Intimidation alleged in state privacy issue;

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Lawmakers say group’s publishing of partial Social Security numbers is meant to influence the vote.

Orange County Register (California)

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers are accusing a consumer-rights group of intimidation for posting partial Social Security numbers for those who abstained or voted against privacy legislation. The lawmakers say the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights might have committed a felony – trying to influence the vote.

“It’s intimidation, but I don’t respond to threats like that,” said Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, D-San Fernando. She abstained. The organization’s executive director, Jamie Court, said he did nothing wrong except prove his point: “Nothing is private.”

“I wish they were this aggravated about what identity-theft victims feel before the vote,” Court said. He wants stronger legislation. “The real anger should be at the companies that sold the Social Security numbers for $26,” he said.

The state Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee voted 3-3 on SB1 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, which prevents banks from sharing private customer information. Five lawmakers abstained, and the bill needed seven votes to pass.

Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, said she was “appalled” by the consumer-rights group’s tactics and said they may have better proved their point in private. She did not believe, however, that publishing four digits of a Social Security number is illegal. Assemblyman Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, abstained on the bill. His Social Security number wasn’t published because the group could not find his information — but he fears they might. “The Social Security number is the key to your life. For groups to do this? It’s punishment.” he said.

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