Wisconsin Lawmakers Seek To Criminalize Prank Phone Calls That Make Scott Walker Look Bad

Last week, Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast won the week when he called up Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and pretended to be billionaire David Koch. We were pretty impressed by the level of access afforded to the influential Koch dealer. You go ahead and try to get a governor on the phone for a long and rambling conversation that easily, powerful teachers' unions!

Wisconsin lawmakers at the center of the conflagration over Walker's "budget repair" bill have been quick to address the problem that lies at the heart of the Koch prank call, and are responding to it by moving to criminalize prank phone calls:

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, and Rep. Mark Honadel, R-Milwaukee, authored a bill that would prohibit tricking the call's recipient into believing the caller is someone they are not for malicious purposes.

"While use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it can also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud," Lazich and Honadel said in an e-mail to legislators.

The bill language forbids a caller from intentionally providing a false phone number and convincing the person receiving the call that it comes from someone other than the actual caller.

The bill would make it illegal to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain any information of value from using a caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information. It would also prohibit individuals from masking their voices or providing a fake phone number to the call recipient, said Jason Vick, spokesperson for Honadel.

Aren't there already laws against fraud and harassment and terrifying people in Wisconsin? Because this sort of makes it look like legislators are primarily motivated by the need to make "making Scott Walker look stupid" a criminal offense.

According to the Badger Herald, this measure "is not yet scheduled for a committee hearing." So for anyone out there who wants to call up the statehouse to give tips on where they might find the fugitive Democratic lawmakers, as Second City comedian Andy Cobb suggests in the video below, there's still time before such japery is subject to criminal penalties.

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