Manassas Journal Messenger | Teletrouble

Is there something to be said about the swift action taken by Congress on Thursday to counter a federal court ruling that threatened the national “do-not-call” list?

Within a day of U.S. District Court Judge Lee R. West’s ruling that the Federal Trade Commission lacked the authority to enforce the list, Congress went into action with enabling legislation allowing the FTC to punish telemarketers who call the 51 million Americans who signed up.

The House voted 412-8 and the Senate voted 95-0. The list was supposed to go into effect next week.

Congress didn’t act this fast declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.

One odd legislative aspect about “do-not-call” is that campaign solicitation calls are exempt. Imagine that.

Congress is prepared to make telemarketers pay a heavy fine for calling residents to pitch everything from phone service to home loans. But it’s okay if the telemarketer calls during the dinner hour to campaign for Congressman Billy Ray Mulgreevey’s re-election.

This glaring omission is similar to Congress establishing federal campaign finance laws last year that went into effect the day after the 2002 congressional elections.

Having fixed the issue surrounding Wednesday’s court decision, Congress is now faced with another court ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Edward W. Nottingham in Denver ruled Friday that the “do-not-call” list violates free speech.

The previous judge (Judge West) has been flooded with phone calls from people upset at his ruling. Web sites and talk radio programs had revealed the judge’s office and home phone numbers.

It was reported Friday that Nottingham was facing a similar dilemma. In an act of poetic justice, it appears that 51 million Americans are about to teach the honorable judge a thing or two about free speech.

It was also revealed yesterday that the largest telemarketing group says it wants its members to abide by the “do-not-call” list, despite the ruling. This edict comes from the Direct Marketing Agency, which hopes to deflect criticism from its continued court challenges to the law.

The DMA’s announcement sounds anything but rock solid. That is unless the organization is willing to fine its members $11,000 each time it calls someone on the list.

Not very likely.

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