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Conservative activists reach $1 million settlement deal with New York AG for running 2020 voter suppression campaign

By Devan Cole, CNN

(CNN) — Conservative activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have agreed to pay $1 million to the New York attorney general’s office and others for running a voter suppression campaign targeting Black voters during the 2020 election.

The deal announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Letitia James represents the latest punishment the pair will face for orchestrating a broad voter suppression campaign four years ago that used robocalls to spread election-related misinformation to Black voters and others in an effort to discourage voting.

A federal judge found the two men liable last year for targeting Black voters in New York, saying in a lengthy ruling that they “set into motion a full-scale voter suppression operation during the summer of 2020 to discourage eligible voters from voting by targeting mail-in voting in the 2020 Election.”

Under the deal reached by Wohl and Burkman with James’ office, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and several individual plaintiffs, the two men have agreed to pay a $1 million judgment to those parties, according to the attorney general. If the pair “fail to pay at least $105,000 by December 31, 2024, and do not address the failure to pay within 30 days, the amount will increase to $1.25 million,” James’ office said.

“Wohl and Burkman orchestrated a depraved and disinformation-ridden campaign to intimidate Black voters in an attempt to sway the election in favor of their preferred candidate,” James said in a statement. “My office will always defend the right to vote.”

A judge must still approve the agreement.

David Schwartz, an attorney for Wohl and Burkman, said his clients are satisfied with the settlement and are “pleased to put this case behind them, so they can focus on their families and careers.”

As part of their voter suppression campaign in New York, Wohl and Burkman targeted Black voters in the state through robocalls “falsely claiming that voting by mail would cause the voter to be tracked for outstanding warrants, credit card debt, and mandatory vaccines,” James’ office said. An estimated 5,500 people received the calls.

According to James’ office, the script of one such call told recipients in part: “Mail-in voting sounds great, but did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts?”

Wohl and Burkman have previously faced penalties for running similar schemes elsewhere during the 2020 election. In 2022, an Ohio judge ordered the two men to spend 500 hours registering low- and middle-income voters in the Washington, DC, area after authorities in Ohio accused them of running a voter suppression campaign in multiple states.

And in 2021, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a record $5 million fine against them after an investigation found they appeared to have violated US robocalling laws.

Other criminal charges against Wohl and Burkman are pending in Michigan.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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