Election-night robocall tied to employee of political operative working for Ehrlich
By John Wagner
An employee of a political operative who worked for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s gubernatorial campaign is responsible for the election-night robocall in Maryland suggesting that Democratic voters "relax" and stay home, according to the owner of the robocall company.
Mark Hampton, owner of Pennsylvania-based robodial.org, said the call -- which went to more than 50,000 people before the polls had closed -- was placed through an account maintained with his company by Rhonda Russell.
Russell works for Universal Elections, the firm of Julius Henson, a longtime Democratic political operative in Baltimore who was hired this year by Ehrlich, who lost Tuesday to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
Henson appeared with Ehrlich at several events in the closing weeks of the campaign. Ehrlich has said Henson was retained for advice on reaching out to the African American community.
Hampton said he has been contacted by prosecutors in Maryland about the call. The connection to Russell was first reported Friday on the Web site of the Baltimore Sun.
"I don't know what possessed her to do it, but it happened," Hampton said.
Calls placed to Russell and Henson were not immediately returned Friday.
Andy Barth, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said the campaign has no comment.
On election night, Barth said, his campaign had nothing to do with the calls and did not know who was responsible. "We condemn the calls," he said.
Hampton said Russell used an automated process to place the robocall through an account she had maintained with the company for some time. The process allows account holders to phone in messages that go out to numbers that they provide.
Hampton said no one at the company heard the message before it was distributed.
"We've had a few candidates who've tried to pull the same kind of stunt before," he said. "If they ask us to set it up, we don't do it. We certainly don't condone voter suppression."
On the recording, a woman's voice said: "I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. ... The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you."
O'Malley defeated Ehrlich Tuesday by 14 percentage points.
| November 5, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections, John Wagner
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