Finally, a truly bipartisan issue: We all hate robocalls

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A funny thing happened on the way to this week’s column — Sen. Jon Tester did something I liked.

Now, those of you who read my column on a regular basis know that there of plenty of things the senator does which I am not fond of. He’s a pretty reliable vote in favor of the Schumer-Pelosi left-wing Democratic agenda, and against President Trump’s “America First” agenda, so we rarely see eye-to-eye.

Still, Tester is a smart politician, beating a three-term incumbent 12 years ago and winning re-election over a popular statewide congressman in 2012. Knowing he’s going to have his hands full in a re-election battle in a state that Trump won by 20 points, Tester is looking for every advantage he can find. And last week he found a good one.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tester took part in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing where he blasted someone who is perhaps the least popular man in America. No, not Jeff Zuckerberg (he is SO last week!). I’m talking about Adrian Abramovitch.

Chances are, you’ve never heard of Abramovitch, but even so, I am confident that — along with me and Sen. Tester — you don’t like him! Indeed, when you find out that Abramovitch is accused of making nearly 100 million robocalls in just three months, you may well hate him. If you are anything like me, you probably received at least several dozen of those calls.

For several months this year, I was getting as many as five or six calls a day from robocall telemarketers — usually trying to sell me a service warranty on my 2005 Ford Freestyle or life insurance on my dead cat (OK, I made that last one up).

One Saturday morning I was even wakened by a phone call not from a telemarketer, but from an angry man asking me why I was calling him! Turns out the robocaller had hijacked my phone number and was annoying other real live humans just like me. I explained to the man who woke me up that we were both victims of a digital scam “too big to fail,” but I had no idea just HOW BIG until I read the press release from Sen. Tester.

One hundred million calls in three months? Apparently, robots really are invaluable to the forward progress of Western civilization! There’s no way that an ordinary call center could possibly have annoyed so many people in so short a time.

According to Tester, Abramovitch tried to avoid responsibility for his intrusion into our lives by explaining that only 2 percent of people actually picked up the phone and talked to the robot (or its human trainer!).

Tester did the math and noted that 2 percent meant that Abramovitch’s robocalls had harassed about 2 million people, “twice the population that lives in Montana.”

Not sure if anything will come of this, but Abramovitch faces up to a $120 million fine from federal regulators, so hopefully he gets the message.

If not, Tester had some personal words for Abramovitch: “If I want to buy something, I’ll call you — don’t call me.”

Good job, senator.

———

I’m obligated to add one complaint about the senator’s press release. For some reason, the senator has developed the bad habit of taking credit for bills he didn’t actually write. He did it again this time, claiming that he is “working to give regulators the tools they need to crack down on robocallers by introducing the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act,” which will give federal regulators more time to prosecute illegal robocalls.

Actually, if you read the news coverage, the bill was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and had 11 Democratic co-sponsors, including Sen. Tester. Not sure why Tester claims he introduced it, unless it’s because he indeed expects to face a difficult re-election campaign.

Republicans have lately been calling out Tester for his excessive claims of responsibility for legislation that was actually written by or sponsored by someone else. A website run by GOP politico Bill Livingstone called twofacetester.com goes into detail about Tester’s claims. You can decide for yourself how significant an oversight it is to claim you sponsored legislation when you actually were only a co-sponsor, but it’s certainly not something the senator really needs to do.

Clean it up, senator.

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