Politics New York A.G. wants right wing operatives to pay millions for Black voter-targeted robocalls
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New York Attorney Letitia James wants two right-wing provocateurs to pay up to $2.7 million in penalties for thousands of robocalls allegedly aimed at suppressing the Black vote ahead of the 2020 election.
James said Jacob Wohl and Jack 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."
Wohl and Burkman, conservative political operatives known for smearing political opponents with transparently false accusations, are already facing criminal charges inand for the scheme. The pair are accused of trying to influence 85,000 voters in urban areas across the country with the August 2020 robocalls, which were loaded with misinformation about mail-in voting.
'Disgusting' robocall accuses Texas candidate Wright of causing husband's death
Wright supporters reported receiving the calls the day before the special election in Texas' 6th District.Wright’s campaign reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on Friday after discovering robocalls baselessly alleging that she had “murdered” her husband, the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. Wright is running in the special election to succeed Wright, who passed away in February after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
The speaker on the call identified herself "Tamika Taylor of Project 1599," and falsely claimed that voting by mail would result in voters "having their personal information used by the police to track old warrants, credit card companies to collect debts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track individuals for mandatory vaccines," James' office said.
"Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man. Stay home safe and beware of vote by mail,” the call concluded — which would appear to tell people not to vote at all.
Wohl and Burkman have acknowledged in court that they were responsible for the calls, but deny that they did anything illegal. The pair insist the call was an exercise of free speech rights and not designed to intimidate, threaten or suppress voting.
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers recently shut down attempts to pay for Medicaid expansion, in what is the latest example of a statehouse fighting to undo voter-enacted polices. Critics argued during a contentious debate in the state Senate on Thursday that voters didn’t understand the potential cost of the federal health insurance program. Supporters, including Democrats and some Republicans, said lawmakers were going against the will of voters who amended the Missouri Constitution last year to make thousands more low-income adults eligible for government health insurance.
James' office said the two men knew what they were doing and who they were targeting.
"On August 25, 2020, the day before the robocalls were placed, Wohl emailed Burkman the audio file for the call and stated, '[w]e should send it to black neighborhoods…' The next day, after the calls were sent and received by thousands of voters, Burkman emailed to congratulate Wohl, stating that “i love these robo calls…getting angry black call backs…win or lose…the black robo was a great jw [Jacob Wohl] idea,” her office said.
James is also seeking to join a Manhattan federal court civil lawsuit filed against Wohl and Burkman last year by the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights Under the Law. Her filing accuses the pair of violating numerous state and federal laws, and seeks a court order barring them from further "discriminatory voter intimidation" as well as up to $500 in financial penalties for each of the 5,500 calls in New York state.
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Real "cancel culture": The right's decades-long campaign to stifle progressive ideas, protest and democracy itself Canceled Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
Wohl and Burkman haveto the criminal charges, and are appealing an earlier order in the Manhattan case denying their request that the suit be dismissed. Their lawyers are also seeking to have the civil case stayed until after the criminal cases have concluded.
One of Wohl and Burkman's attorneys in the civil case, Randy Kleinman, told NBC News that James' action is part of "an absolute witch hunt" and "clearly a politically motivated thing."
He said none of the plaintiffs had suffered any damages from the robocalls. "This whole thing is ridiculous," Kleinman said.
Burkman, 54, and Wohl, 23, are notorious for several failed schemes that tried to paint opponents of then-President Donald Trump as rapists, criminals or deviants.
Their schemes have targeted then-Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris,and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former special counsel , with elaborate conspiracy theories that quickly fell apart under examination.
Wohl has been banned from most social networks for operating fake accounts.
Election officials face fines, charges in GOP voting laws .
In 2020, election officials tried to make voting easier and safer amid a global pandemic. Next time, they might get fined or face criminal charges. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) 2/3 SLIDES © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2020, file photo, a voter submits a ballot in an official drop box during early voting in Athens, Ga.