Two top aides to former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) were indicted Friday for trying to suppress Democratic voter turnout by ordering misleading phone calls that discouraged voters from going to the polls. The Baltimore Sun reports that Paul Schurick, Ehrlich’s communications director, and Julius Henson, a longtime GOP operative, directed this deceptive robocall campaign targeting the state’s black voters during last year’s gubernatorial campaign:
Julius Henson and Paul Schurick each face three counts of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws, one count of attempting to influence a voter’s decision and one count of failing to provide an authority line (on campaign material). Schurick also is charged with one count of obstruction of justice. […]
The indictment, handed up by a Baltimore City grand jury, came after an eight-month investigation by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt into tens of thousands of robocalls that went out late on Election Day. A caller instructed voters in Democratic areas to stay home and “relax” because Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won. In fact, the polls were still open. […]
The indictment describes a document titled “The Schurick Doctrine” and says that it was “designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African-American Democrats.”
The Schurick document admits, “The first and foremost desired outcome is voter suppression.” The attorney general says 112,000 deceptive calls were made, and each carries a potential $500 fine.The robocalls told likely Democratic voters to stay home because President Obama and Ehrlich opponent Martin O’Malley (D) “have been successful.” “Relax. Everything’s fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you,” the robocalls said.
The indictment also names Greg Massoni, another longtime Ehrlich aide along with Henry Fawell, Ehrlich’s campaign communications director, and Bernard Marczyk, the campaign’s political director. Despite the high-level collaboration among his top aides, Ehrlich himself denies any complicity in the wrongdoing. In another Beltway twist, Massoni and former governor Ehrlich are currently working for the Washington office of law firm King & Spalding, which recently came under fire for helping House Republicans defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and later withdrew from the case.
The robocalls were a last-ditch effort by the aides to swing the election outcome. Despite these dirty tricks, Ehrlich was defeated in his reelection bid. Like his colleague, Henson also has a history of campaign shenanigans, according to TPM. He was paid $111,000 by the Ehrlich campaign for “community outreach.” Henson has admitted he was involved in the calls, but his lawyer argues they are protected under free speech.