Editorial: Right to Know

“Maria” was on the line two weeks ago calling on behalf of some New York Police Benevolent Association. I asked whether she worked for the PBA. She said no. (She is required to tell callers this.) I asked how much of the money actually goes to the charity. She said she didn’t have an exact percentage. (Gray area on whether this must be disclosed.) I said give me a ballpark figure. She declined to answer and gave me a toll-free number to call. I asked what company she worked for. Again, she declined to answer and transferred me to her supervisor. After being on hold for what I thought was long enough, I hung up.

Less than an hour later, “Tom” called on the PBA’s behalf, not knowing about my earlier conversation. I started into my questions again, but he cut me off and said a mailer would be on its way explaining everything. At work the next day, I called the number Maria gave me and was greeted with a generic message. No company name, just “Leave your name and number and someone will get back with you shortly.” (Two weeks later, I’m still waiting for a return call and the mail piece.) Curious though, I “Googled” the number and came up with a name for the company: New Jersey-based All-Pro Telemarketing Associates Corp., which – according to its Web site – specializes in servicing law enforcement, firefighter, veterans and nonprofit organizations.

Searching further, I also discovered that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued All-Pro last fall for the alleged use of deceptive practices to raise $5.8 million for the New York State Fraternal Order of State Troopers. On top of that, the company had already settled another case with the state in 1996. Because of this, Spitzer wants All-Pro banned from all fundraising in New York. Last month, a judge denied All-Pro’s motion to have the case dismissed. Spitzer also has proposed legislation requiring professional fundraisers to disclose accurate information concerning the proportion of funds the charity they’re soliciting for has received in past campaigns, though this may not get far since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld fundraisers’ free speech rights earlier this year.

Three states have debuted bills concerning where a telemarketing call is coming from. Personally, I don’t care where the call’s coming from. I’d rather know if my state is trying to ban the telemarketer doing the soliciting. Or maybe I should just sign up for the do-not-call list.

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