FCC proposes $5 million fine for activists behind election robocalls

·Associate Editor
·2-min read

The FCC has proposed the largest fine yet under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the subjects are two robocallers Law & Crime describes as "hard-right hoaxers." John M. Burkman and Jacob Alexander Wohl are facing a $5,134,500 fine for allegedly making 1,141 unlawful pre-recorded calls to mobile phones without the recipients' prior consent. The calls' content? Fake information designed to discourage people from voting by mail. 

According to the commission's Enforcement Bureau, the calls were made on August 26th and September 14th, 2020, prior to last year's Presidential elections in the US. The robocalls told potential voters that if they vote by mail, their personal information will be added to a public database law enforcement can use to track down old warrants. Credit card companies will also be able to access the database to collect outstanding debts, the calls said, and the CDC can issue mandatory vaccines on the people in the list. Law & Crime says the calls primarily targeted Black and Latino populations in New York, Ohio and Michigan.

The FCC started investigating the calls after receiving complaints from consumers and a non-profit organization. Its Enforcement Bureau then worked with the Ohio Attorney General's Office to identify the dialing service providers Burkman and Wojl used. The providers turned over subpoenaed call records to identify Burkman and Wohl by name, along with information on the zip codes they wanted to target. Both individuals also admitted under oath that they were involved in the creation and distribution of those particular robocalls.

In addition to facing a $5 million fine from the FCC, the pair also face a $2.75 million lawsuit from the New York Attorney General's office. Back in May, a federal judge gave the NY AG the go-ahead to join a lawsuit accusing the pair of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act, which protects Americans from political intimidation. As for the FCC fine, Burkman and Wohl will be given an opportunity to submit evidence and legal arguments before the commission takes any more step towards a resolution.

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