Gay county commissioner target of 20,000 automated messages designed to discredit him
OKLAHOMA CITY A federal judge ruled Tuesday, Jan. 9, that a political consultant who is a former state House member violated the law by initiating 20,000 automated, prerecorded telephone calls targeting a gay Oklahoma County commissioner, the attorney general’s office said.
U.S. District Judge Robin J. Cauthron ruled that the phone calls initiated by Tim Pope violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act because they did not identify the organization placing the call.
Commissioner Jim Roth had asked state officials to check whether any laws had been broken by the calls, in which a female caller said Roth was “advancing a homosexual agenda in Oklahoma County.”
The calls were made in January 2006.
A single violation of the federal act could result in a $500 fine. A hearing will be held in February to determine the amount of damages due to the state.
Pope has maintained he did nothing wrong. He did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment on Cauthron’s opinion.
“Pope’s call did not identify any organization and he failed to provide a telephone number,” said Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma attorney general. “Clearly those omissions violate federal law. Today’s ruling says our office is correct in its interpretation and application of the statute.”
Pope had maintained the case against him was politically motivated.
Cauthron denied Pope’s claims that the statute violates his First Amendment right to free speech.
“This is about the method, not the message,” the judge said. “Mr. Pope can say anything he wants, he just has to follow the law when he uses the telephone to say it.”
Pope is chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Assembly, a conservative group that endorses candidates.
Roth is the longtime partner of Dallas businessman Worth Ross.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, January 12, 2006.