It was 2018, just before the California primary election. The #MeToo movement was in full swing, and Democrats decided that leveling dubious sexual assault and sexual harassment claims could be an easy path to victory.
National Democrats were still months away from elevating shaky sexual assault claims against then-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The allegations against Kavanaugh were denied (or not remembered) by everyone named by accuser Christine Blasey Ford as a witness, but Democrats opened up the floodgates for even more unbelievable and thin allegations to come forward – as was their goal.
Local Democrats in California, however, jumped on the allegation bandwagon in May and June of 2018. A series of 47,000 robocalls went out days before the primary election alleging that Republican candidate Phil Graham – the favorite to win the safely Republican Assembly seat in San Diego – had inappropriately grabbed and kissed a woman against her will.
The woman who made the allegation, Nichole Burgan, was criminally charged with making a false accusation, but as with all false accusers, she received little punishment – just two days in jail, Graham told the California Globe in December.
Graham told the outlet that whoever put Burgan up to the false allegations also needed to be punished. He filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, and also filed complaints with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Public Integrity Unit at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Graham told the outlet he thought he was falsely accused because Democrats wanted to win the Assembly seat, which they ended up winning.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in December that the Federal Communications Commission announced it would fine the San Diego telemarketing company behind the false robocalls $10 million for “spoofing” a competing company’s phone number.
“Telemarketing company Marketing Support Systems and its owner, Kenneth Moser, made more than 47,000 unlawful robocalls over a two-day period in May 2018, according to the FCC,” the Tribune reported.
Moser allegedly “spoofed” the calls to hide his tracks, making the calls appear to come from a rival company when someone checked the caller ID. The Voice of San Diego reported what the calls said:
“Creepy alert,” said a woman on the other end of a robocall that hit phones on May 30. She cited press coverage of Burgan’s allegation, and asked why Graham was out harassing a woman when he should have been at home sleeping.
“Vote carefully on June 5,” the caller said. “We don’t need any more creeps in Sacramento. Don’t vote for Phil Graham. #JustSayNo.”
Then came the disclaimer: “Paid for by Jennifer Jones.”
But Jennifer Jones, it turns out, isn’t real.
Graham’s attorney, Brian T. Hildreth, released a statement regarding the FCC’s fine:
After a six month investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC is proposing a nearly $10 million fine against California telemarketer Ken Moser in connection with Moser’s efforts to mislead voters with approximately 50,000 robocalls containing fraudulent and false accusations relating to the 2018 Primary Election for the California State Assembly and Assembly candidate Phil Graham.
The proposed Commission action, formally called a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”), contains allegations that advise a party on how it has apparently violated the law and may set forth a proposed monetary penalty. After these substantial developments, it is now imperative that the USDOJ undertake a criminal investigation and prosecution.
We are calling for the Public Integrity Unit at the U.S. Department of Justice to launch their own investigation to determine if other individuals and/or groups were involved in this fraud and election tampering. We stand ready to assist the USDOJ in any way necessary.
As the FCC noted, the calls took place about one week prior to the primary election for the California State Assembly, 76th District. The calls made false and deceptive allegations about Mr. Graham. The allegations had already been investigated and disproven by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The California Secretary of State referred a complaint about the matter to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, which investigated, resulting in today’s proposed fine. The calls unquestionably had a devastating impact on Mr. Graham and his candidacy for elective office.
The Truth in Caller ID Act prohibits manipulating caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. In addition, to finding that Moser apparently violated the Truth in Caller ID Act, the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau found separately that Moser sent more than 11,000 prerecorded voice messages to wireless phones, without consent, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA).
While there has rightly been a significant focus on election interference at the national level, we respectfully ask that the USDOJ apply the same level of scrutiny at the state and local level to prevent any new illegal acts.