In the recent election season I was subjected to harassing telephone calls from Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). Before the Democratic primary, although I am on the Do Not Call Registry, Schumer robocalled me several times urging me to vote for his candidates — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for Mayor and State Senator Daniel Squadron for Public Advocate. His calls always came at inconvenient times when I was trying to eat a meal or balance on a stepladder. His endorsements were as ineffective as they were unwelcome. Both Squadron and Quinn lost their races decisively. In Brooklyn, however his candidate for District Attorney Kenneth Thompson prevailed. Schumer may be running out of juice in more ways than one — in previous election cycles he robodialed me many more times than he did this year.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that Schumer has proposed legislation to raise fines and increase punishments on telemarketers violating Do Not Call rules. Has he no self-knowledge whatsoever? Of course not. Does he not know he violates the spirit if not the letter of these laws himself? Obviously not. How could it be? Self-centered self-importance provides the thick hide that pols are always telling us they must have. Of course, Schumer is not the only pol to robocall. He has just made himself the most ridiculous.
The legislation that needs to be proposed is the expansion of the Do Not Call Registry to include charities, political organizations, and telephone surveyors as well as debt collectors. In enacting the law, legislators gave the Do Not Call Registry no sway over these groups, which serve the politicians themselves. Chief among them are telephone surveyors, whose calls harass us as surely as robocall scam artists. They take the surveys that enable elected officials and wannabes to figure out which way the wind blows so that they can amend positions on public issues.
The Senator says the number of unwanted telemarketing calls has skyrocketed. His press release notes, “As of August 2013, the FTC was logging 140,000 to 200,000 robocall complaints monthly compared to 65,000 in October 2010, according to published reports.”
He is right about that, and I support whatever curtails telemarketers. Unfortunately, relevant laws now on the books allow Sen. Schumer and his ilk to call us whenever they wish and as often as they want. I would like to opt out of these as well. If politicians and non-profits believe their messages are important, let them use the mails, which they already do anyway. That way they would help the U.S. Postal Service (but admittedly add to junk mail to be recycled). They could also continue to spam us via Internet, which generates no paper waste. Meanwhile, I challenge Sen. Schumer to figure out the number of unwanted robocalls he is generating and stop generating them. It is for his own good too — the electorate is less likely to know that he supports candidates they don’t.