Montana Politics

AG Candidate Conducting Illegal Robo Calls

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According to tipsters, Pam Bucy, candidate for Attorney General is conducting illegal robo calls to residents in Missoula.  Apparently, the unsolicited calls are a recording of PSC Commissioner Gail Gutsche asking those receiving the robo call to support Bucy in this year’s Democratic Primary.  The robo call even ends with the disclaimer “Paid for by Pam Bucy for Attorney General.”

While the Bucy campaign has touched on ethically grey areas before, robo calls are simply illegal for a campaign to use in Montana.

From the Office of Political Practices:

Automated calls are illegal in Montana. The statute is MCA 45-8-216 …

45-8-216. Unlawful automated telephone solicitation — exceptions — penalties. (1)
A person may not use an automated telephone system, device, or facsimile machine for the  selection and dialing of telephone numbers and playing of recorded messages if a message is completed to the dialed number for the purpose of:

(e) promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign.

Common sense would say that someone running for the state’s top law enforcement position shouldn’t break the law in the process.

As the Office of Political Practices states “Robo Calls [are] illegal in Montana, but enforcement is difficult.”  Most of the time robo calls are programmed to not leave messages and to only play if someone picks up the phone.  As a result, it’s almost impossible to get a recording of the robo call, making enforcement very difficult.  Additionally, this particular call is coming in as a “blocked number.”

If you receive one of these robo calls, please leave a comment or send an email to M.Storin@aol.com

About the author

M. Storin

13 Comments

  • I received two robo calls today from Democrats and third-party groups endorsing Democrats. I got the call from Bucy’s campaign and one from Montana Conservation Voters that endorsed Bullock and Bucy. It is especially annoying as they called my cell phone, which is unlisted,

  • I’m a lifelong opponent of capital punishment, but robo calls just might incite me to consider an exception.

    Robo calls are illegal; unethical. They infuriate those who receive them. If candidate A wants to undercut candidate B, a dirty tricks campaign by A that inflicts “Vote for B” just might push a few votes A’s way.

  • I am not here to say that what the Bucy campaign is doing is either legal or illegal, but I think this matter needs some clarification. There is not a blanket prohibition on robo calls in Montana. Robo calls are permitted when made to people with whom the business/campaign/organization has a “preexisting business relationship,” which for the purposes of campaigning, would include people who have donated, volunteered, signed up as a supporter, etc. Non-profit organizations may make robo calls to their memberships lists. Here is the full section of code. Note subsection 2, which outlines the exceptions to the prohibition.

    45-8-216. Unlawful automated telephone solicitation — exceptions — penalties. (1) A person may not use an automated telephone system, device, or facsimile machine for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers and playing of recorded messages if a message is completed to the dialed number for the purpose of:
    (a) offering goods or services for sale;
    (b) conveying information on goods or services in soliciting sales or purchases;
    (c) soliciting information;
    (d) gathering data or statistics; or
    (e) promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign.
    (2) This section does not prohibit the use of an automated telephone system, device, or facsimile machine described under subsection (1) for purposes of informing purchasers of the receipt, availability for delivery, delay in delivery, or other pertinent information on the status of any purchased goods or services, of responding to an inquiry initiated by any person, or of providing any other pertinent information when there is a preexisting business relationship. This section does not prohibit the use of an automated telephone system or device if the permission of the called party is obtained by a live operator before the recorded message is delivered.
    (3) A person violating subsection (1) is subject to a fine of not more than $2,500.

    • The calls conducted by the Bucy campaign were intentionally legal, as they were conducted by a live operator who introduced a recorded endorsement from Gail, providing the dialed party an opt out to listen to the message. See above, MCA 45-8-216 (2).

  • I think the key term in subsection 2 is “business relationship.” Obviously, this does not pertain to campaigns. Also, a robo call to a cell is not only “annoying,” but is even more illegal.

  • The language “business relationship” includes non-profit groups to communicate with its members. Obviously no attorney was consulted before this was posted. It helps to do research before posting something on the internet.

  • Robocalls, should be out! It is just not necessary to harass the voting public into voting for you!

    But the problems with Politics today is all the propaganda that comes with it.

    I get flyers from robocall specialists all the time, and I just ignore them. You would not believe the steady stream of junk mail, you get from printing companies, and Political consultants when you run. I am pretty sure I have disposed of a couple of tree’s worth in the landfill down here in Dillon. Propaganda is a bigger business, then it should be, and not the message I believe politicians should make to constituents.

    Whatever happened to good reporters who use to vet the candidates, and report on it in the papers, have they become that lax?

  • Here’s the funny thing about the whole robo calling and telemarketing ban effort. It was the Democrats who led the way on the big push in 2003 to increase the restrictions. Go back to the legislative hearings, and you will see Steve Bullock testifying on behalf of the AG’s office on how important it was to keep the robo call ban in place and to strengthen it.

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