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Gansler files federal complaint in election robocalls episode

By John Wagner
John Wagner

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) has filed a complaint against a political operative who worked for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), alleging that his anonymous election-night robocalls were designed to suppress the Democratic vote and violated federal law.

If Gansler prevails, the civil action could prove extremely costly for Julius Henson, a Baltimore-based political consultant who has worked for dozens of Democrats in the past but this year was paid close to $100,000 by Ehrlich's campaign in its losing effort to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

Gansler alleges that Henson and an associate with his company, Universal Elections, placed 112,000 calls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act -- each of which carries a potential penalty of $500. Gansler says the violations were knowing and willful and has asked the U.S District Court for the District of Maryland to triple the damages.

Henson last week took responsibility for the calls but said the message was "counterintuitive" -- that the calls were actually intended to motivate Ehrlich supporters to vote in the final hours before the polls closed. Henson told reporters that Ehrlich "probably" did not know about the calls. Ehrlich's campaign has declined to comment.

According to Gansler, voters who received the calls were predominantly registered Democrats residing in Baltimore and Prince George's County, the state's two large African-American majority jurisdictions.

According to the complaint, the full message contained in the robocalls was as follows: "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 only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you."

The number of alleged calls -- 112,000 -- is significantly higher than than the 50,000 that the owner of the Pennsylvania-based robocall company that facilitated the calls suggested last week.

By John Wagner  | November 10, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections, John Wagner  
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