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Election-night robocall tied to employee of political operative working for Ehrlich

By John Wagner
John Wagner

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, 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.

By John Wagner  | November 5, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections, John Wagner  
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Next: Ehrlich thanks supporters, doesn't address robocall controversy


The Ehrlich campaign did something like this in 2006, distributing false endorsements of his ticket by African-American leaders.

I'm surprised the Post never mentioned it during this last campaign

Posted by: GWGOLDB | November 5, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The post did mention it, GWGOLDB. They wrote about it extensively.

Posted by: readerinterest | November 5, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Funny how this happens election after election after election. And always by the Republicans, who stand to gain the most by a smaller turnout. The penalty for this needs to be increased a hundred fold, including nullification of any win by a candidate whose campaign does it.

Posted by: risandy | November 5, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Republicans have to cheat - or they would never win. They have to suppress the vote, and scream about something they call "voter fraud" to distract everyone. This is the tip of the iceberg; reports like this come in after every election, always in one direction.

Of course, the new flood of unlimited corporate money funding anonymous attack ads (reportedly funded by your friendly health insurance company among many others) is another part of the "corporate takeover." ("Hey, but corporations are people too!" - U.S. Supreme Court, Jan 21, 2010 - paraphrased).

See: (in MD), and

Posted by: spindoctor3 | November 6, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

LOL the Republicans will win *legitimately* when most of the electorate are cheaters.

Posted by: chucklebuck | November 6, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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