Didn't think the Attorney General could get involved in wacky behavior regarding elections, that it was the domain of the Elections Division and the Legislature? Think again. Apparently everybody wants a piece of this action.
A pronouncement has been made regarding automated phone calls from political parties and candidates: they're illegal. From the Indy Star report:
Attorney General Steve Carter warned the political parties today not to make automated phone calls to voters -- a traditional election year practice by both Republicans and Democrats.
Carter, a Republican who ran for attorney general in 2000 and 2004, said the practice violates a 1988 law prohibiting automated calling devices.
What I thought I knew was that the ban was not extended to political calls, as there would not have been broad Statehouse support, and that it would certainly bring a Constitutional challenge.
This important news to me, because I was considering using automated calls myself. My plan was to use them as a get-out-the-vote tool with Libertarian Party members, supporter, and contributors, along with Kole Campaign supporters and contributors.
So, how did I learn of this important news? From the Elections Division? From the Secretary of State's Office? From Attorney General Steve Carter?
No, I learned it from Mary Beth Schneider, in her Indy Star report:
Carter said he sent a letter on Aug. 22 to the chairmen of the state Republican and Democratic parties to inform them of the law. He did not send the same warning to businesses, he said, nor to the Libertarian Party.
Asked why he singled out the two major political parties for this kind of warning, Carter cited the upcoming election season as well as increased public concern about telephone privacy.
What was keeping Carter from sending a message to the Libertarian Party? Did he run out of stamps? Maybe the printer ran out of paper or toner? Did someone cut his phone line? Maybe Carter should look into that and then learn how many political parties are on the ballot in this state. Here's a hint: It's slightly more than two.
First, I want to see the law. I'm not convinced that any of the laws on the books apply to political parties or candidates. Show us the law.
Then, I want to know how the kole Campaign sending automated calls to Kole supporters violates the privacy of people who want me to be in contact with them, and who gave me their phone number so that I could do so.
Lastly, I'd like an explanation on how the First Amendment doesn't apply to political phone calls. Political speech is crucial to a free society.
Update 8-30-06: I was reacting to Mary Beth Schneider's preliminary report. She followed up and included my comments in her subsequent report:
While Carter sent a letter to Parker and Clark warning of the 1988 law, which carries a penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, he did not send a similar warning to other political parties.
The Libertarian Party, he said, didn't have the resources in his experience to pay for such calls.
Actually, we do. It was also Carter's experience in 2004, 2003, and 2002 that the parties were making automated calls. Why the sudden interest? He's been on the job six years. More:
That surprised Mike Kole, the Libertarian candidate for secretary of state. He'd planned to use such calls to encourage people to vote for him on Election Day.
"I cannot imagine that my supporters and contributors would feel violated by these calls," Kole said. "Who exactly is this supposed to protect? The people or incumbents?"
This is like taking auto-nailers away from framing carpenters. Sure, you can go back to hammers, but it is more time consuming and costly that way.
Maybe that's what Carter really has in mind.