FCC Wants $5M Fine Against Wohl, Burkman For Racist 2020 Robocalls

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Right-wing hoaxters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman face a proposed $5 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission for the racist robocalls they deployed during the last election. 

The potential seven-figure fine adds to an ongoing lawsuit and two criminal cases against the pair — one each in Michigan and Ohio — for allegedly contacting thousands of voters, targeting Black voters in particular, with robocalls that falsely claimed that the information of people who vote by mail could be shared with police, debt collectors and even the CDC. 

“Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man. Stay home safe and beware of vote by mail,” the robocall warned recipients. 

In a press release Tuesday, the FCC said the proposed $5,134,500 fine against Burkman and Wohl was the largest the commission had ever proposed for robocalls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 1991. A newer law, passed in 2019, beefed up federal restrictions against unauthorized recorded calls. Earlier this year another pair of robocallers was slapped with a nine-figure fine.

In an 11-page notice, the FCC alleged that it had counted 1,141 unlawful robocalls to wireless numbers from Burkman and Wohl, just a fraction of the roughly 85,000 numbers to which robocalls were allegedly sent, according to a separate lawsuit against the pair. The commission proposed a fine of $4,500 per call. 

Two people who’d received the robocalls allegedly confirmed to investigators “that they had not given consent to the calls, and had not heard of Burkman, Wohl, or Burkman & Associates prior to receiving the robocalls.” 

The commission ordered the pair — as well as the firm Burkman runs out of his home, J.M. Burkman and Associates — to pay up within 30 days, or else file a written statement seeking a reduction or cancellation of the fine. 

A lawyer for Wohl and Burkman in the civil suit against them, Randy Kleinman, told TPM he wasn’t representing them in the FCC action, but added “at first blush just reading the Government’s press release it appears incredibly excessive – a 5 million dollar fine for 1000 thousand calls?”

This post has been updated.

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