A Conspiracy Theory Involving the DOJ, Gallup, Iowa and…the U.S. Mint?
By David Stout | August 24, 2012 12:57 pm

Is the Department of Justice attacking The Gallup Organization because the polling group consistently finds Mitt Romney slightly leading or running neck-and-neck with President Barack Obama?

That’s the suggestion in a report on The Daily Caller, the conservative-leaning politics website that has been critical of Attorney General Eric Holder, and which now notes that the DOJ has indeed joined a whistleblower’s lawsuit against Gallup alleging that Gallup overbilled the United States government for polling services involving various government programs.

“The lawsuit was filed by Michael Lindley, a former Gallup employee, who alleges that Gallup violated the False Claims Act by making false claims for payment under contracts with the U.S. Mint, the State Department and other federal agencies to provide polling services for various government programs,” the DOJ announced, noting that it has intervened with respect to Gallup’s contracts with the Mint and Foggy Bottom.

We cannot recall the last time the Mint was an issue in a presidential campaign, but never mind. The key fact, according to The Daily Caller, is that Lindley worked in Iowa on Obama’s 2008 campaign. Thus, the timing of the suit may be peculiar, raising as it does the specter of “more accusations of political activity” by the huge bureaucracy headed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

At least, that’s the interpretation of The Daily Caller. Moreover, the DC observed on Thursday, “Gallup currently has Obama’s GOP challenger Mitt Romney with a slight edge in its daily tracking figures…leading the incumbent president 47-45.” (Italics added.)

Gallup is one of the few polling groups to frequently find Romney with a slight lead. Even the Fox News polls have shown Obama with an edge throughout the year, according to Real Clear Politics’ compilation of polling results.

For the record, on Friday Gallup reported that the candidates’ respective strengths seem to have canceled each other out, and that Romney and Obama are “exactly tied.” This doesn’t mean the DC was wrong on Thursday, but it does show how things can change day to day in a close contest.

Anyhow, the DC said that DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler hasn’t responded to requests for comment on Lindley’s work in the 2008 campaign. William Kruse, associate counsel with Gallup, said the polling firm finds the lawsuit “shocking,” according to a report on Politico, and can’t wait to get the DOJ to explain itself in court.

The lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia, whose United States Attorney, Ronald C. Machen Jr., warned: “Contractors who do business with the federal government must honor their obligations to provide honest services and products.” Working with whistleblowers and federal investigators, “we will do all that we can to act against those who illegitimately bill the American taxpayers,” Machen vowed.

Ah, but the DC’s report on the Gallup findings, along with several items on DC, inspire one to look back rather than forward. A couple days ago, the DC had an entertaining essay on the stupidest things candidates have said or done to derail themselves in campaigns past. One was Edmund S. Muskie’s blubbering in the New Hampshire snow over personal attacks on his wife, a display that helped to sink him in the race for the 1972 Democratic nomination. (The essay called him “Edwin” Muskie, but we all make mistakes.)

And who can forget George S. McGovern’s “Profiles in Courage” moment, when he threw his first running mate, Thomas Eagleton, out of the campaign bus (or under it) after first declaring he was “one thousand percent” behind him after it was revealed that Eagleton had undergone shock treatments?

Speaking of running mates, the DC notes that Obama declares himself, um, a hundred percent supportive of Vice President Joseph R. Biden, despite the latter’s penchant for saying what he thinks, or feels, at the moment. Accompanying the report is a photograph showing Biden looking a bit befuddled and the President looking as though he’d rather be doing something else, anything else, than defending his vice president. (Changing his shoelaces, maybe?)

As for mistakes, those of a certain age can recall how Richard M. Nixon’s handlers let him appear on black-and-white television in a gray suit for one of his 1960 debates with John F. Kennedy. Kennedy looked vigorous in a dark suit, while poor Nixon looked like Ed Sullivan on tranquilizers.

And regarding polls, things have changed tremendously since 1936, when a magazine poll predicted that Alf Landon would defeat President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and since 1948, when polls seemed to show Thomas E. Dewey beating President Harry Truman.  Nowadays, pollsters are far more scientific, their questions far more subtle, their surveys much more day-to-day. The 2012 election is more than two months off. That’s plenty of time for candidates to bumble and stumble.

Finally, a word to those who think “the press” is biased against one party or the other. The New York Times noted that Friday is the birthday of former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia and current Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both Democrats, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, both Republicans. How’s that for objectivity?

Anyone care to predict a surprise issue before November? The U.S. Mint, perhaps?

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