State lawmaker wants to end political robocalls
GREEN BAY Remember all those annoying robocalls during election season? So does one Green Bay lawmaker, who wants the calls permanently banned.
Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen said he received eight or nine robocalls per day during the last election, and many other people made similar complaints to him, according to a Green Bay Press-Gazette report (http://gbpg.net/TAj9Wp ).
"They're a real nuisance," Hansen said. "I don't think they work anymore. Robocalls are a waste of time."
Robocalls are recorded solicitations, generally political, that are placed through a computer that dials a bank of phone numbers. Political robocalls aren't restricted under state and national Do Not Call registries the way telemarketing calls are. So even if you request that your name be removed from a political call list, campaigns aren't required to comply.
It's not clear that a ban would even work, said Michael Kraft, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. There's also the question of getting the parties to agree to tougher restrictions.
"Both parties engage in robocalls," Kraft said. "Nobody likes to get unsolicited phone calls from people they don't know. But I'm not sure if you could eliminate robocalls, that it would benefit one party or the other."
Kraft also noted that attempts to stifle robocalls could invite the allegation of limiting free speech. Hansen said he wasn't concerned about that just yet, and that he'd be content to let a court address any challenge.
Some phone calls, such as telemarketer calls to numbers on Do Not Call lists, are already restricted. But political telemarketers and robocalls are exempt from state law, said Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the Wisconsin Trade and Consumer Protection department.
"Political calls, calls encouraging charitable donations or market surveys and political surveys are outside the scope of what the law says," Chalmers said. "People are generally surprised to find political robocalls are not covered by state law."
Arkansas and Wyoming have banned robocalls. Regulations vary in other states.
Kraft said campaigns like using robocalls because they're a cheap and efficient way to contact a large number of people. They may not motivate people to switch their vote, but they can at least motivate supporters to get out the vote, he said.
"If they didn't benefit anybody, they'd be (eliminated already)," he said. "Strategists must believe they do some good."
People who receive robocalls can try to ask political organizations to remove their names from lists, but the campaigns aren't obligated to comply, said Mitch Katz, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.
"We think if you as a consumer tell someone at a campaign you don't want to get calls, they should not call you and respect that," Katz said. "But it's not a violation of Do Not Call."