State Legislator: Shoot the Telemarketers

The American Teleservices Association is returning fire against a Texas state legislator — the sponsor of a proposed do-not-call list law in the state — who said that if it were up to him, telemarketers would be shot.

The ATA quoted Texas state Rep. Burt Solomons in its e-mail newsletter and on its Web site as saying, “If it was up to me personally, we'd be shooting telemarketers out in the street.”

Solomons, R-Carrollton, said yesterday that he said something along the lines of, “If it were up to me, we would shoot telemarketers.”

He did not apologize for the remark, saying that most people would tend to agree with the statement and “despise telemarketers calling them at home and trying to sell them something.

“I'm not apologizing for something I said in the heat of the debate,” Solomons said. “They're trying to vilify the bill to begin with. Now they're trying to pick on me personally.”

In its newsletter, the ATA blasted Solomons for making the statement.

“As the voice of the telemarketing industry, ATA takes offense at Mr. Solomons' inflammatory statement,” the ATA said in the newsletter. “Given recent instances of tragic violence in our schools and at the workplace, it is incomprehensible that an elected office would make such an irresponsible statement.”

Solomons is the primary sponsor of a bill in the Texas House of Representatives that calls for the creation of a DNC list in the state. Solomons' proposal passed by a 137-3 vote in the House April 5, and its companion bill in the Senate is currently being reviewed.

Texas is a battleground state for the teleservices industry because it has the second-largest population in the United States. Thirty-three states — including California, which has the largest population in the nation — have proposed DNC list legislation this year, although only one, Wyoming, has passed such a bill.

The ATA first learned of Solomons' comments when Matt Mattingley, ATA government affairs director, was contacted by WOAI, a San Antonio news radio station, for a story on the day Solomons' bill passed, said Kevin Brosnahan, association spokesman. The station played Mattingley a tape of Solomons' comments, and Mattingley registered his concern.

Brosnahan said Solomons should stick to debating the issues and should not resort to talk about committing violence against those with whom he disagrees.

“I understand people lose their temper,” Brosnahan said. “But that is unacceptable. If that's the way he is going to try to pass this legislation, then we're doubly against it.”

Solomons said the ATA's real motivation for attacking his statement was to draw attention away from the real issue: the merits of his proposed DNC bill. He called telemarketers “hypocritical” for arguing on one hand that the industry does not want to call consumers who do not want telemarketing calls, but then opposing DNC lists.

“They're running really scared that Texas may pass a do-not-call bill,” Solomons said. “If that's the best they can come up with why we shouldn't pass a DNC bill, so be it.”

The ATA has asked its members in Texas to contact their state legislators concerning Solomons' statement, Brosnahan said. Lawmakers need to know about the tone that the debate over the DNC list bill has taken, he said.

“It's become personal, somewhat childish,” Brosnahan said. “We want everybody to know about that.”

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