Friday, September 26, 2003
I know you're probably getting bored with this, but here's a little more on the telemarketing brouhaha:
Supporters of the [telemarketing bill] had barely begun to celebrate an overwhelming vote Thursday in Congress to counter a federal court ruling when they learned that another judge had blocked the list from taking effect next week.
"It puts a little damper on the party," said Ken Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "But we're still confident of prevailing in the end."
Tauzin led an effort in the House to pass a bill making clear that the Federal Trade Commission has the authority to enforce the do-not-call registry. The legislation was prompted by a ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Lee R. West in Oklahoma City that said the FTC lacked the power to create and operate the registry.
But late in the day, U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham in Denver blocked the list, handing another victory to telemarketers who argued the national registry will devastate their industry and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.
Nottingham said the do-not-call list was unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it does not apply equally to all kinds of speech, blocking commercial telemarketing calls but not calls from charities. "The FTC has chosen to entangle itself too much in the consumer's decision by manipulating consumer choice," Nottingham wrote.
The list, which would block an estimated 80 percent of telemarketing calls, is supposed to be effective Wednesday, but it's unclear whether legal issues will be settled by then. Even after Bush signs the legislation, the FTC must win in court for the list to move forward.
West rejected an FTC request to delay his order, saying the agency offered no additional evidence that would make him change his mind. The FTC immediately appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
While it was unclear how West's order would affect the FTC's plans, the second ruling more directly prohibits the government from enforcing the do-not-call list. The constitutional issues raised also may not be solved as easily.
Since issuing the ruling, West's home and office have been bombarded with calls from angry consumers. His numbers were posted on the Internet and people were encouraged to call.
Late Thursday, Nottingham's phone numbers began to surface online as well.
That'll teach 'em.