ROBOCALL IRONY…. John McCain hated robocalls eight years ago when they were used to smear him and his family. John McCain hated robocalls nine months ago when his rivals for the Republican nomination used the tactic against him. And yet, McCain loves robocalls now.

The New York Times noted this is “just the latest instance of Mr. McCain embracing the very kind of negative or misleading campaign tactics he once denounced.” That’s true, but the closer one looks, the worse this appears.

It turns out, when Bush used robocalls to destroy McCain eight years ago, he relied on a firm called FLS, run by a Republican activist named Jeff Larson. And who is McCain paying now to smear Barack Obama with deceptive robocalls? Jeff Larson’s FLS.

In his efforts to attack Barack Obama, John McCain appears to have turned to the same political consulting firm that was responsible for spreading vicious smears about the Senator during the 2000 South Carolina GOP primary. […]

On Friday, a recipient of one of those calls, Chris Shoff of Minnesota, said that he had tied the origins of the campaign to the St. Paul-based firm FLS-Connect, run by prominent GOP figure Jeff Larson.

This past week, Shoff, a Freeborn, Minnesota Democratic County Commissioner, received the Hollywood call while at work. Because state law dictates that any such calls be made by an actual human, Shoff demanded that he be connected to the supervisor. That official, who worked at the robocall shop King TeleServices in Brooklyn, New York, said that they had been contracted out by FLS-Connect.

Officials with King TeleServices did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Asked about the connection to King TeleServices, a receptionist for FLS relayed a message from her supervisors that implicitly acknowledged that they have been working on behalf of the Arizona Republican: “If it is having to do with the McCain campaign or the RNC, you will have to direct your question to them.”

It speaks to just how far McCain has fallen. He’s not only hired the same smear artists who worked for Bush, he’s even hired the same firm that Bush used to smear him personally.

For what it’s worth, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, up for re-election this year, denounced McCain’s robocalls and urged him to stop using the tactic in her state.

I seriously doubt that a) McCain is going to care about Collins’ complaints; and b) other Republicans will have the courage to follow Collins’ lead and condemn McCain’s tactics.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.