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GOP Operatives Ordered To Pay Over $1M For Robocalls Targeting Black Voters

You needed Trump to win that bad?

Two conservative operatives were ordered to pay up to $1.25 million in restitution after using fake robocalls to stop Black voters in New York from voting by mail in the 2020 election. 

In 2023, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were found liable for targeting Black voters by sending fake and threatening messages with the goal of discouraging them from voting. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ruled that, at the time, both violated several federal and state civil rights laws. 

On Apr. 9, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that Wohl and Burkman agreed to a $1 million judgment with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and individual plaintiffs after filing a lawsuit against the defendants in May 2021.

If both fail to pay at least $105,000 by Dec. 31 and do not address the failure within 30 days, the amount will go up to $1.25 million. 

Wohl and Burkman, a lawyer who lost his law license in March 2024 by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, used a fake organization called Project 1599 to target over 5,000 New Yorkers during the 2020 election cycle. Victims received threatening calls claiming that voting by mail would result in the voter being tracked for outstanding warrants, credit card debt, and mandatory vaccines. 

One call from “Tamika Taylor” told voters, “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 police departments will use to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts?” according to the OAG. 

“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 safe and beware of vote by mail.” 

One voter was so overcome with “severe anxiety and distress” that he ultimately withdrew his voter registration. 

The 2020 robocall scheme also reached other major cities, including Cleveland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit and Arlington, Virginia. James released a statement saying that she won’t tolerate anyone’s right to vote being threatened. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and belongs to everyone. We will not allow anyone to threaten that right,” James said. 

“Wohl and Burkman orchestrated a depraved and disinformation-ridden campaign to intimidate Black voters in an attempt to sway the election in favor of their preferred candidate. Now, they will pay up to $1.25 million to my office, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the individuals harmed by their scheme. My office will always defend the right to vote.”

The defendant’s lawyer, David Schwartz, said his clients are pleased with the settlement and looking forward to putting it all behind them. Burkman and Wohl pleaded guilty in October 2022 to telecommunications fraud in Ohio after using robocalls as they did in New York. The duo was sentenced to two years of probation, fined $2,500, and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.

Following that sentencing, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hit Burkman and Wohl with a $5.1 million fine in June 2023 for making more than 1,000 unlawful robocalls.