June 12, 2010; Source: Indianapolis Star | Doesn’t just about everyone hate robocalls, even if they promote contributions to your favorite charities or political candidates? Efforts to restrict telephone solicitation on behalf of for-profits have long been a public policy concern, but nonprofits have typically been exempted.
Indiana apparently has banned robocalls since 1988 unless recipients give prior consent. An Illinois group called Patriotic Veterans, Inc. is challenging the law, suggesting that the more lenient federal law exempting nonprofits supersedes Indiana’s. Besides the law, the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties in Indiana are signatories to an agreement called the “Treaty of 2010”—decreeing that they would refrain from robocalls. The law seems to exempt political calls as constitutionally protected free speech.
That’s the argument that Patriotic Veterans and its legal representative, the Center for Competitive Politics, are using in their case. To them, the freedom to robocall is an all or none proposition: “There is no compromise solution,” says the Center’s spokesperson. A brief search unearthed an under-construction website of Patriotic Veterans, a 501(c)(4) organization founded in 2009 to “inform voters of the positions taken by candidates and office holders on issues of interest to veterans.”
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Behind Patriotic Veterans is “The Colonel,” one Chuck Thomann, who as of 2006 was a substitute social studies teacher at Broadneck High School in Maryland, a teacher of a course on American wars at Anne Arundel Community College, a retired associate of the Conservative Caucus Free Congress Foundation, and an Army Veteran who reportedly fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
The president of Patriotic Veterans is one Paul Caprio, who appears to have been head of Family-PAC Federal (working for traditional family values) and a political consultant working for various conservative Republican candidates in Illinois and elsewhere. There’s no question about the very conservative political DNA of Thomann and Caprio, but as this case progresses, much like the Citizens United case, will politically liberal 501(c) organizations come out for or against?— Rick Cohen