Schuitmaker bill would make backers accountable for their robo-calls

LANSING, Mich.—Legislation mandating all election-related robo-calls to clearly state the name of the person paying for the call was recently introduced by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.

“It is important campaigns remain fair and honest,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Robo-calls play a large part in elections and the people of Michigan deserve to know who is paying for these communication campaigns.”

Michigan residents have increasingly been attacked through anonymous, automated telephonic communication, known as robo-calls. Many times these calls are repetitive and misleading. The targeted voter often does not know the origin of the call, and the voter is led into believing a particular person or organization is behind the call, when in fact they are not.

Currently, state law does not require a disclosure. Other media outlets such as television or newspaper advertisements require that candidates include taglines that disclose the funding behind the message.

“The state’s Campaign Finance Act needs to be updated so robo-calls and other new media are similarly disclosed,” said Schuitmaker.

Under Senate Bill 896, if the candidate does not authorize the automated phone calls then they must clearly state, “Not authorized by any candidate committee.” If the candidate or a relation of the candidate authorizes the calls then they also must clearly state, “Authorized by (name of candidate or name of candidate committee).”

This legislation will help shape the framework for fair campaign practices and campaign finance advertising.

SB 896 was referred to the Committee on Local Government and Elections for consideration.