Let Freedom Ring, Ring, Ring in His War against Telemarketers, Bob Bulmash Has Lost a Wife, Two Cars and Several Acres of Land. but Followers Swear by His Methods - and Win Money with Them
Reese, Joel, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Joel Reese Daily Herald Staff Writer
Give Bob Bulmash your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ... of telemarketers.
Give Bulmash a single mother who must leave her screaming young child alone in the soapy bathtub water to answer the phone, only to find someone hawking aluminum siding.
Give Bulmash this woman and thousands like her, for he will strike a blow for justice on her behalf. His weapons? The sword of truth, the flame of freedom, the shield of liberty.
"It's not that they're doing it against me," he says in his whiskey-rough voice. "It's that they're doing it against my 62-year-old aunt, your 82-year-old grandmother. The guy who works at night and sleeps during the day and gets woken up by the phone."
In this case, the "it" Bulmash refers to is disrupting our lives with calls and junk mail. "They" includes everyone in the nefarious sales industry who views every "hello" as a near-sale, every "no" as almost a "yes."
For nearly 10 years, Bulmash has been waging a nonstop battle against the telemarketing industry. The 53-year-old Warrenville resident has spent countless hours in law libraries researching obscure minutiae about various legislation.
He's written to the presidents of companies and conducted long-running battles with the legal departments of corporations. He has even tracked down telemarketers so he could berate them for calling him at home.
He's testified before the legislatures of states including California, Georgia, Texas, Maryland and Illinois. He's appeared on TV shows ranging from CNN to "Nightline" to "Today" (twice).
He even formed his own company, Private Citizen Inc., to fight the good fight full time.
"I'm not mad, I'm incensed," he says. "I'm like a 3-ton dog chasing a car down the street. I don't know what I'm going to do once I get the car, but I'm compelled to chase it."
He's gotten proficient enough at this to have won some money, too. Not so much for himself - he's too busy, he says - but for others. Members of Private Citizen who have used Bulmash's methods have won up to $4,500 in court skirmishes. (Out-of-court settlements as a result of telemarketing calls have gone as high as $45,000, Bulmash says.)
But Bulmash has also lost quite a bit as well. In the process of battling the telemarketing industry, Bulmash's second wife divorced him.
"I was spending too much time on this," says Bulmash, who has the heavy-lidded eyes of a chain smoker (Kool Milds) and the impish grin of a perpetual subversive. "Nice girl, but ... whatever."
He also lost a van, a Fiat Spyder convertible sports car, his IRA and five acres in northwest Montana, all to keep Private Citizen going.
That's not to say that he laments his losses.
"Somebody had to do this," he says, shrugging his slight shoulders. "It just happened to be me."
Get mad, get even
A native of Chicago's Northwest Side, Bulmash wasn't always crusading against the telemarketing world, which he describes as "America's most annoying pest since the invention of the house fly."
He attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a degree in marketing. He spent two years at Chicago-Kent College of Law, but left a few credits short of a degree.
Bulmash drifted between jobs for a while. He taught math at a couple of grade schools in Chicago, then became an auditor for the tollway system. His job was to drive to various toll booths, check the take, and make sure that amount matched the paperwork.
Eventually he became a salesman, peddling industrial gearboxes to manufacturing companies. It was a decent job, paid pretty well, provided good benefits.
Then he received a call from a telemarketer.
"It was one of those 'You win a free vacation - you just have to pay $4,000 for the airfare to St. …