Registered Republicans throughout West Virginia who received automated political phone calls criticizing some of their party's leaders recently may have spent a few moments wondering what was up.
The calls accused GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney and the national Republican Governors Association of being critical of initiatives that happen to have been supported by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, and many Republican state legislators.
Clearly, the calls were intended to drive wedges between Maloney and some West Virginia Republicans.
The "robocalls" were placed by the state Democratic Party - but at no point during the calls was that stated. Recipients were left to wonder who was behind the campaign, and perhaps to wonder whether they reflected a schism in the Republican Party.
They do not.
Maloney and many other GOP leaders are furious about the calls - not just the content but the fact they were blatant political activity with no identification of the source.
Direct political advertising by candidates is required by federal law to include information identifying what individual or organization paid for the material. Requirements for activities such as the calls made by West Virginia's Democratic Party are not as clear, however.
Still, party officials' failure to mention the origin of the calls obviously was a calculated decision, perhaps intended to make some recipients think the point was being made by Republicans.
During election campaigns, West Virginians are bombarded with negative advertising that often borders on the dishonest. The Democratic Party's recent robocalls, plainly meant to concern and confuse Republican voters, fall into that category.
As such they should disgust, rather than deceive, those who received them.