Election robo-calls can't be stopped

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leroy Schenimann wants to know how he can stop the prerecorded political campaign calls from ringing his home phone.

The short answer: He can't.

Schenimann, 52, said he received two such calls Tuesday and a third Wednesday morning at his home near Fruitland.

"Most of these are political polls. One was asking if I was going to vote for the guy running for the Republican governorship," he said.

Another call, he said, "was someone running for state office. It started out with the sale of Anheuser-Busch. I don't get what that has to do with an election. I hung up on them, and they called right back. I hung up again, and they called back again. You can't even talk to these people -- most are prerecorded and you can't cut them off."

Schenimann said he called Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle after getting a similar spate of automated calls leading up to the 2004 election.

That's when he learned political candidates are among those who do not have to abide by the Missouri's No Call rules, which allow people to protect their phone numbers from telemarketing involving the sale of goods and services, according to Scott Holste, spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon's office.

2.5 million on list

So far, Holste said, 2.5 million phone numbers have been added to the state list.

Holste said Nixon tried to get legislation passed in 2007 and 2008 banning "robo-calls."

The proposed ban was spurred by more than 700 complaints to the attorney general's office after the 2006 election.

"Unfortunately, that did not pass. It came close in 2007 but didn't pass in 2007 or 2008," he said.

Holste said the likelihood that complaints about automated calls will increase "are very good."

He said people should know that offering phone numbers when joining organizations or filling out survey forms gives telemarketers a way around the law because it is considered an invitation to call.

Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark said her office has not received any complaints about the automated calls. She said when people do register their displeasure, her office refers them to the attorney general's office.

"I hate those calls," she said of the recorded messages. "But I don't get them anymore because I don't have a home phone anymore, just my cell phone."

Schenimann said he hasn't decided who will win his vote in November. But he is sure candidates using robo-calls won't get it.

To add a phone number to Missouri's No Call list or register a complaint, visit http://ago.mo.gov/nocalllaw/nocalllaw.ht... or dial 866-662-2551. For protection from national telemarketers or to register a complaint, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Web site, www.donotcall.gov.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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