State Watch

New York AG James sues Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman over robocalls

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that her office filed a lawsuit against conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for their alleged participation in orchestrating robocalls that targeted Black communities, urging voters not to cast mail-in ballots.

An investigation conducted by James’s office reportedly found that Wohl and Burkman, through their fictitious organization “Project 1599,” violated state and federal laws when sending out robocalls that threatened and harassed Black communities using disinformation.

The robocalls claimed that mail-in voters’ information would be sent to law enforcement, debt collectors and the government. Additionally, the calls claimed that mail-in ballots would be used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track people who have not yet received a vaccine.

“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 automated calls reportedly said, according to James.

“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,” the calls reportedly continued.

The campaign, which reached approximately 5,500 New Yorkers and more than 85,000 phone numbers nationwide, allegedly sought to undermine and interfere with the state’s efforts to fairly and safely manage its elections amid the pandemic, and protect its residents from voter intimidation and harassment, according to James’ office.

Wohl and Burkman, according to James, were deliberately targeting Black communities. Her office made this determination after seizing emails sent between the two men, which discussed dispatching the robocalls in areas with a high population of Black voters.

James said she is joining an existing lawsuit against Wohl and Burkman, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, on behalf of voters and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

“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. No voter should ever be subjected to such harassment or intimidation when exercising their fundamental right to vote,” James said in a statement.

In the lawsuit, James alleges that Wohl and Burkman committed six violations under state and federal laws, including the New York Civil Rights Law, the New York Executive Law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

James is also suing Message Communications, the company that was hired to send the robocalls, in addition to Robert Mahanian, who owns and operates the business.

The Hill reached out to Wohl and Burkman for comment.

The two right-wing operatives are also in hot water in Michigan, where criminal charges have been brought against the pair by state Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Wohl and Burkman were also indicted in Ohio on charges of telecommunications fraud and bribery.

Tags Disinformation robocalls Voter suppression

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