Sunday, October 7, 2012

Political Poisons: Voter Fraud and The GOP Platform

by Nomad

Voter fraud is political poison. It strikes at the heart of representative government. We call on every citizen, elected official, and member of the judiciary to preserve the integrity of the vote. We call for vigorous prosecution of voter fraud at the State and federal level. To do less disenfranchises present and future generations. We recognize that having a physical verification of the vote is the best way to ensure a fair election. “Let ambition counter ambition,” as James Madison said. When all parties have representatives observing the counting of ballots in a transparent process, integrity is assured. We strongly support the policy that all electronic voting systems have a voter verified paper audit trail.

- from the 2012 Republican Party Platform

Like a lot of political proclamations, this party platform sounds pretty sensible, even noble. It’s a platform that few could argue with. However, when it comes to putting it into practice, or even standing by the statement, it’s not so easy. Especially if you are the Republican party.

The Realities of Zero Tolerance
Last week, a consulting firm contracted by the Republican Party of Florida to register GOP voters was being investigated by state and local officials on charges of election fraud, Romney as leader of his party, gave no public statement, condemning any possible wrongdoing.

That company has now been charged of submitting fraudulent registration in more than 10 Florida counties. Specifically, it has been claimed that the company registered deceased voters, voters with false addresses and submitting registrations with suspect signatures.

As reporter Brad Friedman points out:
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Strategic Allied Consulting has been paid some $667,000 this year by the FL GOP, presumably to run its voter registration campaigns in the state. That number, however, does not account for another identical payment made in August. The Palm Beach Post is reporting .. that the firm received "more than $1.3 million" from the Republican Party of Florida "to register new voters."
In addition, the firm is being investigated in other states. The Republican National Committee required state parties to hire the Arizona-based Strategic Allied Consulting over any other firm.The firm had been aggressively hiring staff for voter registration in Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, all critical swing states.

For its part, the RNC had this to say. RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer told reporters
"We, at this point, have an allegation. That mere allegation has caused us to act --- act swiftly and boldly --- and sever our ties with this firm because we have a zero tolerance [policy] when it comes to this. The other side clearly engaged for a long time in inappropriate behavior. We don't believe that that's appropriate. And we wanted to make a swift and bold action to illustrate that."
Boldly and swiftly? Well, no, Not really. The Republican severed links with the firm only after this latest scandal. There had, however, been previous questionable practices from past elections. And those were not only ignored but great pains were taken to conceal those facts from the public.

Changing Names, Changing the Record
CEO Nathan Sproul said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC's request because “the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations." 

In an interview with Los Angeles Times, Sproul explained:
"In order to be able to do the job that the state parties were hiring us to do, the [RNC] asked us to do it with a different company's name, so as to not be a distraction from the false information put out in the Internet."
In other words, hiding the connections. Smells like a conspiracy, doesn't it?

Not formally investigated does not mean, of course, that the accusations are false. (Governor Rick Scott has made a similar argument about the Medicare scandal his company was involved in.) 
Those allegations against Sproul & Associates involved serious voter registration irregularities in 2004. According to Lee Fang, reporter for The Nation:
In 2004, a voter registration worker in Nevada hired by Sproul’s firm told reporters that he had witnessed his supervisors chucking registration forms signed by Democrats. “They were thrown away in the trash,” he claimed. Sproul’s canvassers in Oregon confessed to doing the same thing, and other reports emerged across several swing states. In Minnesota, workers said they were actually fired for bringing in registration forms signed by Democrats. CBS News obtained faxes showing that Sproul's firm had even impersonated the left-leaning America Votes! to organize voter registration drives at libraries.
In addition to destroying registrations, it was also claimed, according to Tacoma Washington News Tribune, that the company had duped college students into registering as Republicans and refused to register Democrats or independents. Although Nevada, Oregon and Arizona had all opened investigations, no charges were ever filed. 

In fact, there were calls at that time for a full investigation from Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy. However, the Justice Department under Bush did nothing. As a matter of fact, Sproul and his family were cordially welcomed to the White House for a Christmas party in 2006. 

And it gets even worse. The connections tie directly back to Mitt Romney. Sproul was hired by the Romney campaign as a political consultant for a period of five months that, according to Fang, began last November and ended in March. However, there’s evidence coming out that the payments continued, only to a different name. It's not exactly a smoking gun but it's as close as any conspiracy-minded researcher could hope for.

Congressman of Maryland's 7th Congressional District Elijah Cummings pointed out :
“Contrary to a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, it appears that the RNC knew exactly what it was doing when it hired this company as the only one it uses to conduct this kind of work across the country.
It is amazing how zero tolerance policies are so retroactively enforced.

A Tiny Bit of Karma
It goes beyond hypocrisy or irony. There’s something positively karmic about the latest Republican headache.
All this comes on the heels of Governor Rick Scott’s controversial and highly unpopular voter purge scheme. That effort to scour voter lists in search of ineligible registrants became the subject of three federal lawsuits by a coalition of liberal-leaning groups, as well as the Department of Justice. 

Similar voting fraud allegations, though more widespread and serious, were made against the ACORN. the largest neighborhood-based political advocacy, anti-poverty group in the country. The organization worked closely with Democratic Party politicians and, for that reason, became a constant target for conservative activists. After howls from conservative groups and Fox News, funding the resulting scandal brought down the organization. As one source explains:
During the 2008 election, ACORN claimed it signed up 1.3 million voters, but it was later revealed that 30 percent were rejected for a variety of reasons. Its voter registration efforts led to several legal battles that chipped away at the organization's reputation.
In Washington state, prosecutors got ACORN to pay a $25,000 fine for costs of an investigation that led to felony charges against seven people for submitting phony applications for celebrities like actress Katie Holmes and New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. The prosecutor concluded it was no grand conspiracy, just a case of workers cheating ACORN to get paid for work they didn't do. ACORN workers in Nevada filed forms for bogus applicants, such as the Dallas Cowboys football team, which led to a $5,000 fine.
Not a very flattering picture of the organization, to be sure. And certainly, ACORN paid the price for poor management and lack of quality control. 

However, in comparing the two, there is a difference between falsely registering non-voters and destroying the registrations of actual voters- the allegation made in 2004. 

Since ACORN kept its false registration forms, it was clear where the problem lay and how widespread it was. That’s not true in the case of Strategic Allied Consulting, where presumably the most irrefutable and incriminating evidence has been destroyed. 

One more thing, the Republican Party official without any doubt were aware of the problems and, for whatever reasons, continued to use the firm and even tried to do so covertly. That would seem to suggests a lot more than a case of bad apples. 

For the good of the Republic, we do hope that all Republicans will hold their party to its word and to the platform which it proudly adopted this election. Especially the part that demands a “vigorous prosecution of voter fraud at the State and federal level” in order “to preserve the integrity of the vote.” 

But I can bet $10,000 that’s not going to happen.