Capitol Chaos: Lawmakers Push Outlaw of Phony Caller ID

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two Republican legislators in Wisconsin are trying to outlaw the use of phony caller ID services -- but deny it has anything to do with a recent high-profile prank call to Gov. Scott Walker.

A bill being circulated by Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin and Rep. Mark Honadel of Milwaukee would prohibit anyone from attempting to "defraud, cause harm, or gain anything of value" by generating a fake phone number to appear on a recipient's caller ID.

Honadel said it was simply coincidental timing and had no connection to a prank phone call made by blogger Ian Murphy to Walker last month in which the governor was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, promising never to give in and joking that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.

Murphy held the 20-minute phone conversation with Walker while posing as campaign contributor billionaire David Koch.

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Congress passed a similar bill outlawing the caller ID technique, called "phone spoofing," in 2010. Services such as Spooftel and SpoofCard bridge the call, allowing a caller to generate the number that appears on the recipient's caller ID. Honadel co-sponsored legislation last session after a local news station successfully spoofed his phone while cameras captured the incident.

"Last session, we saw it as a very legitimate piece of legislation," Honadel said. "We never even put two and two together."

He also said that Murphy had committed fraud and the case of the governor's call "would probably end up in court."

Murphy scoffed at that, telling the Associated Press that he called Walker's office using Skype, not a spoofing service.

"The introduction of the anti-prank call bill in Wisconsin is cowardly and stupid," Murphy said in an e-mail. "And to say it has nothing to do with my call, as they have, is indicative of their endemic dishonesty."

Honadel said that while the bill would allow law enforcement to go after those making the calls, it would more likely target companies that provided spoofing technology.

The bill would exempt law enforcement and government agencies from the provision.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)