A pro-casino group called hundreds of constituents of Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo last week using the caller ID of of the Miami Republican's Tallahassee office.
After more than 250 calls came into Trujillo's office at a rapid fire pace, and another 50 people who left messages on his overwhelmed office line, the House asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged unauthorized use of the lawamaker's state office number.
"People would call me and say, 'Stop calling me on behalf of the casinos,''' Trujillo said. "I'd say what do you mean. They'd say they were called and, if they support [House bill] 487, then please call their representative."
It is not clear whether the practice, known as spoofing, is illegal. The state banned the practice of misusing caller ID in 2008, but a federal court in Miami overturned the law in 2009. Trujillo said he believes it is still on the books.
Trujillo said he heard from people who were called on their home phone lines, their cell phones and their businesses. One woman called and asked him to stop calling her elderly mother, who had received several calls from his phone number.
He said the biggest challenge was trying to explain to people, especially the senior citizens that don't speak English, that some kinds of technology can mask the actual phone number.
"Trying to explain to somebody's grandmother that it's really not you calling their phone and her looking at her caller ID and saying, 'No. It's really you. I see your number," was "the hardest part,'' he said. Often, he said, he'd just have to give up "and tell them he'd try to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Trujillo was targeted because he is one of 10 members of the House Economic Affairs Committee, which is expected to take up House Bill 487 sponsored by Rep. Erik Fresen next week. The measure will bring three mega resort casinos to Florida and impose a new regulatory structure over gambling in Florida.
Cory Tilley, spokesman for Genting Americas, which is one of the promoters of the casino legislation, said the company had no knowledge of the phone calls.
Trujillo said "his mind is made up'' to oppose the bill "unless something drastic changes with the way it is written -- which has been known to happen." But the tactics, he said, have further soured him on the prospects of the bill.
"It's win at all costs -- rape, pillage, whatever it takes to get it done,'' he said. "Which also shows you that maybe there is something that some people are missing who are supporting this."
Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, chairman of the committee, said he has also received calls from constituents who received postcards in the mail urging them to call him to seek his support for the bill. The measure backfired, however, he said as the nearly 50 calls he received came from people urging him to oppose the bill.
Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 6:55:24 pm on January 25, 2012