Ind. judge OKs order blocking automated political phone calls

By The Associated Press
09.27.06

NASHVILLE, Ind. — A judge has approved an order blocking a California-based group from making automated calls attacking Democratic congressional candidate Baron Hill, who is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel in the 9th District.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter sued the Economic Freedom Fund earlier this month in Brown County after receiving 12 consumer complaints about the calls, which are prohibited by state law unless previously agreed to by the recipient.

The state’s lawsuit sought injunctions to stop them and fines of $5,000 for each violation.

Under an agreed entry signed Monday by Brown Circuit Court Judge Judith Stewart, the Economic Freedom Fund agreed to stop making the calls while litigation proceeds. A hearing set for Wednesday was canceled because of the order.

Carter filed a similar lawsuit Monday in Harrison County against Washington, D.C.-based American Family Voices, accusing it of violating state law by making prerecorded phone calls attacking Sodrel.

“I’m hopeful that American Family Voices will follow this early lead of the Economic Freedom Fund,” Carter said in a news release.

A hearing in the American Family Voices case is scheduled for next month.

Meanwhile, FreeEats.com, the Virginia company that made the calls on behalf of the Economic Freedom Fund, has filed a federal lawsuit against Indiana claiming that its ban on such calls is unconstitutional because it restrains free speech and interstate commerce.

Carter sent a letter last month to state the Democratic and Republican parties informing them that a 1988 state law prohibited automated phone calls for political purposes. Carter promised to enforce the law, even though it had been widely ignored during past political campaigns.