NIAGARA FALLS — Sen. George Maziarz is being accused of hypocrisy by his challenger in this September's primary for the Republican line in the state senate's 62nd District over the exemption of politicians in legislation that regulates "robo calling."
Johnny Destino, R-Niagara Falls, circulated a press release this week pointing out the absence of political robo calls in the legislation, which was co-sponsored by Maziarz, R-Newfane, who is the chairman of the State Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
"The only calls that Senator Maziarz sees fit to allow you to receive are calls from his campaign and the politicians," Destino said in the press release.
Destino said that he would make sure that laws for businesses apply to politicians as well.
"As your senator, I would make sure that when a law is passed it will apply equally to all parties, including the very politicians who create these laws and exempt themselves," he said.
But Maziarz said that legislators tried to include political calls in the bill only to be told by the Federal Communications Commission that to limit political calls would be a suppression of free speech.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that politicians were not included in the law because the FCC is the governing body that regulates political calls, not the state, at a press conference where he signed the bill into law on Tuesday.
Maziarz said that he doesn't use robo calls for campaigning, but that his political opponents do.
"I think it's ironic that there are a bunch of robo calls going out from Johnny Destino saying negative things about me," Maziarz said.
Maziarz uses robo calls, but only to inform his constituents of community events like drop-off days for items such as electronics, expired pharmaceuticals and paper work with sensitive information to be destroyed, he said.
"I use them for community notification," Maziarz said.
The senator said that the only calls he makes to constituents as part of his campaign are what he called "tele-town hall meetings" where he calls voters in a town and answers questions. Costs related to those phone calls are not paid for by the taxpayers.
"It comes from my campaign or my own pocket," Maziarz said.
Destino denied Maziarz's charge that his campaign was administering the robo calls with negative messages about Maziarz in a phone interview. He said that there may be independent groups sending out the calls but none were coming from his camp.
"We have people sending out calls from our headquarters but those are all live calls," Destino said.
Destino said that if the FCC did not allow for political robo calls to be banned on the basis of free speech then businesses should be allowed to continue the practice as well and that the law reinforces the notion that New York state is an inhospitable place for businesses.
"There could be just as legitimate of a reason for a company to send out those calls as a politician," Destino said.