Robocall glitch misdirects thousands of calls to Arkansas Senate

(KATV) A glitch in a robocall commissioned by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families created major issues for the Arkansas Senate main phone line, tying up their resources and flooding their phone bank with thousands of calls from last Thursday through yesterday.

The glitch happened when the advocacy group commissioned Eton Inc. to make 1,000-1,500 calls a day to Arkansas cell phones with a recording about supporting the private option. Instead of showing Eton Inc as the caller ID, the phone showed the Arkansas Senate's main phone number as the caller ID. Thousands who missed the call, in turn, called back the Arkansas Senate.

"You look at your cell phone and oh I've missed a call and it's showing the senate main number, so they call us to try to see what we were needing," said Ann Cornwell, director of the Arkansas Senate.

Cornwell said the volume of people returning the missed call was overwhelming.

"Starting Thursday, hundreds. Our phone bank was totally bogged down. Thursday it started, all day Friday. I don't know about the weekend because we weren't here and then Monday it started again and I mean by the hundreds," said Cornwell.

Cornwell said the frequent calls made it difficult for her staff to conduct regular business especially surrounding the vote on the private option.

"They were on the phone constantly with this," she said.

Eton Inc. did not return calls to Channel 7 News, but in a letter to Sen. Jason Rapert said:

"We mistakenly included the Arkansas Senate Caller ID number in our outbound call. We sincerely apologize for this error and want you to rest assured that the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families had nothing to do with the error. This was an internal mistake and we take full responsibility."

A spokesperson for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said it was a mistake made by Eton and they were notified of the alleged mistake last night.

"As soon as we heard there was any kind of mix up, we called and made sure the calls stopped," said Gerard Matthews, spokesperson for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Rapert told Channel 7 News that he is looking into the matter.

"We all have a problem with the integrity of the Arkansas Senate being impugned in a way like this. And so I'm going to be checking on that. There are some that say it's not appropriate to mask a number," he said.

Rapert did receive official apologies from Eton Inc and the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

"Accidents do happen but it's very unusual that when someone is calling that receiver would show that number as coming from another source. That's the point that I don't know is proper and we're going to make sure we've got closure to this issue," Rapert said.

Channel 7's Elicia Dover will have more on this story at 5 and 6.