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Thumbs down: Politicians should exempt themselves on robocalls

Sep. 29, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

This week, Republicans in West Virginia are complaining about a series of Democratic "robocalls," which they say violate the rules of the Federal Communications Commission because they did not state who was responsible for the call.

But the real question is why these computer-generated political calls are allowed at all.

Since the "Do Not Call List" was first developed almost a decade ago, millions of Americans have made it clear they would prefer not to have their dinner interrupted by unsolicited telemarketing calls. That was when it was just real people making one call at a time.

In recent years, the industry has developed the technology to record a sales pitch and use computers to generate thousands of calls almost instantly. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission banned these "robocalls" to land lines unless a consumer gives written consent, but lawmakers provided an exemption for political organizations and charities.

Most charities lack the resources to really abuse that privilege, but political campaigns have shown no restraint.

As more consumers drift from land lines to cellphones, this may become less of an issue, because telemarketing to cellphones has always been illegal. But for the time being, political organizations should be required to follow the same rules as any commercial telemarketer and stop the unsolicited robocalls.

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