POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

This Tape Will Self-Destruct

by David Trumbull

January 26, 2007

"...there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
-- Ronald Reagan, January 21, 1981

In the spirit of President Reagan's wise counsel, I'll praise a good idea, even if it does come from a Democrat. U.S. Representative Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania has filed a bill, H.R.372 to direct the Federal Trade Commission to revise the regulations regarding the Do-not-call registry to prohibit politically-oriented recorded message telephone calls to telephone numbers listed on that registry.

In short, no more of those phony "Hi, this is Deval Patrick" or "This is Mitt Romney" calls during dinner-time. It's about time. I'm calling my representative to ask him to cosponsor.

Personally, I'm less likely to vote for a candidate who annoys me at home with a taped appeal, especially a recording disingenuously presented as a "personal message." Really, what could be more impersonal than a recording? But the calls work. I know people who told me they voted for Romney's choice for lieutenant governor because "he called and asked me." The Patrick recordings worked in this past election as well.

Incredibly, some of the same people who complain when they get a recording when they call some business or government office will be swayed to vote for a candidate just because a recording has called them. Do we really want these people voting? Well, the truth is that on election day all votes count the same. You may vote for candidate A because you agree with his positions on major issues and you are persuaded that he is honest, just, and a capable public servant. I, on the other hand, may cancel out your vote by voting for candidate B because she has blue eyes.

I have run for office, so I know the importance of get-out-the-vote phone calls in the final days before an election. A live volunteer telling me why this candidate deserves my support can move me to support a candidate I might otherwise have passed over. But paid callers who might as well be selling insurance or aluminum siding are just a pain in the neck. And as for a taped message, well, I have, shall we say, a lower opinion.