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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Maryland Demands $56 Million in Fines|For GOP Consultants’ Dirty Trick on Nov. 2

BALTIMORE (CN) - Maryland's attorney general claims a political consulting company hired by Bob Ehrlich's gubernatorial campaign made more than 112,000 illegal automated calls to Democrats on Election Day, claiming that Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley had already won and Democratic voters should stay home and watch TV.

O'Malley defeated Republican Ehrlich by 14 percentage points on Nov. 2.

The state sued Universal Elections and Ehrlich campaign consultants Julius Henson and Rhonda Russell in Federal Court, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The attorney says the consultant's phone calls did not disclose the identity or the phone number of the caller.

Universal Elections, Henson and Russell hired nonparty Robodial.org LLC to send the recorded message to more than 112,000 residents, mostly to "residents of Baltimore City and Prince George's County who had registered to vote as Democrats," according to the complaint.

The message said: "Hello. I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you."

The attorney general says: "Defendants omitted the identifying information required by the TCPA in order to disguise the purpose of their calls. Had defendants advised voters that the calls were being made on behalf of the campaign of Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. it would have changed the message conveyed by the calls - that Governor O'Malley had been successful and did not need the recipients' votes."

The state adds: "Each call initiated by the defendants in violation of the TCPA and the FCC Rules constitutes a separate violation." It wants $500 for each violation - $56 million.

Though the complaint says Ehrlich hired Baltimore-based Universal Elections and the two defendant consultants, it does not name Ehrlich or his campaign as defendants.

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