.”
Campbell said Thursday night that she was not aware of the call.
“I don’t know anything about that. I am not aware of a phone call,” she said. “I don’t do those things at all.”
Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for the former president, said in a statement that the call is a fake. Obama has not recommended any candidates in Florida in his first round of 2020 endorsements.
“We strongly condemn any candidate who resorts to distortion to falsely suggest President Obama’s support,” she said.
The call goes on to say: “I’m supporting [Senator Daphne Campbell] because they’re the only candidate running to represent you and who will be a champion for middle-class families, and I know [Senator Daphne Campbell] will fight to defend the progress we’ve made over the last eight years.”
The end of the call includes a disclaimer that says the call is a paid political advertisement “not paid for or approved by any campaign committee or Daphne Campbell.”
The message appears to be in violation of Federal Trade Commission, Federal Election Commission and Federal Communications Commission rules on impersonation and requiring ads to disclose the name of the organization making the calls. The FEC also prohibits fundraising that misrepresents “the person as speaking, writing, or otherwise acting for or on behalf of any candidate.”
The FCC requires pre-recorded robocalls to identify the name of the committee behind the calls at the beginning of the message and a callback number must be provided either during or after the message.
The calls came just days ahead of an August 18 Democratic primary in which Campbell is running against state Reps. Shevrin Jones and Barbara Watson, former representative Cynthia Stafford, Miami Gardens city councilman Erhabor Ighodaro and former firefighter Wilbur Harbin to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon in the northern Miami-Dade and southern Broward county district.
Whoever wins the primary will receive what is all but a golden ticket to winning the general election come November, where they will face write-in opponent Darien Hill, an independent who has been essentially inactive in the race. Sometimes candidates who can’t afford to pay the qualifying fee file as a write-in candidate instead. The fee for a state Senate candidate is $1,781.82 for a Democrat or Republican and $1,187.88 for an independent.
Campbell told the Miami Herald Thursday that she is trying to keep her campaign “positive” and has “no time for gossip.”
Campbell’s eight years in the Legislature were marked by conservative-leaning votes on abortion, gay rights, school prayer and charter schools that left her on the outs with Democrats. During that time she became entangled in investigations and ethics complaints, including when she filed a bill to ban red light cameras shortly after her husband’s minivan racked up five red light tickets.
In 2018, Miami Herald reporting showed she claimed to reside at a string of addresses ever since her North Miami Beach home was excluded from House District 108, which she represented, in 2012. For three years, she was registered to vote at a property where her lease had expired, her former landlord told the Herald.
Her current campaign has not been without controversy. In July, she falsely claimed to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she’s never been a party to a civil lawsuit.