Right-Wing Political Operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl Target Black Voters With Robocalls, Disinformation

Right-wing political operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl pitch reporters their latest far-fetched scandal on a balcony outside the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo: Jared Holt)

Right-wing political operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl appear to have targeted Black voters in at least two states with robocalls chock full of disinformation in an apparent effort to dissuade Black voters from voting by mail. 

Right Wing Watch received a tip from a New York reader Wednesday who had received the call. The reader, who asked not to be named after reading about Burkman and Wohl’s smear campaigns, has used Google voicemail to forward her messages to her cell phone while she’s been working from home and was unsure if the robocall went to her landline in New City, New York, or her office number of her law firm in Manhattan. It is unclear how many voters in New York have received this call. A Google search of the phone number used in the robocall—(703) 795-5364—brings up John Burkman and the address of the Burkman’s lobbying firm. It appears at least one other person reported the call as a robocall Wednesday.

On Thursday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reported that her office had heard from Detroit citizens who had received the same call. Benson said that her office “will use every tool at our disposal to dispel this & other false rhetoric & seek justice on behalf of every voter who was targeted & harmed by this vicious attempt at voter suppression” and asked that Michiganders report similar false info to [email protected]

The robocall begins with a woman introducing herself as Tamika Taylor from Project 1599. Taylor suggests that police will use information from mail-in voting to track down voters, that credit card companies will collect outstanding debts with the information provided, and that the CDC will use the information to administer mandatory vaccines. Here is the robocall in full: 

Hi, this is Tamika Taylor from Project 1599, the civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl. 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? The CDC is even pushing to use records for mail-in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines. Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man, stay home safe and beware of vote by mail.

The call pulls on long-standing fears among some in the Black community about police surveillance—as seen during the civil rights movement and with current surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists by the FBI—and medical care—as seen in the eugenics movement of the 20th century, in which the government forcefully sterilized women of color, and the Tuskegee experiment, in which the CDC studied Black men who had contracted syphilis and let them die without providing them or their families with readily available treatment. 

Wohl and Burkman have long peddled conspiracy theories and false information, often targeting opponents of President Donald Trump. Their smear campaigns have targeted Anthony Fauci, Elizabeth Warren, and Robert Mueller. In May, the duo said they had created a fund, supposedly seeded with $25,000, to pay the legal defense fees of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who killed George Floyd, a Black man whose death has set off protests in Minneapolis and cities around the country. 

“This is an unfortunate but perfect example of just how low people will go to undermine this election,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release Thursday. “This robocall is fraught with scare tactics designed to intimidate Black voters – and we are already working hard to find the bad actors behind this effort.”

The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reported that the duo claimed that they were not involved with the robocall, but the two have used robocalls in the past, once “in an apparently failed effort to offer a cash reward for proof of Joe Biden saying a racial slur.”

Right Wing Watch has reached out to Wohl for comment. There was no response by the time of publication. 

This article has been updated to reflect the address that appeared in the Google search of the robocall phone number was that of Burkman’s lobbying firm, not the 1599 Project.