September 15, 2016 10:02 AM
Shortly before 8:00 on Wednesday evening, I received a robocall on my cell phone from Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund urging me to call my congressman first thing in the morning and tell him what to do. Based on what I saw on social media, I wasn’t the only one who was called on a cell phone either.
My issue isn’t so much with the message sent bu Martin and the Tea Party. It’s the fact that the call itself was potentially illegal. Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in order to protect consumers from unwanted auto dialed calls. From the Act:
(b) RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF AUTOMATED TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT.—
(1) PROHIBITIONS.—It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, or any person outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States—
(A) to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice—
(i) to any emergency telephone line (including any “911” line and any emergency line of a hospital, medical physician or service office, health care facility, poison control center, or fire protection or law enforcement agency);
(ii) to the telephone line of any guest room or patient room of a hospital, health care facility, elderly home, or similar establishment; or
(iii) to any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other radio common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call;
Prior express consent has a legal definition that pretty much means what you think it does — it requires some sort of written or electronic signature that the person agrees to receive calls (or texts) on their cell phone. Failure to follow the FCC’s rules can result in a fine of up to $16,000 per call. For the record, I never gave Tea Party Patriots express written consent to call my cell phone. In reality, I regard the Tea Party Patriots as a scam PAC that doesn’t deserve my time or money.
If you, like me, received this call on your cell phone, what can you do? For one, you can file a complaint with the FCC online, or call 1-888-225-5322. Feel free to send the FCC the MP3 of the call as evidence. You can also express your frustration by calling the Tea Party Patriots at the number they provided — (678) 871-0877. And you might want to reconsider your support for the Tea Party Patriots in general.
As to what the call was about: Members of the House Freedom Caucus are upset that they haven’t yet gotten a vote on the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen because House leadership wants to use regular order and hold hearings in the Judiciary Committee and get a recommendation from them. As quoted in the story, the TPP has a reason to support impeachment:
“Those emails were destroyed under his watch,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, which saw its IRS applications languish for more than four years before it won tax-exempt status. “His job was to restore the public trust, and it hasn’t been restored.”
There may be valid reasons for impeaching Commissioner Koskinen. And depending on what happens next week when he testifies before the Judidiary Committee, impeachment is still a possibility. It’s too bad that the Tea Party Patriots decided to violate the law in order to express their frustration that Congress wasn’t moving quickly enough to make them happy.