Thursday, February 08, 2007

Indiana Equality Recorded Calls Appear To Violate Indiana Law

Lots of folks fed up with unwanted solicited phone calls have obtained protection by signing up with the Indiana Attorney General's office to placed on Indiana's No-Call list, thereby making it illegal for solicitors to telephone you. Other businesses and political campaigns were reminded last year of an even older Indiana law which prohibits automated calls -- those that are made by automated dialing machines and deliver a recorded message -- except under certain conditions.

Someone at Indiana Equality must have forgotten to check out this law before it began making automated calls this week. The organization is sending out automated calls from its president, Jon Keep, informing people about a Lobbying A Legislator training session on February 19, followed by a State House rally later in the day. Keep urges people in the recorded message to register for the event online at www.indianaequality.org, or to call 1-888-564-0750 to register.

Last year, Attorney General Steve Carter fined six Indiana companies a total of more than $5 million for violating the state's pre-recorded message statute. He also sued campaign organizations of both political parties for violating the law. But only after Carter had put campaign organizations on notice he intended to strictly enforce the law. Unless the recipients of the automated calls from IE this week voluntarily requested or consented to receiving such calls, each such automated call would represent a violation of Indiana law. Violations of the law constitute a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Automated call services can also be a very costly way of reaching people. Some might question the wisdom of such an expenditure for this purpose. An e-mail is a much cheaper way to reach a person, and it's free.

27 comments:

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Can we assume you are going to report this trangression to Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to deal with? First it's unsolicited telephone calls, next it's broken windows, then it's peashake houses and it all ends up with drive-by shootings!

Protect us from over-zealous homosexuals!

Advance Indiana said...

Get your own blog, Wilson, if you don't like it. I've never seen such an obsession. You're logged on to this blog at all hours of the day. Don't you have anything better to do with your time?

Anonymous said...

are you surprised? look how many problems IE's lobbyist has had complying with the lobbyist rules.

Anonymous said...

I think but I'm not sure, that the compliance with the law may depend on the origin of the call lists, to some degree.

If IE is calling their members, isn't that OK?

Which invites another question: how does one become an IE member? I logged into their website five times and asked to be involved and got nothing.

I think it's a pretty small club. Well-intentioned, but small.

Anonymous said...

Nearly 10,000 names are on the IE list-- please try again, anonymous.

Is it illiegal to call your own list? Names gathered over the years through various events and functions?

Advance Indiana said...

IE does not allow general membership as other organizations do. That would require opening up the organization. Any list of names it has are just that--a list of names. It is and always has consisted of a handful of individuals who have deliberately closed off the organization from the general community. I've actually contributed money to the organization in the past, but I have never been recognized as a member or permitted to participate in a general meeting where the members can select board members and officers.

Anonymous said...

I'm on Eric Miller's list and IE's list. I'm not a member of either organization.

Jeff Newman said...

IE is a coalition of statewide organizations, not a "small club." The board is made up of representatives of these various organizanations which are divided up into regions.

For those who are bitching about not being a "member" as though you're locked out of some exclusive country club, you are represented by whatever coalition member organization(s) you belong to.

It really bugs me to see all of the IE bashing by our own community that goes on in the blogs and on listserv, and it also bugs me that people who ought to know don't even seem to understand that IE is a coalition.

No, they are not above criticism. But right now they are what we have to work with. None of the people throwing rocks at them have come up with a viable altertnative that I have seen.

In addition, one of IE's biggest problems is underfunding. So you guys all paint them as a f***ed up organization, people read what you write, and they donate elsewhere.

Then it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.

So you all can enjoy your self-satisfied "told you so's" as we descend into second-class citizenship. Thanks for your efforts.

Jeff Newman said...

btw, 6:09 writes:

I logged into their website five times and asked to be involved and got nothing.

I went to the website at www.indianequality.org can clicked on a great big button at the top of the screen that says "Join Indiana Equality" and it took me to webform to fill out.

The other huge button at the top that says "Get Informed" took me to a page with several places to to go to enter my name, email, etc.

I don't know how they could have made it any easier to find.

Advance Indiana said...

Jeff, With all due respect, IE did not allow representatives of any of these so-called coalition groups to sit on their board until a secret election took place a couple of months ago. I'm told some didn't even learn they were a member of IE's board until an e-mail was sent out announcing the new board. I sat on one of those regional advisory groups, and it was a big joke. We were all told we had to sign a confidentiality statement prohibiting us from discussing items discussed at the meetings, which essentially meant that the group representative couldn't go back and discuss issues discussed at the meeting with the organization they were supposedly representing. IE has always been operated by self-appointed leaders who want to dictate to the rest of us what's going to happen. They conduct their little secret meetings and say trust us. IE deserves every bit of the criticsm they've received. When you shit all over and disparage everyone who comes up through the ranks who poses a threat to your own grasp on power (if you want to call it that), you shouldn't be surprised by the things people say about your organization.

Jeff Newman said...

My problem with the criticism is not the citicism itself, but the dirty-laundry fashion in which it is aired. You don't see the right-wing groups attacking our organizations; they don't have to. They just laugh and watch us self-destruct.

Gary, if you REALLY think that taking IE down right now is the right thing to do, then take them down. But what do we have for an alternative? Rock Indiana?

I just don't see where publicly discrediting Indiana Equality is in our best interest.

Advance Indiana said...

Jeff, They don't need any help bringing IE down. They're doing a good enough job of that already. I'm too familiar with their actions to know they aren't advancing GLBT rights in this state through their actions. As for the Christian right, they don't speak with one voice. I can't count how many different statewide organizations they have now.

David Hunter said...

Mr. Newman, why should I give to an organization that may very well be incompetent with my money?

You don't know much about philanthropy, sir, if you expect donors to flock to an organization suspected of breaking the law just because you brow-beat them and say such inspiring things as "they are what we have to work with."

And a self-fulfilling prophecy would mean the gay community thinks it's hopeless, or even wants to lose. I don't think that's so. I think they want to win, but might just be fed up with the apparent problems and secrecy at IE.

I once attended a meeting with IE and some reps from Fort Wayne. It was an open discussion. Perhaps if there were more of those, legislators or not, the community might be better assured.

I know I'd be willing to volunteer for a smaller, community-focused rally. Question-and-answer type stuff; open debate. Sounds like fun.

Jeff Newman said...

Go for it. Start a statewide organization. Incorporate, get your 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 status, hire your lobbyist, put a board together, organize your meetings and retreats (out in the open of course), hold your annual meeting with elections, put your public education campaign together, gather a 10,000 name database, establish your legitimacy with the legislature and other legislative bodies, build a comprehensive interactive website, organize your volunteers and get them engaged, organize State House rallies, raise the hundres of thousands of dollars that are needed to fight our well-funded opposition.

Did I miss anything? Call me when you're all set up, I'll be glad to send you a check.

Jerame Davis said...

OK. I usually refrain from commenting on this blog because it tends to be counter-productive. However, while I have my own bitches about IE, I do not like having misinformation lying about in regard to them as I seem to be inextricably tied to the organization.

As a former leadership team member and current board alternate, I think some of the criticisms of IE are valid. There are some of us who have worked very hard to make changes in the organization to varying degrees of success. Please don't denigrate all of us...Some of us are good intentioned people who know we need an organization LIKE IE and have tried very hard to make it the best community organization possible.

With that said, I'd like to take Gary to task for some misinformation.

First, IE has had elected board members for the past two years - ever since it became an organization and not a loose coalition. I was elected (not appointed or chosen) as a board member in 2005. I served part of a year in 2005 and a full year in 2006 when I was re-elected and also elected communications chair.

IE has bylaws which state that board members can only be from a coalition member organization or regional steering committee. ANY organization that agrees to IE's principles of equality for LGBT citizens may petition to join the coalition and start sending a board representative. Anyone at any time. That is exactly what IAN did a year and a half ago in order to get our foot in the door to try to effect some change.

Only representatives from other organizations can be board members. This is a vestige of IE's roots as a coalition of groups rather than being it's own entity, which also happened in 2006.

Also, there was no secret election, Gary. The IE board is perpetual...A member organization, once joined, is a permanent member of IE unless they resign or are voted out. The only election that took place was of officers. The board elects the officers of the organization and that's what happened at the so-called secret election. 5 people were elected to 5 positions in front of about 30 people. It wasn't terribly secret if you know about it, was it?

I know of no one who is a board member who wasn't aware they were a board member. If so, that is the fault of their parent organization, not IE. The coalition organization appoints (or elects or chooses in some manner THEY see fit) its own representatives to the board. If they did not inform their member that they were now the IE rep, that's not IE's fault.

Gary, your problem in Region 8 was an unwillingness to engage in real debate. The confidentiality statement that you complain about was amended by me at my (and Bil's and several other folks') urging. The manner in which it was originally written was indeed too restrictive. We changed it, but you were already gone in a tiff before you could know that had happened. You didn't give anyone a chance to fix the problem, you just left. Since I wrote the fix for this policy and I was one of the many others who thought the policy was over the top, I think I can speak on that with authority.

Further, had you remained a region 8 member, you would have been entitled to attend those "super secret board meetings" at any time. Hell, you could have ran as an officer in Region 8 and even become the Region 8 board representative or alternate. You chose, instead, to leave. You cannot fix an organization by throwing firebombs from the outside.

IE is still too closed for my tastes, but they are an infinitely better organization than when I joined 2 years ago. There have been a lot of new faces join IE that have made at least some of the changes necessary.

Again, Gary, I think some of your criticisms are spot on...I don't want to comment on the merits of any specific issues, but you do yourself and our community a disservice when you say things that aren't necessarily factual. As a lawyer, you should know that you can't build a case on false claims and outlandish misrepresentations.

David Hunter said...

Newman...

Golly, I guess you showed me. Except I incorporated a for-profit corporation, wrote advertising contracts, solicited writers, trained volunteers, learned page design from scratch, setup financing, sold ads, and wrote a good 50% of every issue of the Fort Wayne LGBT magazine I published called Progress Indiana. We published four issues over a year, between 2-4,000 copies a pop, and distributed in both Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. I got the idea to do this because I criticized the other paper in Fort Wayne and someone said to me "well I don't see you doing any better."

Anyway, your list doesn't scare me. I did the magazine at the end of my college education, when I'd also run a gay student group, fought passive discrimination at IPFW, and was active in the local community center.

Your argument that IE should be free from public criticism because no one else is doing what they are is juvenile and counter-productive. If the criticism is warranted (and I think double-dealing lobbyists and breaking the law warrants criticism), the criticism is helpful, and any argument to the contrary is likely to be more beneficial to the egos of our leaders than to our community.

I know you didn't know any of this, but now you do. I've earned the right to criticize because I've stepped up. I could start a new organization, but I don't think that would be productive. Joining, helping, and improving what we have now is time better spent; that's what I was proposing. To say "no, don't want your help, don't need it, go start your own if you don't like it" is selfish and idiotic.

You think they deserve to operate freely, without criticism, just because no one else did all the work they did? Where does their money come from?

IE is to be respected for the hard work they've put in. But that doesn't mean they should get a blank check and a blanket of comfort from our dissatisfaction with incompetent actions.

Advance Indiana said...

Jerame, there is a lot I could say to respond to that, but it would prove too embarrassing to IE and take more time than I care to devote right now to explaining it.

Anonymous said...

Jerame's observations were instructive. Thank you. There's someone who saw inappropriate actions, tried to get involved, and tried to fix it. Clumsy, maybe, but excellent effort.

To the individual who said they went to IE's website, that's what I did, too. The click definitely said "Join IE." Maybe I need help with the word "Join," but that's what I thought I did. Repeatedly, over a five-month period. I gave up. I decided they don't really want my opinion or help or elbow grease or money.

IE may be better than it was two years ago, Jerame. That doesn't mean it's good. By a long shot. They raised, by their latest-available annual report (2004, I think), $35-40K to spend on grassroots lobbying and other efforts. That's not a small amount of money.

And who would ever, EVER even think of putting together a "Confidentiality Statement" to attend a meeting of this type? That's just whack. The genius who dreamed up that strategy needs to go to work for the Marion County Coroner. Sounds like the same logic.

Many of us have ties to legislators which we will utilize in the coming weeks to try to defeat this insane Amendment. IE surrendered the high ground on this issue when it didn't scream at Bauer's decision last September. Screaming is seldom effective...last Sept. given Bauer's about-face, it was apprpriate and demanded. At best, IE can now only do a lock-step rear-guard action. That can be effective, but it does not represent our community very well.

And that is the lot we are given at this point. We'll work with it, because we have to. Airing our laundry isn't pretty, but keeping it buried is worse.

We'll get through this. We have to. IE's actions have made that more difficult, but not impossible.

Jeff Newman said...

David Hunter writes:

To say "no, don't want your help, don't need it, go start your own if you don't like it" is selfish and idiotic.

I re-read the stuff I wrote and can't find where I said that. On the contrary, you sound like a talented and energetic young man, and I would encourage you to get involved in IE or one of its member organizations. You would be a much more effective advocate for change and improvement on the inside than on the outside.

Chris Douglas said...

Since this seems to be the venue for a little bit of a discussion, I'm going to go ahead and comment, though I'm afraid I'm going to get my eyebrows singed.

I am among those who requested that all adhere to a confidentiality agreement when I was on the board of IE. I was bringing sensitive information to the table involving the trust of others, much of which could be misused by people with a political, rather than an activist, agenda. I was hyper-sensitive at that time because of a barrage of anonymous attacks upon my character taking place on the listserv, gayindy.org (to relive old and unpleasant memories). These attacks were occurring precisely at the time that close associates of the individuals responsible were trying to get a seat at the table. I considered then, and consider now, that anonymous attacks against character are a sign of bad faith. In that environment, only a confidentiality agreement could ensure that everyone sitting at the table was bound to a standard of good faith.

Confidentiality agreements have another purpose, too. We aren't Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average. Given an average level of stupidity, there are people who are more stupid and people who are less stupid. A confidentiality agreement means that no one member of the coalition could usurp the interests of all other organizations by misusing information in a stupid way. That agreement means that the coalition acts on consensus, and in a way that is less stupid, rather than more stupid.

Every organization that joins does so with the implicit understanding that it must raise money and it must agree to abide by the informed community consensus that gathers through IE. In my opinion, anyone who refuses to sign a confidentiality agreement might be liked and respected, but not trusted as a coalition member, for it means that individual reserves the right to act against the consensus of the organizations of the coalition. EVERY member of the coalition implicitly surrendered some control by joining.

I have not been on the board of Indiana Equality for a long time. I left when I felt my reputation had become a detriment to the organization's mission. But I think Indiana Equality remains the only hope that Indiana has of defeating SJR-7. Because it is made up of organizations, who are in turn led by humans, it has always been easy to find fault with IE. To find the faults in IE is to find the faults that are in all of us.

IE has my support.

Advance Indiana said...

Well, Jeff, I'm affecting change on the outside and enjoying every minute of it. Nobody's going to dictate to me what I must think, particularly people who can't hold a candle to my experience and knowledge with public policy advocacy.

Anonymous said...

Chris, your explanation is valuable. Your description of IE reminds me of a friend's description of a camel: a horse designed by committee.

The viciousness you experienced is unfortunate. Confidentiality agreements, as any attorney will tell you, usually aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Although I kind of understand why you asked it, the fact that you had to, indicates IE was already dysfunctional at the time, and it's gotten worse in that regard, not better. It's a paper tiger.

IE does not have my support. I'm not going to torpedo it, but it's not the kind of organization that has earned my support, frankly. Quite the opposite. I'm going to ignore it. I don't want my name associated with it.

Any gay group that gives Pat Bauer a pass on the Amendment vote, is ignoring their base. Hugely. It was a naive and stupid political move, and we all hope it doesn't backfire.

Frankly, another word I might use, is lazy. When we heard the Bauer was considering a flip on his long-time stance, the hard job would've been to convince him he didn't dare flip. Most of my very-active gay political friends are incredulous that IE acted the way they did. It was, frankly, malpractice under the guise of "Pat had to do it for his caucus." Baloney.

And part of the problem is, their ability to reach out and hear the gay community's voice, to take their pulse, is greatly muffled by their silly structure. As an coalition of groups, they were able to open up a board slot for a brand-new group Jeramie started...and that group, while well-intentioned, is much smaller than some of the other at the table, yet as a brand-new group, they immediately got an equal vote? That's no way to run a lobbying group. Or any group.

They cannot, and should not, claim to represent anyone other than four separate groups. And I've talked with members of two of those groups, who recall nothing about "sending" representatives to IE's board.

Do you see a pattern here?

To top it off, this group is spending a decent sum of money on lobbying, and if we are to beleive lobbying reports, which are notoriously inept, some of the Board is also getting paid.

It's a mess. It needs light shined on it. And the end result will be fine.

Because the effort here is pure--to stand up for people who are about to be run over by a steam shovel of lousy public policy.

And we'll do it. IE will do some tap-dancing around the edge, and it won't hurt. The real effective voices will be the hundreds (thousands?) of run-of-the-mill gay people who tell their Representatives they work, vote, pay taxes, worship, recreate and participate in their communities. Just like everyone else.

And we resent this hammer in the face approach of an Amendment.

ANONYMOUS III said...

I see that in the 24 hours since Advance Indiana first posted its assertion concerning IE's alleged violation of the automatic telephone call statute, it's mostly turned into a general bruhaha pro and con over IE generally. At the risk of getting lost near the bottom of the comment list, I just want to point out that the statute in question, Indiana Code 24-5-14, has a couple of provisions that ought to be considered before declaring IE guilty in its callings.

IC 24-4-14-5 exmpts calls where the person called "...has knowingly, or voluntarily requested, consented to, permitted or authorized receipt of the message". It also exempts messages to persons "with whom the caller has a current business or personal relationship." I understand that IE has gone to some length, both in gathering names for its lists and on its website, to indicate that the names will be used only to inform the individuals of its events, etc. Contrast this to the mass callings of political parties under conditions far from this type of process. Certainly the law might be clearer as to just what constitutes its exceptions, because people ought to know exactly where the line is. It seems to me IE, in calling people who have givin it their names under these conditions, deserves at least the benefit of the doubt, and not the kind of sensational dammnation you give it in this area. A little more legal research and statute reading does wonders.

Advance Indiana said...

Anon 8:21, I have read the statute and am familiar with those two exceptions. I in fact noted in my post it would be permitted if the recipients had given their consent to such calls. Maybe some of the recipients did give their consent, but I can assure you there were people who received the calls who did not give their consent. An attorney who knows far more about this particular law than me completely concurred with my post. I'm also told that some people's names wound up on the list under the ruse of signing up to send a message to Gov. Daniels. Beyond the legality, it was an absolute poor use of funds. There is a list serve and a huge database of e-mail contacts, not to mention other Internet media to get out the message without the expense, without causing unwarranted intrusion and at far less the expense.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:21 said, "It seems to me IE, in calling people who have givin it their names under these conditions, deserves at least the benefit of the doubt, and not the kind of sensational dammnation you give it in this area."

Many people on that list didn't give their names to IE. IE got their names from other organizations without the person's knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing my a-- off because I Asked to be on IE's list, volunteered to help, submitted my name multiple times, and got nothing.

So, evidently, Ind. Equality's use of the "Join" tab on their website, is selective.