by Max Brantley
A blog post early this morning has morphed into an episodic monster. But I call attention to it because of additional parts that have been added through the day.
It's about the legality of recorded campaign phone calls, which are becoming a fact of life in state political campaigns large and small. A state law, perhaps unconstitutional, says many are illegal.
It's about partisan endorsements in non-partisan judicial races, clearly barred by the judicial ethics code but perhaps unconstitutionally.
In a larger sense, it's about intrusive recorded calls and the wisdom of non-partisan judicial races becoming de facto partisan contests. (I can remember when Republicans wanted a judge elected as a Democrat in Pulaski County to be removed from an election case. I wonder if they'd feel the same way today should Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway, with her Republican contributions, connections and self-advertised GOP endorsement, be the presiding jurist?)
I also got Attorney General McDaniel on the phone about the existence of a state statute banning automated calls that appear to be in wide use.
Why not get it off the books. “A valid question,” he said. McDaniel said he’d used robocalling himself in his legislative days, but not since becoming attorney general, which was when he learned of the statute’s existence. He said there are valid concerns about constitutionality of the ban and federal pre-emption.
“Nobody wants to have a law on the books that is unenforceable or simply selectively not enforced,” he said. But it's been a low priority. He said some interest was growing, including from prosecutors, about changing the law. Prosecutors don’t want to be used politically for random complaints, particularly with the constitutional questions.
Maybe in 2011.