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New Jersey Takes Steps to Legislate Against Malicious Political Outbound Robocalling

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July 09, 2013

New Jersey Takes Steps to Legislate Against Malicious Political Outbound Robocalling

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Outbound automated telephone calls, or “robocalls,” are a useful tool for many industries. They allow doctors to remind patients of appointments, pharmacies to prompt customers to place refill orders, and public institutions like schools to warn of closings or weather delays.

Unfortunately, robocalling is one of the most misused and abused contact center technologies, for a number of reasons. It’s simply too easy to place illegal robocalls that ignore rules about permissible hours of calling, preexisting customer relationships and prohibitions against calling wireless phones without permission, and then hide one’s identity to elude punishment

New Jersey is taking a stand against deceptive political robocalls, a subject that came to light during the state’s recent Republican primaries. A new bill working through the state assembly, A-4314, would expand and strengthen current law that prohibits fraudulent political activity. The bill amends the "Fair Campaign Practices Act" and dictates that no person can direct, order or assist another person to produce, transmit or disseminate any communication that purports to originate from the campaign of a candidate for public office but is actually for the purpose of impeding the campaign of that candidate.

The brouhaha that resulted in the legislation occurred in early June. Monmouth County Republicans were awakened at 4:00 am with a robocalls that purported to be from Sen. Joseph Kyrillos and Assembly Members Amy Handlin and Declan O'Scanlon (R-13th District). The caller identification information was faked, or “spoofed,” to match that of Monmouth County Republican Committee, according to

Since the calls did not, in fact, originate from those individuals, the state launched an investigation. Though nothing has been proven, Kyrillos, Handlin and O'Scanlon, together with Republican Chairman John Bennett, believe the fake robocalls were the work of Tea Party challengers, all of whom ultimately lost their challenges by wide margins.

The voice told voters they were still able to vote “until 8 p.m., another four hours,” which implied that the calls were intended to go out at 4:00 pm, not 4:00 am.

"I strongly believe it was our opponents," O'Scanlon told "The call was unquestionably malicious.”

If the legislation passes, those who place fraudulent outbound robocalls may be sentenced to three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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