We all hate those annoying calls that interrupt our dinner from folks we don’t know trying to sell us everything from vinyl siding to magazine subscriptions to life insurance. It makes it doubly infuriating when the person on the phone interrupting your dinner is your Member of Congress trying to sell you a bill of goods about the antics in Washington.
Monday night, I was visiting with some friends here in town. We were debating about eating in at their place or going out. (Eating in won, so that’s what we did.)
It was about 7 PM. We were all seated, just digging in to dinner, when the land line rang. The man of the house checked caller ID and said: “Private caller. That means telemarketer, and the ol’ answering machine.’’
He explained that they typically hang up without leaving a message. So, we ignored the ringing.
A moment later, the answering machine greeting kicks in – on speaker so we can all hear. Then we get a recording welcoming us to a “tele-town hall” with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. (My friends have never met nor communicated with Miss Harnett County. They did not ask to be included in this “event.’’ They are also signed up on the national DO NOT CALL registry.)
Instead of asking for them to consent to participating, the robo-call connects them live to the tele-conference already in progress. The answering machine continued to screen – and record – the live teleconference. Unbelievable.
How is this not a violation of the DO NOT Call registry? I know politicians have an exemption at election time. But we are nowhere near a vote.
Our local NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award-winning thrice weekly local newspaper recently ran an editorial praising Ellmers for navigating her way to the Town of Robbins for a private, non-publicized meeting with local officials. A few months ago, she got lost on her way to an event at a business which fronts US 1 in Southern Pines.
In May, ol’ Renee lost Randolph County and had a close finish in Moore County to an unknown, underfunded primary challenger. She had an unimpressive showing before the Republican Men’s Club, and told off a group of local Tea Partiers in a closed-door sit down.
I can see why she’s resorting to unannounced tele-conferences with voters. If you catch people on the phone at the spur of the moment, they don’t have time to do any research and come up with good questions. Her staff can control who gets on the air to ask her questions, and can write up quick and easy responses for her.
Doing the tele-conference thing also takes away a lot of worry on the part of Ellmers’s staff about the boss lady’s navigational skills. I mean, she got lost traveling from Harnett County to US 1 in Moore County. It’s a wonder she made it to the big city of Robbins. (I bet having chief of staff Al Lytton, and that GPS-equipped Land Rover, helped A LOT.)
Moore County got spoiled by Howard Coble’s public relations and constituent service efforts. Howard was amazingly accessible, even this far from his Greensboro base. Now, we have a member of Congress, based right next door to us, who has to be dragged kicking and screaming to actually face her constituents here in Moore.