Feds Sue Former Candidate Michael Rothenberg for Securities Fraud

The AJC reports today on a lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Michael Rothenberg, who ran unsuccessfully for DeKalb Superior Court in 2010.

The SEC complaint appears to originate with the same transaction that birthed a federal lawsuit against Rothenberg just before the December 2011 runoff election.

The SEC alleges that Rothenberg transferred $169,o00 of money from defrauded investors to his campaign account. In November, the Fulton Daily Report noted Rothenberg denying having transferred the funds in questions to his campaign.

But long before the November general election, there were other warning signs.

In 2008, Michael Rothenberg announced his candidacy for another seat on the DeKalb Superior Court. Erick Erickson, writing on Peach Pundit challenged Rothenberg’s eligibility. Rothenberg and his Campaign Manager/attorney responded in the comments with their version of his qualifications.

Two days later, Erick published a lengthy analysis and concluded that Rothenberg did not meet the statutory requirements to hold the office of Superior Court Judge at that time. This would not be the last time Rothenberg had no comment.

Rothenberg ultimately withdrew from that race over his qualifications. Erick wished him the best and said “[we] hope to see him run in two years.” Erick’s wish was fulfilled.

On November 18, 2010 the Daily Report ran a story that Rothenberg implied that his campaign was supported by Congressmen Hank Johnson and John Lewis and State Senator Jason Carter. All three of those elected officials denied having endorsed Rothenberg.

On November 29th, the AJC reported that State Representative Mike Jacobs withdrew his personal endorsement of Rothenberg based on concerns over the private lawsuit. That article also reported that DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer (R-Smokerise) denied having endorsed Rothenberg, despite her picture appearing on Rothenberg’s mailings under the heading “Endorsed By”.

Liz Carter, the Republican Candidate for the Fourth Congressional District, had the day earlier emailed  a number of DeKalb Republicans stating that she had not approved the printed endorsement that Rothenberg attributed to her and was asking people not to vote for Rothenberg in the runoff.

Both DeKalb Libertarians stood by their endorsement of Rothenberg.

After Courtney Johnson won the runoff election with 61% it wasn’t clear how much of her victory could be attributed to the last news cycles of the election.

But precinct-level returns shed some light.

Mike Jacobs’s district comprises eleven precincts in North DeKalb. During early runoff voting, Rothenberg ran the table here, carrying 66% of the vote and all but two of the eleven precincts. On election day, voters gave Courtney Johnson 56% of the vote, a twenty-three point gain over the weekend, and she carried nine of eleven precincts.

Courtney Johnson won the rest of the county handily, approaching 90% in a number of precincts. But it is instructive to view the sea-change in voter sentiment in reaction to a news story about candidate ethics.

Disclaimers: I was a consultant to Mike Jacobs during this drama. On November 1, 2010, I recevied a payment for robocalls from Michael Rothenberg’s campaign. That expenditure appears never to have been disclosed.


  1. NoTeabagging says:

    Well that explains why Rothenberg yard signs littered public property and weren’t in any ‘yards.’ He had no support, so he dumped the signs in the public right of way, illegally. Hee Hee (The Sign Czar)

    Todd, please consider subscribing to ‘The National Political Do Not Contact Registry’. I am one of those citizens that does not appreciate the relentless intrusion of robocalls, especially those that are anonymous and spoof or hide caller ID info – like yours. Your candidate lost my vote.

  2. Todd Rehm says:

    Here’s my two cents on Caller Id spoofing.

    If by Caller Id “spoofing” you mean transmitting caller id information that is not the actual telephone number of the you’re half-right to be bothered.

    The FTC and FCC, which administer the national DNC and telemarketing sales rules, allow robocalls to transmit the caller id information of the party for whom the call is being placed. So if Clint Webb is running for the Senate and has a robocall placed, he might ask the vendor to transmit the Caller ID number of his campaign or cell phone. This is permissible, and I think it’s probably a best practice.

    If by “spoofing” you mean transmitting Caller ID that is false or designed to send recipients to another party’s phone number, that is wrong. So if Clint Webb had a woman record a message purporting to be an endorsement by a local city council member who has not actually endorsed Clint Webb, then transmits it with the Caller ID of the local city council member who has not endorsed him, nor approved the call, that would be wrong.

    For my part, I would never knowingly transmit false caller id information, nor tolerate a candidate who requests such. I either transmit a valid number provided by the candidate, or a number to which recipients may phone in and make a DNC request, even though that’s not required in the political context. I do not place robocalls with “Unknown Caller,” or any sort of anonymous caller id.

    StopPoliticalCalls.org, to which you refer, may actually work, and candidates for office are welcome to use their service to remove people who have indicated they don’t wish to receive political robocalls. Or it may be a brilliant ploy by robocallers, telemarketers and Caller ID spoofers to harvest personal information from unsuspecting citizens.

    And you are welcome to vote against any candidates who robocall you, though the worst of them will be anonymous smear calls against a particular candidate. Whom you should vote for or against in these cases, I do not know. In a five-way race in which someone anonymously robocalls, for whom do you vote? Or against whom?

    For the time being, however, it appears that robocalls are more effective in gaining votes than in losing them. Until that changes, I expect robocalls to be part of most campaigns.

  3. NoTeabagging says:

    I received multiple calls on behalf of the Rothenberg campaign. both calls did not have a Caller ID name visible. The calls were from 202-648-5113 and 763-445-2311 (two from this number in November).

    I appreciate your willingness to use a Do Not Call list, how do I sign up?. However, it would be nice to provide a local number for a voter to call back. I did send emails and called the Rothenberg campaign office (multiple times) requesting they stop calling and also asked them to obey sign ordinances. They did not honor these requests. When a candidate is unwilling to respond to potential constituents, via their own advertised campaign email and telephone, I do not vote for them.

    StopPoliticalCalls.org, to my knowledge, only provides telephone numbers not names or other data. The founder, Shaun Dakin, is a tireless promoter of privacy rights and participates in many interviews and government forums.

  4. Todd Rehm says:


    I don’t believe I was the only vendor Rothenberg used for robocalls. But it appears his campaign disclosure is incomplete, so I can’t know who else might have been robocalling on his behalf.

    My best practices involve transmitting (a) a valid number provided by the campaign; or (b) an in-area code voicemail number that is monitored. And by in-area, I mean calls predominantly to 706 phone numbers will show a 706-area code caller id that leads to a voicemail that I monitor. Metro atlanta could get 404, 678 or 770. But still a valid number leading to a monitored voicemail. When practicable, I DNC the numbers, but the vast majority of callbacks do not ask to be removed.

    Calls from 202 or 763 were not mine.

    I let the campaigns police themselves. I can hardly be expected to know about a DNC request that they never pass on to me. You’re smart to judge them by their response to voter requests.

    I don’t know anything about StopPoliticalCalls.org other than what their website says, and I follow Shaun Dakin on twitter. But I have no way of knowing that they’re not selling your information to someone else. Hell, they have validated phone numbers, which are valuable. FWIW, Philip Morris employs some brilliant, dedicated and sincere people in their anti-smoking campaigns and gives them all the resources they ask for.

  5. Todd Rehm says:


    Also, should you happen to keep a log of robocalls and caller ids, I suggest you try to correlate them with firms.

    During the GOP convention cycle, tons of robocalls were placed, originating from three or so out-of-state area codes. If these were campaigns that disclosed expenditures, you could figure out the consultants who were working for multiple candidates and determine, for example, used a given firm. Call the owner of the firm and ask them to take you off.

  6. NoTeabagging says:

    Todd, thanks for the replies and the advice. Yes, I do keep a log of robocalls, and sometimes recordings of the messages (a few get past my screening technology).
    Rosetta Stone Communications has my number listed for multiple districts. Very annoying to get calls from a candidate that I can’t vote for! They refuse to use a ‘Do Not Call’ list or block my number. I think they used out of state services to generate calls last season.

    I did receive multiple calls from The Mark Butler campaign from a 406-224-9159 “Livingston Mt” on caller ID. Does anyone see the irony of a Labor Commissioner candidate spending his campaign money on an out of state firm??? LOL

    • NoTeabagging says:

      I suppose I could send you a message via facebook or LinkedIn, since there is no way to PM you through PP. But use a ‘non-anonymous email address’ ??? You crack me up!

      • Todd Rehm says:

        You can email me at my firstname [at] my fullname dot com.

        We can also talk about earthlink’s anonymous email addresses.

  7. Cobb County Gal says:

    Only a bunch of men on Peachpundit would have trouble putting this puzzle together. Michael Rothenberg hired Larry Johnson’s wife and Lee May’s chief of Staff to run his campaign in two of the largest Districts in Southern DeKalb. Michael Rothenberg’s thinking was that he would win all north DeKalb hands down because he was a white male and Jewish. Why he even partnered up with Angela Brown who was running in Cobb County Court, I have no idea and why they did this don’t ask me, t you men try and figure that one out maybe I am just a dumb blond.

    Anyway so he hires DeKalb County Larry Johnson’s wife and Lee May’s chief of Staff thinking that will hand him the race, btw their names don’t appear on any Rothenberg discloses do does it? Check it out see if their names appear sounds like a 1099 and state ethics violation to me. They attended every function in Commission districts 3 and 5 for Rothenberg taking him all around, Lee’s staffer was working on county time for Rothenberg while being paid with your tax dollars then Larry Johnson’s wife was over his field and she hired dozens of people put them on the streets with this money he had misappropriated from his clients.

    I still just don’t understand to this day what the connection was between Rothenberg and Angela Brown of Cobb and that State Court race.

  8. Todd Rehm says:


    The problem I had in seeing what was going on with Rothenberg was that I didn’t attend Democratic political events, where he apparently put on one face, but only saw him at GOP events.

    It wasn’t until the media stories starting coming out about his implying endorsements from Democratic politicians who refuted the implication, that I began to see what he was doing.

    At that point, I started looking at what he was putting out to Democratic voters and comparing it to what he was saying to Republican audiences. I came to wonder if he suffered cognitive dissonance or compulsive lying. Events that unfolded closer to the election pushed my opinion toward the latter.

  9. NoTeabagging says:

    Todd and CCG, thanks for this detailed list of infractions about the Rothenberg campaign. You have solidified my belief that a voter cannot trust campaign literature, robocalls, or the ‘He who Litters the Most- Wins’ campaign tactics when casting our vote. I hope others will take note.

  10. Cobb County Gal says:

    Notice Angela Brown ended up losing her race in Cobb people knew she and Rothenberg were working together.

Comments are closed.