New York attorney general Letitia James announced Thursday that her office is filing a motion to join an ongoing federal lawsuit against Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman over robocalls they allegedly made in 2020 in an attempt to discourage Black people from voting. The right-wing operatives — who were already notorious for their outrageous political schemes — found themselves in deep trouble over the robocalls, which reached 85,000 phone numbers nationwide and led to criminal charges in Michigan and Ohio.
James wants to join an existing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that alleges Wohl and Burkman carried out a campaign that targeted Black voters with deceptive robocalls about the 2020 election. The attorney general also intends to sue Message Communications, Inc., the company Wohl and Berkman used to send the calls, and its owner Robert Mahanian.
In a press release, James said that an investigation by her office found that the duo reached about 5,500 New Yorkers with their calls and, in doing so, “violated state and federal laws by orchestrating robocalls to threaten and harass Black communities through disinformation, including claims that mail-in voters would have their personal information disseminated to law enforcement, debt collectors, and the government.”
The robocalls in question reportedly said, “Hi, this is Tamika Taylor from Project 1599, the civil rights organization founded by Jack Burman and Jacob Wohl. 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 home safe and beware of vote by mail.”
“Wohl and Burkman used misinformation to try to disenfranchise Black communities ahead of the election, in a clear attempt to sway the election in the favor of their preferred presidential candidate,” James said in a statement. “No voter should ever be subjected to such harassment or intimidation when exercising their fundamental right to vote.”
If allowed to join the suit, James intends to seek a penalty of up to $500 per violation from the defendants, which could total $2,750,000, and they would be required to forfeit any profits made from the campaign.