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Make my day. Give the robocop a call

February 25, 2007|by Lyn Widmyer

I hate unsolicited, automated phone calls.

That is why I listen to them in their entirety. I endure whatever sales pitch is being thrown at me, clutching the phone tighter as my blood pressure rises higher.

Finally, I am rewarded with a phone number I am supposed to call to find out even more about the product. I furiously write down the number and immediately dial it.

I then unleash my wrath on the person who answers. I inform them I have subscribed to the Do Not Call List and I plan to report them to the FBI, the FCC and Homeland Security as well as our local sheriff and my West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd who, I remind the unsuspecting telemarketer, is the SENIOR member of Congress and could crush the telemarketing company with one stroke of his legislative pen (I made up this last part).

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By the time I get to threats of bodily harm, the hapless operator has usually hung up.

I planned to use this same approach when I received a robo call attacking Democratic candidate Frances Morgan during last fall's Jefferson County Commission race.

A very pleasant female voice started with "Hey, it's me" and then proceeded in a conversational manner to make negative comments about Morgan. I listened, waiting for the phone number contact at the end of the message. My patience went unrewarded. The name of the group authorizing the call was given (Citizens for Fair Government) but not any contact information.

The Citizens for Fair Government obviously did not feel fairness included a way to get in touch with them.

When I received a second robo call, falsely implying that, if elected, Morgan would turn Jefferson County into a gambling-based version of Sodom and Gomorrah, I decided to track down the Citizens for Fair Government

Fortunately, when it comes to politically motivated interest groups, you can run but you cannot hide. As a political action committee, the Citizens for Fair Government had to register with the West Virginia Secretary of State and include names and phone numbers of key officers.

With a copy of the registration form in hand, I contacted the treasurer of the group and said I was very upset about receiving robo calls. She sympathized and assured me the Citizens for Fair Government did not endorse the second call.

I do not understand how a political action committee allowed a robo call to be released without any knowledge of its content, but that's their story and they are sticking to it.

Last month, I received a form letter in the mail from those who helped finance the robo-call campaign, restating they did not know about the content.

The letter, signed by nine people, apologizes to Charles Town Races and Slots for making false and inflammatory assertions "regarding the impact table games would have on Jefferson County."

The letter does not apologize to the unsuspecting residents of Jefferson County who received the calls, or to Frances Morgan for misrepresenting her views.

An apology would be nice but Frances Morgan got something better: She won the election.

I plan to continue my role as "robo-cop," hunting down the perpetrators of those dastardly automated calls that always interrupt me during dinnertime.

As for politically motivated calls, I pass along this bit of information as we enter the next election season. The Federal Communications Commission requires the identity of the organization be stated at the beginning of a robo call and the telephone number of the organization must be provided.

Now that's what I call fair government.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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