Lets rebel against campaign phone calls

I am starting a new grassroots movement and looking for lemmings, er…sheep, sorry…converts in time to marshal numbers large enough for the general election in November.

I am calling it CMHLMV.

No, it is not a funky new way to write a year in Roman numerals. It an acronym for "Call My House Lose My Vote" and I am directing it at any and all incumbents, hopefuls, and snowball candidates (the ones who have as much chance of winning a political race as a snowball has in a blast furnace) who call me at home at all hours soliciting my vote.

You know what I am talking about. The calls that come up unknown number, unknown caller, and a whole host of digits hiding the electronic message waiting to ambush me on the other end of the line.

"Hi, this is Hillary Clinton. Hi, this is Barack Obama. Hi, this John McCain. Hi, this is Mike Huckabee. Hi, this is John O’Grady. Hi, this is Ted Strickland. Hi, this is insert name here." Not to mention the wives and friends who also chime in with their pitches.

They all start out the same and I always offer the same response…a quick disconnecting click.

Do these people ever think, by portraying themselves as wanting a little one-sided conversation with voters,  via a mass dialing, they come across as even more insincere? If a candidate or even their legions of supporters don’t have time to pick up the phone themselves (which I know they don’t), please don’t bother dialing my number.

Sometimes there isn’t any message; just dead air. One time I picked up and tried to hang up, only to hear a candidate’s voice prattling on and on when I picked the phone up two more times. I continued to play this cat and mouse game with the same recording for a few minutes until I finally gave up.

Talk about a windbag!

During the March primary, candidate messages started arriving at my house as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 9 p.m. I don’t even want my own family calling me before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., much less a recorded message urging me to vote for a candidate who probably wouldn’t give me bus change if I asked for it.

So, I’ve decided to fight back. I’m taking control (other than taking my phone off the hook from October through Nov. 4) by organizing Call My House Lose My Vote and the plan is so simple, it could sweep the nation.

When a candidate or their spokesperson, wife, brother, insurance salesman, or some other political mouthpiece electronically calls my house with a pre-recorded message they lose my vote-automatically-even if I support their platform. Granted, this could whittle my options down to Ralph Nader (he is running again, isn’t he?) and Joe Bob’s other brother, but, hey, a person has to take a stand and draw the line somewhere.

If enough people practice CMHLMV, and make their opinions known, perhaps candidates and their marketing advisors will take notice of how aggravated voters become when assaulted with pre-recorded, unsolicited political messages clogging up phone lines and message machines.

It took strong lobbying on behalf of disgruntled families having their dinner hour interrupted by telephone solicitors to create the Do Not Call Registry, but those wily federal bureaucrats finagled a loophole allowing political solicitations.

According to the National Do Not Call Registry, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (an agency charged with protecting the nation’s consumers-can we say oxymoron when it comes to the FTC protecting the consumer from unsolicited political commercials via the telephone?), "Political solicitations are not covered …at all, since they are not included in its definition of ‘telemarketing.’

Charities are not covered by the requirements of the national registry. However, if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, a consumer may ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity. If a third-party telemarketer calls again on behalf of that charity, the telemarketer may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000."

I’ll give charities a break. Well, except those employing professional solicitors who act like Dracula and suck the life out of a donation before handing it over to the charitable organization.

I think a mass call sent to thousands of potential voters urging them to choose a specific candidate is pretty close to the definition of "telemarketing." Break it down and the first half of the term is tele…as in telephone…as in "you called my telephone pitching (marketing) your position (product) in hopes of swaying my opinion and buying (into) your product (position) by casting my vote for you."

There must be a pretty strong lobby for political candidates canvassing the Federal Trade Commission. Hmmm. I wonder what would have happened if they did a mass generic phone call to commission members urging them to set aside political solicitations from the National Do Not Call Registry.

It could have sounded something like this…

"Hi. This is Hillary Barack John Mike Candidate calling and urging you to save my campaign by allowing me to irritate the American public by calling them at home and flooding their message machines with my political pitch. Thank you, dear FTC member for listening to me. I’ll be sure and call you many times again before you finalize your policy. Hugs and kisses."

I think I’ll just CMHLMV candidates and hope for the best.

(Postscript: Just as I was writing this column, on primary election night around 6 p.m., Barack called urging me to get to the polls. Funny thing about that, I voted absentee and sent in my ballot a couple of weeks before the election. So, despite all of the political pitches, each and every candidate was too late to sway my vote, which was probably a good thing.)

Linda Dillman is a Messenger staff writer.

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