Maryland slaps disgraced Ehrlich consultant with hefty fine

New Hampshire isn't the only state where political consultants could face hefty fines for making election-related calls.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler (D) won a civil judgment Tuesday that he said, "will make political consultants think twice" before violating the state's election laws.

A federal judge hit political consultant Julius Henson with a $1 million fine for 112,000 robocalls his firm made that discouraged black voters from going to the polls on Election Day 2010. A staffer for Henson, Rhonda Russell, was also fined $10,000.

Maryland law allows for a $1,500 fine for each call that violates its Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Gansler had sought a $10 million judgment against Henson based on the 69,500 calls his firm successfully connected.

Henson had been working for Republican Robert Ehrlich, who was seeking a return to the governor's office that year. In a separate criminal case related to the calls, Henson was found guilty of conspiracy. Ehrlich's campaign manager, Paul Schurick, was convicted of charges relatd to election fraud stemming from that campaign.

The Maryland ruling comes as members of the polling industry are pushing New Hampshire to clarify a push-polling law. The statute allows for a fine of $1,000 per call to be levied against pollsters who violate it. In the past year, four cases have been brought against polling firms and candidates, which have resulted in some being slapped with hefty fines. While none of the New Hampshire fines match the one handed down in Maryland this week, industry groups including the American Association of Political Consultants are still warning their members about working in the Granite State.


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