Thousands of Hoosiers had their weekend disrupted by a phone call asking them to support a State Representative. With the primary elections just over two weeks away - that isn't very surprising - what is surprising is that according to the caller id's, those calls came from the Indiana State Attorney General's Office.
"it's a technique known as "spoofing", where they fool caller id's into listing something that's not accurate", said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
By Monday morning Zoeller's office had hundreds of complaints about the calls. The caller ID not only showed their number, but also read "State of IN AG".
The complaints identify the group as the "Lunch Pail Republicans". The group was launched at the end of last year mainly in opposition to the GOP's stance on labor issues like Right to Work. The group did not return two requests for comment about the calls. Their website lists six candidates they identify with in various statehouse races. It's not clear what role, if any, the candidates played in the calls.
Zoeller, a Republican himself, is already deep into an investigation about the calls. He feels they mirror a growing problem in the way political campaigns are conducted with an "anything goes" mentality.
"the use of this kind of technology, by members of my own party, I'm going to be as aggressive on this case as anything I've ever done", said Zoeller.
Even if you're on the "Do Not Call" list, political calls are exempt. However, robo calls are illegal, meaning it has to be a person making the call. Zoeller says current robo call technology can produce 10-thousand calls per minute. Indiana has banned robo calls and recently presented its case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. In this case, the calls were not deemed to be robo calls because an actual operator was used along with an automated system.
Zoeller says while both privacy and free speech are important rights- one must give way when it comes to political calls.
"we feel the right to privacy in your own home trumps free speech in this case. I want to send out the warning that we're not going to tolerate this and people that are running campaigns need to be very sensitive to this, about who's making the calls and how the calls are being made", said Zoeller.
Zoeller's office feels they've likely identified the source of the calls, which at this point have stopped. Along with being a Federal offense, the story is a clear reminder that if you're going to impersonate someone, it might not be wise to pick the state's leading consumer protection agency.
If you receive calls that appear to be from the Attorney General's office you can report the information to the Consumer Protection Division at 1.800.382.5516.
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