The Slatest

FCC Proposes $5 Million Fine for Right-Wing Conspiracists’ Vote-Suppressing Election Robocalls

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman walking and talking while a cameraman follows.
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman sowing chaos in 2018 pushing absurd allegations against then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The Federal Communications Commission is going after right-wing stunt conspiracists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, proposing a $5 million fine as a penalty for a deluge of vote-suppressing robocalls ordered by the pair ahead of the 2020 election. The proposed fine, which Wohl and Burkman can still appeal, is the largest ever proposed by the FCC as an anti-robocall measure. The twentysomething Wohl and his partner-in-(alleged) crime conservative political activist Jack Burkman are no strangers to absurd smear campaigns and media stunts, concocting elaborate hoaxes targeting figures like Pete Buttigieg and Robert Mueller. It’s a real testament to the pliability of the American legal system that Wohl and Burkman are not in jail already.

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In the pair’s latest attempt to cause havoc in American public life, Wohl and Burkman are alleged to have ordered more than 1,141 robocalls to cellphones ahead of the Nov. 2020 election. The point of the calls was to sow confusion about mail-in-voting, making it seem as if the information could be used by creditors, ostensibly to keep people away from the polls. Systematically discouraging voting is an obvious public disservice, though the actual offense is that the calls were made to cellphones without the recipients’ consent, which is required by law. Wohl and Burkman are also facing four felony charges in Michigan for similarly attempting to use robocalls to intimidate voters out of voting by mail, a case the pair unsuccessfully tried to get dismissed.

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An FCC investigation found the robocalls, sent on Aug. 26 and Sept. 14, made ominous, false claims about mail voting, namely that “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 FCC is proposing that both men be held personally liable for the fine, along with the affiliated firm they use to carry out their scams.

In a call with the Washington Post, Wohl declined to say if the robocalls in question came from him and Burkman called the fine “tyranny and madness.” According to the FCC, both Wohl and Burkman are identified by name in the prerecorded calls and the caller ID that appeared along with the calls was Burkman’s number. The agency also noted that the pair has admitted, under oath, to the robocall campaign.

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