Maryland’s Attorney General filed a complaint in federal court this week alleging that the company and two individuals behind election day robocalls that told mostly Democratic voters to “relax” and not bother voting violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The court filing by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler also revealed that the phone calls, which began two hours before polls closed, went out to more than 100,000 Maryland residents, more than double the number originally reported.Controversial Democratic operative Julius Henson has admitted that Rhonda Russell, an employee of his company Universal Elections, placed the order for the phone calls. Hensen was working for the campaign of the Republican nominee for governor, Bob Ehrlich.
The president of the company which placed the calls previously told TPMmuckraker that over 50,000 calls were placed.
There is no evidence that Ehrlich knew about the plan, Gansler said. He alleged the calls were designed to suppress the Democratic vote. The calls said that Gov. Martin O’Malley had been reelected. “We’re okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight,” the calls told voters.
Henson called that message was “counterintuitive” and that the calls were actually intended to motivate Ehrlich supporters. He said Ehrlich probably wasn’t aware of the phone calls, which the campaign has declined to comment on.
The majority of the phone calls were received by voters who “were registered Democrats residing in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” according to a press release from the Attorney General’s office.
TCPA penalties are $500 per violation, according to the Attorney General’s office. The complaint alleges that the Defendants committed more than 112,000 violations, and that the violations were knowing or willful. Because of that, the Attorney General is asking the court to triple the allowed penalties.