By
msnbc.com
updated 9/30/2003 8:32:02 AM ET 2003-09-30T12:32:02

The do-not-call registry allows you to prevent certain telemarketers from calling your number by just signing up on a list.

Fifty million people have already signed up. This was a political no-brainer, 412-8 in Congress, 95-0 in the Senate, the president signed it into law today. Who wants to be known as the politician who supported the telemarketing industry’s efforts to disturb our dinners?

I think it’s a great idea. The problem-the current law doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t prevent politicians or charities from calling, just commercial operations that you haven’t done business with in the past. I am no less annoyed when I get a politician’s fund-raising call than I am from someone trying to sell me copying machine equipment. At least with a commercial operation, I’m getting something for my money.

A federal judge has declared the law unconstitutional because it exempts nonprofits. The judge ruled the government can’t decide what types of speech people get to hear, that the government shouldn’t be in the business of choosing which organizations are subject to the law. So if Congress would just pass a law saying people can opt out of all telemarketing calls, it shouldn’t be a constitutional problem.

Look, I think it’s a close call as to whether the judge was right, whether the current bill violates the First Amendment. More leeway is often given to charities and it is the consumers who are deciding to block the calls, not the government.

But why not make it simple and non-controversial, allowing all of us to avoid getting phone calls from people we don’t know, no exceptions? We’ll figure out ways to donate to our favorite charity without being bothered by cold calls.

So next time you hear a politician supporting this law, saying it’s time to get telemarketers out of our homes, yell back, “I want you out, too.”

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