FCC proposes $5M fine against conservative activists for robocalls
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday proposed a fine of more than $5 million for conservative activists Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl for making over 1,000 illegal robocalls without prior consent.
In a statement, the FCC said it was proposing a $5,134,500 fine against Burkman and Wohl for making 1,141 robocalls to cell phones without consent, thus violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
“This is the largest TCPA robocall fine ever proposed by the Commission. It is also the first action where the FCC was not required to warn robocallers before robocall violations could be counted toward a proposed fine, per Congress’s recent amendment of the TCPA,” the FCC said.
Last year, Burkman and Wohl were charged in multiple states and sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) for sending out robocalls in an apparent attempt to suppress votes in largely Democratic areas with mostly minority residents.
In May, James filed a lawsuit against the two operatives, alleging that they had violated both state and federal laws through their robocalls. In the lawsuit, James’s office alleged that the two men purposefully targeted Black communities to deter them from voting in the 2020 election.
Their robocall operation, which they portrayed as a civil rights organization called Project 1599, is believed to have reached over 85,000 phone numbers nationwide.
The pre-recorded phone calls told voters that if they sent in mail-in-ballots then 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.”
The messages also claimed that mail-in ballots would be used to track those who had not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine.
These calls apparently identified Burkman by name and used Wohl’s cell phone as the caller ID.
Burkman and Wohl are known to have previously attempted to spread unsubstantiated claims about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as well as spread manufactured allegations involving Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), who filed felony charges against the two operatives last year, praised the FCC’s proposed fine.
“This massive fine properly reflects the seriousness of the allegations these two political operatives face. Mr. Burkman and Mr. Wohl allegedly orchestrated a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the November general election. While my office will continue to pursue the criminal case against these men, I applaud the FCC for its action today,” Nessel said in a statement.