Monday, November 20, 2006

Cappiello Drafting Ban to Robocalls

Robocalls, whether they are political or not, are a nuisance.
"I have done (automated calls) in the past because my opponent was doing it," said state Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury. "There were a lot of hotly contested races this year and people got called nonstop. Stopping these calls would level the playing field."

Cappiello is among several lawmakers who said they were drafting legislation to include the political robo-calls in the do-not-call list.

Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire include politicians in their do-not-call lists. However, most other states, as well as the federal do-not-call lists, make exemptions for politicians. (source: Danbury News Times)
The problem is that there is no easy way to stop the calls from happening. An outright ban would be appreciated, but there are legitimate issues about protected speech. The solution lies somewhere in between and somewhat further. Any direct mail or robo call should have a mechanism for opting out. And the simple way to accomplish that is to have the opt out notice as part of the voter registration file. State Senator Cappiello is right to bring up this issue, but why stop at the robocalls. Let people opt out of all unsolicited mail, political or not.


Danbury News Times, Officials ready to target robo-calls by Fred Lucas, 11/16/06

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you just add robo calls to the types of calls that are prohibited to people on the Do Not Call list I believe you get around the concerns that this is an undue limitation on free speech. The do not call lists certainly seem to work. I don't think you need to go further than that. It's easy to toss unwanted mail in the garbage. But it's a real pain to have to stop what you are doing, run to the phone only to find that it is Robo-Rudy Guiliano or some smarmy voiceover who presumes to tell you who to vote for. Meanwhile, your pasta is boiling over, someone let the dog in who is tracking mud all over the floor and the kids are gobbling down their Halloween candy while your back is turned. (Thought I would make it real for you bloggers w/o kids, pets, etc.)

Cappiello is absolutely right to ban these calls for the same reasons telemarketing calls were banned.

Shadow said...

Good point, seperate issue. Wouldn't a bill about robocalls be hampered down if it had such a broad scope as to include non-political mailers as well?

(This is more a tactical question than an idealogical difference, and I realize that with the big Democratic majority in both state houses, my concern about legislative expediency may be unwarranted in this case.)

Anonymous said...

Looks like Cappiello didn't like Williams being the only guy to propose stupid legislation. Are we going to also ban GOTV calls too? What about polling? I mean, if we're going to respect peoples privacy, let's do it right!

Top-n-Center said...

"CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

Article One, SEC. 5. No law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press."


A ban - NO!
Do-not-call provision - NO!
Requiring robo-callers to have easily identifiable caller-IDs - YES.

Anonymous said...

That bill is D.O.A.

Thankfully, Republicans are so outnumbered in the G.A. that it doesn't really matter what laws they want to propose or fight against.

Matt said...

Anon 915, polling firms cannot call cell phones or those on the do-not-call list. (Though the cell limitation may have just been lifted.) That's a major challenge to polling accuracy these days.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Robo-calls is they are cheap to make and irritating to the recipient. Put an onerous tax on 'em, say 50 cents per individual call and they will go away, or at least diminish in scope while they generate some revenue. Enforcement will be difficult.

Matt said...

Turfgirl's posting probably about tripled the chance that a Democrat in the Assembly will actually hear about it.

Anonymous said...

The problem with one-party rule is the NIH syndrome -- not invented here. Cappiello's idea/proposal deserves review, even if it comes from the out-of-favor party. I'd like to see elected officials and candidates adopt a voluntary ban on robo-calls, and then figure out a way to ban robo-calls from the outlaw 527 organizations, like MoveOn.org.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

>>Requiring robo-callers to have easily identifiable caller-IDs - YES.


Good idea.

No, that's a REALLY GOOD idea.

Anonymous said...

Cappiello is just another big government Republican. Add politicians to the do-not-call list and call it a day. Robo-call or personal call, I don't want them calling me unsolicited.

Gabe said...

Top-n-center -

If the legislation adds robocalls to the DNC list, I don't think it would run afoul of the CT Constitution (allowing the speech, but also allowing people to opt out). I agree that an outright ban would have constitutional issues.

Also, requiring robo-callers to have easily identifiable IDs is a no-brainer. On the other hand, does anyone think that robo-calling politicians will play by that rule? They certainly didn't play by the rule that they had to identify themselves up front...

Anonymous said...

Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire include politicians in their do-not-call lists. However, most other states, as well as the federal do-not-call lists, make exemptions for politicians.

Anonymous said...

One thing I know about politicians from either party - given a chance they would screw up a one car funeral:the Direct marketing Association has a voluntary program that's been around for over a decade on junk mail, phone calls and now e-mail.

Anonymous said...

You can get polling calls even if you are on the Do Not Call List. We are on DNC and have received political poll calls, robo calls and not-for-profit solicitations. No more sales calls though!

Anonymous said...

This issue needs to be addressed with a constitutional ammendment.

Matt said...

Huh, polling firms are supposed to obey the do-not-call guidelines, unless it's a call generated from a campaign. A campaign can do ID calls (which are you supporting), or commission a poll (the 15-minute interview type), but if it's a news organization or a non-campaign poll, they're supposed to check against the DNC database before making a call (to the best of my knowledge).

Anonymous said...

Once agin here are the FTC rules on DNC, which differ somewaht form the states but not much.

Anonymous said...

cappiello is not another big government republican

Anonymous said...

Not only is NIH endemic among CT politicians, but so is the urge to criticize and label. If Cappiello is a big government Republican, give me more of him! In fact, give me another 13 like him in the Senate, and a majority like him in the House, and let's see just how much our bloated state government shrinks.

Anonymous said...

Cappiello absolutely is a big govt. Republican. There is a simple solution to this to extend the do-not-call list to everybody. He wants to make it complicated. Complicated creates big government.

Anonymous said...

Annon 3:40 Fortunately, Cappiello has only 11 other guys wearing the same shirts so that should stop them from causing any trouble.

Anonymous said...

One man's trouble is another man's progress. The Dems are now in the position of having to defend robo-calls, or come up with a better solution. And when nothing happens, Cappiello will be able to say the Democrats are perpetuating the unpopulat status quo. There may be an advantage to being in the impotent minority come '08.

Anonymous said...

Annon 4:57 Funny, I see it as Cappiello and the Republicans were trying to throw the 1st amendment out the window and the Democrats stopped it. Should be able to use it against the Republicans in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Saving robo-calls as a first amendment right. I'd love to see the Democratic leadership embrace that anchor.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of what Cappiello is or isn't, I think the idea has merit.

Robocalls up the level of annoyance voters feel about being contacted, and make them less likely to take real calls for voter ID, for example.

Massive amounts of damage can be done quickly and cheaply, with no opportunity for refutation. I consider last minute robocalls that pretend to be for one candidate but are really from another -- spewing untrue or damaging insinuations on voting day -- to be a form of "vote-jacking". It has no place in civil discourse, and works against informed and careful decision making. If enough people vote based on robocalls, uninformed votes can determine the future direction of a country. Somehow I don't think that was the original idea in this country. You can't thoughtfully engage with a robocall or ask questions or refute assertions - you can only listen (or hang up).

If you look into the laws in other states, you will see what is forbidden in Indiana is a recorded message being played with no option to opt out. Here is how a robocall could be placed in Indiana: If an operator is on the call and asks permission to play the message and the person accepts, then it is played. This provides the opt-out, while not being an out and out ban. If you do what Indiana did, plus require at the beginning of the call require identification of the caller, organization, and candidate or party on behalf of whom the call is placed, I think it could work. Not everyone has phones that allow caller ID or subscribe to that service, so it's not enough just to require caller ID.

Finally, the context in which this whole discussion takes place is worth noting: a society in which large numbers of people do not vote, and large numbers do not have a clear idea of the issues and record of the candidates they're voting for or against. Further, people squeeze in voting to their busy lives - they don't feel like politics is a vital and positive force in their lives, it's a pain in the butt. What does that say about democracy? We can't even get people interested in talking to us about elections. Banning robocalls is a no brainer - the hard part is getting people positively engaged with the political process.

Anonymous said...

This is classic Capiello..."I only made robocalls because my opponent did." PLEASE. And how many times has he had an actual opponent. By voting like a Democrat (look at his votes on Appropriations with the unions), and generally being duplicitous on every major controversial issue he has avoided even having an opponent most of the time. Most of his own caucus members don't like or trust the guy. And Capiello, like most Danbury Republicans is really a Democrat---look at the Mayor for God's sake. The last time Danbury was represented by a Republican was Mark Neilson.

Now as to the substance of Capiello's attempt to generate press in the slow pre-session season when the media might care what the minority party has to say...

1. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make NO LAW respecting...the freedom of speech." The reason that most other states haven't "banned" robo calls is because it's unconstitutional to regulate speech based on its substance...and political speech (whether we find it annoying or not) deserves and receives the highest degree of protection. If you can't stop the Nazis from marching in a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Illinois, you can't ban political speech.

2. If people are annoyed by robocalls, they will stop responding to them. If they stop working as a means of persuading voters, politicians will stop using them. It's like all the nonsense about stopping negative ads. We may not like them...but they work. Candidates will stop going negative when it stops working. To those people who are annoyed...it's a democracy man, it's the price of a free marketplace of ideas...learn to live with it.

If this is the kind of stuff that Capiello and other 5th CD Republican pretenders will do to launch their 2008 campaign, Murphy will be a Congressman for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

name a democrat who has come up with an idea....at least cappiello is thinking!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous's two point attack on Capiello is misplaced. IMHO this is a no brainer type of legislation for a minority party candidate, and if it fails, you can still say you're in favor of a law banning robocalls, which most people despise. Let's see if Capiello can get his facts straight to write a bill that will pass court muster. Other states DO have such laws and there are ways to write them, it appears, that makes them able to survive court challenges. Please keep in mind that the calls are very cheap to make, and are most often used for despicable purposes. Here are some links:

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/001593.php

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/cats/economic_freedom_fund/

Repeated callbacks at odd hours, and initially sounding like the call is from your opponent, create a negative impression whether you listen or hang up immediately:
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/010818.php

So we have spoofed caller IDs, no upfront identification of the company placing the call and on behalf of whom i'ts being placed, and the calls primarily being used to discredit the opponent either by call timing, repeated callbacks at annoying hours, misleading the recipient as to who is paying for the calls, and questionable messages.

I don't require anyone to agree with me. I do think it's good if people are informed on what theh possibilities area.