Republican strategists charged over illegal smear campaign against gay candidate
Two Republicans behind a string of automated robotic phone calls smearing a gay candidate have been charged with violating election law in Maryland.
The incident stems back to the state’s 2014 election, when Republicans were attempting to defeat the Democrats’ County Council candidate Patrick Armstrong.
Automated calls falsely pretending to be from an LGBT group were placed to more than 5,000 voters in the Anne Arundel County area, as part of an effort that was actually aimed at putting conservative-leaning voters off voting for Mr Armstrong because he is gay.
The pre-recorded message falsely claims to be from supporters of LGBT rights, and says: “We have a true believer for our cause in Patrick Armstrong who’s running for County Council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Call Patrick today and thank him for his bravery in coming out of the closet.
“Coming out of the closet and supporting the fairness to all Marylander’s Act, the Maryland State Senate Bill 212, and supporting the rights for all transgenders.
“Transgenders can now openly and freely go into any bathroom of their choice based on their confused gender identity.
“While our opponent argued that children could be at risk by sexual predators with this new law, we celebrate the rights of transgenders and what this does for equality for transgenders in Maryland.”
The pre-recorded messgae urged voters to ‘thank’ Armstrong – providing the home phone number of his mother.
Maryland’s state prosecutor investigated and found that the calls were actually illegally placed by two top Republican strategists, Dennis Fusaro and Stephen Waters, and were aimed at swaying opponents of LGBT rights against Mr Armstrong.
Prosecutor Emmet Davitt told the Baltimore Sun that the call “not only failed to provide the information required by Maryland law, it attempted to deliberately deceive by providing false and misleading information instead.
“Maryland voters are entitled to know what person or group is responsible for such material, particularly when it is published and distributed just a few days before Election Day.”
The pair’s attorney claims the message was “political satire”.