Aug 25, 2021 - Technology

FCC asks $5M fine for right-wing activists' election robocalls

Jack Burkman. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday proposed a $5 million fine against right-wing activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for allegedly making illegal robocalls discouraging mail voting ahead of the 2020 election.

The big picture: The record-setting penalty from the FCC comes as the pair faces criminal charges of voter suppression in Michigan and a federal lawsuit in New York accusing them of making 85,000 robocalls to Black Americans in an attempt to keep them from voting.

Driving the news: The FCC says Wohl and Burkman made over 1,000 pre-recorded calls to wireless phones without receiving consent for those calls, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

  • The messages said if the voters cast their ballot by mail, their “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," according to an FCC news release.
  • The FCC fine is not final, as Wohl and Burkman will be able to respond to the agency's accusations before the commission votes to finalize the penalty.

Context: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in Oct. 2020 filed a lawsuit and temporary restraining order against the pair in New York.

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the case in May, saying the two men used "misinformation to try to disenfranchise Black communities."
Go deeper