FEC Ruling Could Block State Laws on Robocalls

by Amanda Adams*, 12/3/2009

Robocalls, automated phone messages, are exempt from the national "do not call" registry. However, some states have implemented restrictions on robocalls. Some states require that a live operator talk first before connecting to the recording, while Arkansas and Wyoming have even banned them.

In Oct. a political action committee, the American Future Fund Political Action, requested an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) questioning whether federal election law preempts state laws. Depending on how the FEC decides, these state laws could be overturned, as applied to federal candidates and political committees. The group indicates it wants to conduct nationwide robocall operations during the 2010 congressional campaigns. In response, Minnesota, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Wyoming have filed comments with the FEC defending their state laws. The FEC may have a decision before the end of the year.

CQ Politics covers the story, and quotes the American Future Fund's chairman Nick Ryan. "These regulations limit the ability of candidates and those of us who seek to advocate. It impinges on our right to communicate."

Robocalls are one of the cheapest ways to reach constituents, and can be used for a variety of reasons. An NPAction.org article from 2007 discusses some of the controversy surrounding robocalls.

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