BY DAVE PARRO
There's been plenty of post-election analysis and speculation about why Jim Oberweis lost the congressional seat that has only once before been held by a Democrat.
Was Oberweis too negative and divisive? Did Chris Lauzen doom the GOP when he refused to mend fences and urge his supporters to vote for his former opponent? Has the 14th District gone Democratic?
Many of our readers, however, have suggested something else also played a role. Some Republican voters are saying they simply stayed away from the polls because they were so annoyed by the barrage of political 'robocalls' they were receiving at home.
Of course, Bill Foster's campaign and the Democratic Party also made their fair share of calls to voters. I personally received at least half a dozen calls -- from both campaigns and both national parties -- on Saturday alone.
But there's a growing sentiment that Oberweis went too far and simply turned off potential supporters.
In a letter to the editor today, the CEO and founder of the National Political Do Not Contact Registry says his group received a lot of complaints from voters about Oberweis robocalls. Shaun Dakin thinks it might have played a role in the outcome of the special election.
It is not a surprise to us at the National Political Do Not Contact Registry that Mr. Oberweis lost Saturday night to Bill Foster. ... Did Mr. Oberweis lose because he used robocalls? We don't know that. What we do know is that tens of thousands of voters tell me each and every day that they consider robocalls an invasion of their privacy and that they will vote for the candidate who calls them the least or not at all. All politicians should pay attention to this result and start to dial down the use of robocalls.
Dakin said he testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Feb. 27 about political robocalls, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the committee, has introduced the Robocall Privacy Act to curtail the practice.
Feinstein wrote an op-ed piece about political robocalls, saying "we've got to stop the most abusive of these calls."
It's enough to turn even the most loyal voters against the political process. ... We need to strike a balance between political outreach and privacy rights of Americans.
She also explains what the proposed legislation would do: "Prohibit an organization from placing robocalls to any person between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.; require an organization to disclose its identity at the beginning of each call and clearly state that the call is pre-recorded; ban groups from blocking their caller-identification numbers; prohibit organizations from calling the same number more than twice each day; and empower the Federal Election Commission to levy fines against violators."
The National Political Do Not Contact Registry wants to offer voters a chance to put their phone numbers on a list similar to the Federal Do Not Call Registry, which does not apply to political calls. The Robocall Privacy Act of 2008, however, would only put guidelines in place and does not seek to ban the calls altogether because of free-speech rights. It also would only apply to federal candidates and would not limit the number of calls placed by live campaign volunteers.
It would stop the abuses, but that might not go far enough for some annoyed voters.