Maryland prosecutors have leveled criminal misdemeanor charges against Tyler Walch, aide to Republican delegate Richard Imallaria, for making illegal robocalls to consumers, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Maryland Political Aide Accused Of Illegal Robocall
Richard Impallaria represents voters in Maryland’s Baltimore and Harford counties, but his aide, Tyler Walch, allegedly misrepresented facts to consumers by sending a misleading robocall to 9,000 county residents.
It was all an attempt to smear Impallaria’s opponent in the June 2018 primary race, Kathy Szeliga, who ran against Impallaria in a three-seat election to represent Maryland’s District 7 in the state’s House of Delegates.
Tyler Walch was chief of staff for Delegate Impallaria, and, in an effort to turn conservative voters against Szeliga, the top aide reportedly sent out a robocall concerning her vote in 2016 for a bill protecting the rights of transgender people.
Misleading Call Failed To Identify Source
Prosecutors say the call was misleading on two counts. First, it fraudulently purported to be from an advocate for the rights of transgender people, someone named “Ali,” who claimed to be a donor to the National Center for Transgender Equality. In whole, the call read,
“Hi, this is Ali, a donor to the National Center for Transgender Equality, calling to ask you to support Delegate Kathy Szeliga in tomorrow’s Republican primary election. Kathy Szeliga is a true friend of the transgender community, having voted for House Bill 1003, making it illegal to discriminate against transgendered persons in the workplace.
With the support of lawmakers willing to work across the aisle, like Kathy Szeliga, transgenders will soon be able to use the bathrooms of their choice. Again, this is Ali calling to ask you to support Kathy Szeliga, a friend of the transgender community. Thank you.
In reality, as we now know, the call was orchestrated by Tyler Walch, and “Ali” is assumedly a paid actor. Further, Szeliga has never authored or supported legislation about bathroom usage, as the robocall seems to imply.
Second, the call did not identify Walch or the Friends of Rick Impallaria campaign as responsible for the call. That’s a violation of Maryland’s campaigning laws, which mandate that all political robocalls must clearly identify their true source.
Aide Loses Job Over Illegal Robocall
Tyler Walch is no longer employed by the General Assembly of Maryland. Interviewed by reporters, Impallaria said the office for House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch fired Walch immediately after learning about the misdemeanor charges. Walch has not responded to requests for comment.
While Impallaria has not been charged with any crimes, prosecutors claim that the Delegate was aware of the robocall’s contents before it was disseminated. Even so, “there’s not evidence that he directed it,” says State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt.
“Entitled To Know”
“This message not only failed to provide the information required by Maryland law, it attempted to deliberately deceive voters by providing misleading information,” Davitt continued. “Maryland voters are entitled to know what person or group is responsible for such material, particularly when it is published and distributed one day before the primary election. The credibility of the messenger is an essential factor in evaluating the value of the message.”
Impallaria defended Walch in an interview, saying, “Tyler Walch is an honorable disabled veteran, who came to work for me one day after he left the U.S. Army. He has done a phenomenal job.” Impallaria called the charges against Walch “minor.” He also questioned prosecutor Davitt’s efforts to charge Walch for an “authority-line” violation – failing to include the name of the organization authorizing the message.
Meanwhile, Kathy Szeliga has described the robocall as “disgusting,” saying she learned about the call on the night of the primary after supporters began to call her about it. She’s pleased that prosecutors have decided to charge Walch with election violations. “Election laws exist for a reason. Willfully and knowingly misleading voters is wrong,” she added.
Both candidates agree that, as Impallaria said, it was the “dirtiest” political campaign either of them have ever seen.
Top Aide Faces Jail Time
In the end, the robocall probably didn’t change the results of the election. While Szeliga received the most votes, Impallaria came in second, and both earned seats in the House of Delegates, meaning they now have to serve together. But Tyler Walch could be facing jail time. The case against Walch, charged in Baltimore County District Court, comes with a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines for each offense.