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Feb 15, 2007 --> Political Calls

One of the biggest complaints I have received over the past several days have been those calls related to poltical campaigns. If you live in the United States, are registered to vote and have done so on a relatively regular basis, you are on a list to receive these calls.

To be perfectly honest, I have been a bit torn on these types of calls. On one hand, I genuinely feel that there are First Amendment considerations (as opposed to some chucklehead attempting to sell you vinyl siding). On the other hand - as a voter who never misses an election - I get thoroughly slammed with the campaign calls. This is unpleasant. Like many of you, as it gets closer to Election Day and I see those "Unavailable Name/Unavailable Number" designations on Caller ID, I just groan and walk away.

Currently, such calls are specifically allowed under the TCPA and are not subject to the provisions of the Do Not Call Registry. So we all must sit there each October and November and be disturbed by some pre-recorded message blast.

There are two primary different types of political calls: those that are generally referred to as "robo calls" (wherein a pre-recorded message is played upon connection with a human or an answering machine) and those which generally come from local grass roots efforts (such as a county political party organization or an effort for or against a local bond measure) where an actual human calls. In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I wrote a custom web-based application which was used by several candidates in the 2006 elections. This application allowed the campaign volunteers to log in from home, be presented with a random voter (based upon voter targeting specifications) whom they would call, read a script and elicit basic feedback and continue to the next voter. I must say that I thought it was a pretty handy application and enabled the candidates to utilize a service that would generally have cost them thousands with the robo-callers. Additionally, it was a real human being making the call.

If I am so adamant about not receiving unwanted telemarketing calls, why shouldn't such extend to the political as well? It would be thoroughly disingenuous of me to shy away from the political calls. Well, how does one deal with the First Amendment issue. Enter Congressman John Doolittle.

In the last 109th Congress, he introduced HR 5325. The gist of the legislation is that it would allow us to specifically state (within the framework of the Do Not Call Registry) that we do not wish to receive political calls. Unfortunately it died an ignominous death in committee. For the political junkies out there, the Thomas link with all the sundry details is here. For those who just want to read the text of the legislation, you can do so here. It is surprisingly short and to the point and makes perfect sense. Is it any wonder it died in committee? Please examine Congressman Doolittle's first Dear Colleague letter of May 11, 2006 where he asks his fellow members to consider supporting the bill. (You should check it out if for no other reason than to laugh at the funny cartoon which has no practical meaning - you will understand what I mean when you see it.) A month after the most recent election, he sent out yet another Dear Colleague letter. Alas, to no avail.

Not to be deterred, Congressman Doolitle has revived the bill in the current 110th Congress. It is now HR 479. Once agin this bill has been sent to committee and (my opinion follows) unless public support is garnered for it, it too shall die an ignominous defeat. I urge everyone to contact the Energy and Commerce Committee and express your support for HR 479. You can reach the commitee via this link. For those so inclined, please email me at to express your support. I would appreciate you include your name and address as I intend to deliver this information to the Congressman. If you do not feel comfortable giving me that info, but just an email, cool.

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