Jacob Wohl, a conservative activist known for his largely bumbling attempts to stage political scandals, has been charged with running a robocalling scheme to spread false election information. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed four felony charges today against Wohl and his partner Jack Burkman. They’re accused of targeting Detroit residents with calls that discouraged voting, including false claims that mail-in ballots would let health agencies “track people for mandatory vaccines.”
Wohl and Burkman allegedly targeted voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, making a total of around 85,000 calls in August. The calls claimed to come from a group called “Project 1599, a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl,” and they were aimed at areas with large Black populations, urging them to not “be finessed into giving your private information to the man.”
Michigan officials denounced the calls at the time, but they stopped short of confirming that they were made by Wohl and Burkman. The 2020 presidential election has been fraught with concerns about misinformation and voter suppression, especially because many voters could be mailing in their ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump, who has retweeted posts by Wohl, has repeatedly and falsely cast doubt on mail-in voting’s validity. Wohl himself was suspended from Twitter last year after announcing that he would create fake accounts to interfere with the election.
This is just one of several schemes associated with the pair. During the Democratic presidential primary, Wohl and Burkman appeared to manufacture a sexual assault accusation against candidate Pete Buttigieg. They later held a widely mocked press conference where they falsely claimed Elizabeth Warren had a relationship with an ex-Marine male escort. Wohl was charged last year with securities fraud in California, another state-level felony offense. In a relatively rare instance of successful fakery, he briefly tricked the Washington Post into reporting on a nonexistent FBI raid last month.
Nessel says her office is now arranging for Wohl and Burkman to appear in Michigan court in the “very near future.” Two of the felony counts against each man carry up to 5 years in prison, while the other two carry 7-year sentences. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election,” said Nessel. “We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy.”