Two right-wing fraudsters charged in an alleged robocall scheme to spread election misinformation in Michigan and other states are now facing a potential $5.1 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC alleges Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman made 1,141 robocalls in several key swing states in an attempt to sway last year’s presidential election in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The proposed penalty, if finalized, would be the largest fine imposed by the FCC for this violation.
The robocalls falsely claimed that voting by mail would result in people’s personal information being added to “a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts,” according to an FCC document.
Before a fine is levied, Wohl and Burkman have a chance to dispute the allegations.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged Wohl and Burkman in October 2020 with intimidating voters, conspiracy to commit an election law violation, and using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy and election law. Nessel alleges the men made automated calls to about 12,000 Detroit and suburban residents in August 2020, targeting voters of color in an attempt to discourage them from casting mail-in ballots.
The robocall states: “Mail-in voting sounds great, but did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts? The CDC is even pushing to use records for mail-in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines. Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man, stay safe and beware of vote by mail.”
My office has received a recording of a robocall targeting Detroit voters using racially-charged stereotypes and false information to deter voting by mail. It is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote. https://t.co/lgNEh8mtvf
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) August 27, 2020
The men, who have a history of spreading hoaxes and outlandish conspiracy theories, are awaiting trial in Wayne County Circuit Court.
“This massive fine properly reflects the seriousness of the allegations these two political operatives face,” Nessel said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Mr. Burkman and Mr. Wohl allegedly orchestrated a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the November general election. While my office will continue to pursue the criminal case against these men, I applaud the FCC for its action today.”
Wohl and Burkman have been removed from social media sites for making bogus claims, including manufacturing sexual-assault allegations against former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and former special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. They also falsely claimed Elizabeth Warren had a sexual relationship with an ex-Marine male escort.
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