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President Barack Obama may have voted for Mitt Romney yesterday when he cast his Early Vote at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago's 4th Ward. Nobody knows for sure. Even him.
He cast his vote on a 100% unverifiable touch-screen e-voting system made by Sequoia Voting Systems (which is now owned by a Canadian firm named Dominion Voting.) It is scientifically impossible to ever know if his vote was recorded accurately, as per his itent, or not on that type of voting system.
"I can't tell you who I voted for," the President joked, as noted by our colleague Mark Crispin Miller in a short blog item today wryly headlined "Obama votes for Romney". The President's joke may not have been nearly as funny as he had intended it.
We confirmed with the Chicago Board of Elections that Early Voters in the Windy City must do so on the oft-failed, incredibly-vulnerable, and easily-hacked (see below for details) Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen voting system which is still used according to VerifiedVoting.org's database for Early, Disabled-Accessible or Standard polling place voting in some 234 jurisdictions across all or part of some 13 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
On Election Day, the Board's Communication Director told The BRAD BLOG, voters are allowed to vote on their choice of either paper ballots (also tallied by Sequoia's incredibly faulty computer tabulators --- the same ones which announced losing candidates as "winners" in 3 different elections in Palm Beach County, FL earlier this year) or Sequoia's 100% unverifiable AVC Edge touch-screens.
The Intellectual Property of those Sequoia systems is still a proprietary trade secret owned by a Venezuelan firm named Smartmatic, which has been tied to the country's long-time President Hugo Chavez. That point was lied about by Sequoia's then CEO Jack Blaine when he was asked directly about it by a Chicago Alderman some years ago, as The BRAD BLOG detailed exclusively back in 2008.
Sequoia has since been purchased by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting, which also subsequently lied about the company's Intellectual Property being owned by the Chavez-tied company when they announced their takeover of Sequoia in 2010. Dominion confirmed as much when we called them on it after their announcement. And, yes, we are still the only ones to have reported that as well.
A few other quick points of note which should deeply concern every voter in the nation --- of any party, or none at all --- about the 100% unverifiable Sequoia touch-screen voting systems that the President foolishly entrusted yesterday to accurately record his vote...
Once again, as they're coming in too fast for us to fully dig in to most of these, but you should know about them, so here's our quick round-up, for now, of the latest...
• Maricopa County, AZ Gives Wrong Election Date to Hispanic Voters. Again.: The largest county in AZ, the one with Phoenix in it, admitted last week that materials for Hispanic voters had incorrectly given the date of the November 6 election as November 8. They said it was a small error that didn't affect a lot of voters. This week, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department admits that they did it again: "Yvonne Reed confirms to ABC15 that bookmarks distributed by the elections department incorrectly listed the date of the general election in Spanish as November 8. The flip side of the bookmark correctly lists the date in English as November 6. Reed tells ABC15 the bookmarks were distributed at the three election counters throughout Maricopa County and that the department has no way of knowing exactly how many people received the bookmarks."
• 13,000 La Porte County, IN Voters Wrongly Purged by GOP Officials: "Back in 2011, some 800 voters were supposed to be purged from the La Porte County voter registration system. Instead, more than 13,000 got the boot and now the voter registration office is scrambling to get them online before Nov. 6." La Porte Dems are calling for a federal investigation. Over at DailyKos, blogger Dan Briggs explains how it happened.
• Fake Voter Purge Letters Sent to Florida Voters: The phony letters have shown up in 23 counties, so far, warning voters they have 15 days to show up at the local Supervisor of Elections office and prove their citizenship, or they'll be removed from the rolls. Unlike the very real letters sent in FL Gov. Rick Scott and Sec. of State Ken Detzner's failed "non-citizen" voter purge earlier this year, these letters are forgeries meant to look real. "The letters mimic notices that local election officials did send out to voters this past spring and summer when the state began a process of trying to purge the voter rolls of noncitizens who were illegally registered to vote. The original process, which identified 2,600 voters as noncitizens, was fraught with problems and incorrectly targeted hundreds of naturalized citizens. ... [FL State Dept. Spokesman Chris] Cate said that the department was still collecting information and has notified all the election supervisors of the problem. He urged Florida voters who receive anything similar to contact election officials immediately." On Wednesday, the FBI joined in the investigation.
As we've yet to see a copy of the fake letter or email warning about it sent to FL's county Supervisors of Elections on Monday posted online, we've posted both of them here, since we received a copy from a source earlier this week.
• Touch-Screen Vote-flipping in VA: And so it begins again. Expect many more of these in the days ahead, as usual, particularly in states like VA which continue to have so little respect for voters that most are forced to cast their votes on 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems. An email sent to Fairfax County, VA Democrats on Wednesday warns: "We have received several reports of touch screen voting machines switching the names on the ballot before the vote is cast." It goes on to advise voters who experience the problem to "Stop and alert the Election Officer - don't vote on that machine; Record the number of the voting machine; Record the name and phone number of the voter affected" and then to notify the local Democratic office immediately. We'd also add you should notify the Sec. of State, the local media and call 866-OUR-VOTE if this should happen to you.
The Fairfax Dems also offer this very sage advice: "Also, we encourage voters to use paper ballots (optical scan machine) where available." But good luck finding paper ballots in VA. (If you can still vote absentee there, please do, but deliver the paper ballot in person on Election Day, if possible!)
When touch-screen machines flip votes, they should be taken out of service immediately and quarantined. Unfortunately, most election officials allow technicians to try and re-calibrate the machines while they are in "Election Mode" and most vulnerable to manipulation. It's insane. We've been saying the same thing for years now, but few election officials seem to give a damn.
• Kochs team up with religious groups to target voters: Our friend journalist Zach Roberts, part of Greg Palast's intrepid team, obtained audio recordings from a fundraiser at a Focus on the Family-related group in Alaska where the man who runs the Rightwing outfit there boasted of their new affiliation with the Koch Brothers, the million-dollar voter targeting database they'd acquired from them, and the fact that, in the wake of Citizens United, political and religious groups may now work together more seamlessly than ever. Said the Alaska Family Council and Alaska Family Action President Jim Minnery at the event: "And so, the organization Alaska Family Action has the same board; I'm still the person in charge of that organization. We literally have to switch the light switch off and on when [laughter from crowd] we have a board meeting, because we have to be a separate nonprofit corporation according to IRS regulations." Also in attendance at the event: former Alaska Lt. Gov. Loren Leman (R) and Alaskan Gov. Sean Parnell (R). Roberts also reports that "Thirty-eight states with 'family healthy councils' across the country are in the midst of forming action groups and working with the Koch brothers' Themis database to target voters." Minnery also told the crowd, when explaining how the Kochs pitched the database to him: "So, they introduced this project to us by basically saying, 'Listen, we know more about you guys than you could ever hope to know, but the good side is, we're going to be able to use this for the glory of God and to get conservatives in power'".
• Davidson County (Nashville), TN Poll Workers Being Trained to Turn Away Voters?: "'Poll workers have been trained by the election commission to judge them (voters) by how they sound and how they look to determine their citizenship,' explained Eben Cathy of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition. Cathy's claims are based on a Powerpoint slide shown to poll workers who were trained in Davidson County earlier this month. On the slide, one bullet point states that only US Citizens who are Tennessee residents may vote. Below that are the words 'naturalized citizenship require reading, writing, speaking basic English.'"
Davidson County is also the place where the Republican official in charge of the Board of Elections once told us to our face that "paper ballots are the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Funny. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) keeps saying it's Global Warming. These guys should have more meetings.
• TX AG Threatens to Arrest U.N. Observers: We previously told you that U.N. monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] were planning to observe this year's election, following a request last March by the NAACP and other groups who were (justifiably) concerned about voter suppression. Texas AG Greg Abbot has another idea: "'The OSCE representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE's representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance,' he said. 'Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE's representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.'" --- Um, "may be"? Isn't he the AG? The OSCE responded Wednesday in a letter to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: "'The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections,' it said. 'The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable.'"
Either way, the U.S. Dept. of Justice is also planning to observe in Texas this year...Unless Abbot thinks they have no right to be there either. Why so worried about people observing at the polls? Got something you don't want them to see, cowboy?
• VA County Registrar Incredible Dishonest or Just Stupid: The Washington Post joins the ranks of us "conspiracy theorists" by reporting on concerns about Mitt Romney's business associates and major supporters and their takeover of Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machine company. But it was the last line of the piece we found the most amusing: "Falls Church [,VA] registrar David Bjerke said that he was aware of the discussion surrounding Hart but that he regarded the system as completely secure. 'There’s no way for the count to be manipulated,' he said."
What a Bjerke.
[UPDATE 10/24/12: Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will now be investigating after all, following a unanimous vote today of the State Board of Elections to refer the matter for a statewide criminal probe. Our concerns about Cuccinelli's conflicts of interest, as partially detailed below, still stand.]
Broader investigations are being sought, on a number of fronts, into the nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal including, finally, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Over the weekend, a Democratic state legislator in Virginia asked the state's Republican Attorney General to open a statewide probe, though AG Ken Cuccinelli has said he has no plans to carry one out. Given the photographs recently posted of Cuccinelli on Twitter (see below), that's probably a good thing.
On Monday, however, a number of Democratic U.S. Congress members from Virginia sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking a nationwide investigation. Also, the three ranking Democrats of the U.S. House Judiciary, Elections and Oversight committees are pressing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for answers as to why his party hired a shady GOP operative with a long history of voter registration fraud allegations against him, and whether the RNC intends to truly cut ties with him, and his many companies working for Republicans across the country.
All of this comes on the heels of the GOP Voter Registration Scandal widening to Virginia last week, when 23-year old Colin Small was arrested and charged with 8 felonies and 5 misdemeanors after being seen allegedly dumping voter registration forms into a dumpster near a shopping mall in Harrisonburg.
Small, a Pennsylvania resident who claimed on his LinkedIn profile to be a "Grassroots Field Director" for the Republican National Committee, had been hired to do voter registration work by Strategic Allied Consulting, a company formed this summer at the request of the RNC and headed by Nathan Sproul, a shady GOP operative and paid political consultant for Mitt Romney's campaign.
The firm was supposedly fired by the RNC late last month after hundreds of apparently fraudulent registration forms collected by the company on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida were discovered by election officials in some twelve counties in the Sunshine State. The RNC had reportedly paid Sproul's firm at least $3 million since August to carry out voter registration efforts in five battleground states, including VA, despite many years of allegations that his companies had destroyed Democratic registration forms in a number of states.
The arrest of Small revealed that the supposed firing was a deception, as Sproul's employees and Republican voter registration machine were kept in place, but run by local GOP officials and paid by PinPoint Staffing, one of the employment agencies Sproul tells The BRAD BLOG he had used in a number of states...
I was on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture TV show last night to discuss the arrest of the RNC operative in VA last week after he was caught destroying voter registration forms, and revealing that he was working for notorious GOP operative (and paid Romney consultant) Nathan Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting, which the RNC had claimed to have fired several week ago, after apparently fraudulent forms were turned in by the company in a dozen Florida counties.
The discussion then turned to talk about Chuck Todd of NBC's weekend charge that reporting on concerns about the Romney/Bain folks' recent acquisition of Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machine company, is "conspiracy" talk along the lines of "Trump birther garbage", and also about Think Progress' still-uncorrected, direct smear of The BRAD BLOG yesterday, inaccurately describing our reporting on the matter as "conspiracy theory"...
As we noted in yesterday's response to Think Progress, which includes our posting of the incredible emails from TP's Senior Editor Judd Legum, I guess we'll now have to count OH's former Democratic Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner as one of those "conspiracy theorists" as well! Last night, she told MSNBC (after my appearance on Hartmann's TV show): "You’d be right to call out Romney and his son for having a financial interest in this company. It doesn’t look good."
I also made a short appearance on brand new "conspiracy theorist" and MSNBC host Ed Schultz' radio show this morning to speak to several concerns about the Romney/Hart Intercivic issue, after he spent much of the show discussing those concerns with Ohio officials and others. Here's that appearance [appx 5 mins]...
To be frank, while it's no secret that the Center for American Progress has always been an outside extension of the Democratic Party, their important blog site, Think Progress, has served as a crucial, and journalistically sound fact-checker on the excesses, inaccuracies and blatant fabrications of the Right over the past several years.
I have been more than happy to cite their excellent work on a number of fronts over the years and take no pleasure in calling them, their new Senior Editor Judd Legum, and one of their writers, Aviva Shen, out here on The BRAD BLOG for an egregious and, frankly, outrageous journalistic failure.
It is one thing to make an error. We all do it. It is quite another thing indeed --- and what, in my opinion, separates real journalists from hacks --- when, once called out with independently fact-based and verifiable evidence of those errors, one sticks to the original error come what may.
That's exactly what Legum and Think Progress have decided to do, as the email discussion between Legum and me illustrates below. I'm sorry I have to even run it, but, for journalists, credibility is our only currency --- (especially those of us not funded by major foundations, as Think Progress is...so feel free to hit the tip jar here!) --- and being smeared, without correction, from a respected institution like Think Progress is extraordinarily damaging to all that we do here.
So here's what happened...
These are now coming in too quickly for us to cover 'em all in detail. But let's see if we can try and help get a few more eyeballs on at least some of the most noteworthy, with more in-depth coverage to come as/if time allows...
• DoJ Monitoring Early Voting in TX: "The Justice Department announced today that it will monitor portions of the early voting period for the Nov. 6, 2012, general election in Dallas and Harris Counties, Texas, to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
• UN Monitoring U.S. Precincts on Election Day: In March, we noted that the NAACP requested U.N. monitors to observe the U.S. election, based on concerns about disenfranchisement by GOP polling place Photo ID restrictions and other voter suppression tactics. Now they're getting them. "The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places. It's part of a broader observation mission that will send out an additional 80 to 90 members of parliament from nearly 30 countries."
Oddly, Republican-funded "non-partisan" group "True The Vote", which claims to be monitoring polling places to prevent fraud (but appears to be there to challenge legitimate voters, intimidate them and cause havoc instead), is against the idea. If they wanted to prevent fraud wouldn't they say the more observers the better?
• "Voter Fraud" Billboards Coming Down: After they've already been up in minority neighborhoods for two weeks..."Clear Channel Outdoor will remove 30 billboards across the city that drew complaints of racism and intimidation with their message of "Voter fraud is a felony," the company said Saturday night." Clear Channel also says it'll donate "10 other billboards that will have messages to counter the offending ones." They'll read "Voting Is a Right. Not a Crime!" See Jamil Smith's take on why the billboards, placed in minority areas, were so disturbing.
• OH SoS Says Order to Restore Early Voting "Un-American" - Yes, that's what Republican Sec. of State Jon Husted, vying to become the J. Kenneth Blackwell for 2012, actually said during his keynote speech at an election law symposium at University of Toledo on Friday. Apparently the remarks were not well received by the actual Election Law experts on hand. See our summary of Husted unsuccessful, "Un-American" attempt to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to help him keep legal voters from voting right here.
• State Ads Causing Confusion in PA Following Photo ID Ruling: As we predicted when the Republican Commonwealth Court Judge's ruling was issued, confusion is now reigning in PA. The ruling barred the GOP's polling place Photo ID requirement (this November, anyway), but decided that poll workers could ask for it anyway. Moreover, the Judge refused to enjoin the part of the law that allocates millions in tax-payer dollars to "voter education" about the Photo ID law. "That critical detail in Simpson’s opinion — that photo ID is not required in this election — has been lost in much of the $5 million advertising campaign by the Pennsylvania Department of State, voters rights advocates charge. On buses, an ad displays a photo ID with 'SHOW IT' in big block lettering. In smaller type, it says photo ID is not mandatory. Moreover, state officials acknowledge that it was not until Tuesday, a full two weeks after the court opinion, that the last of the pre-decision billboards announcing photo ID as a requirement came down."
"Late Friday, the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, filed a petition asking [Commonwealth Court Judge Robert] Simpson to order Pennsylvania officials to cease advertising and distributing information about the photo ID requirement."
We currently have a premium offer for signed copies of investigative journalist Greg Palast's new best-seller Billionaires and Ballot Bandits and his "Election Files" DVD, including his BBC reports on fraudulent U.S. elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Details on that limited time offer right here...
This morning, NBC News' top election expert, Chuck Todd, tweeted the following...
The voting machine conspiracies belong in same category as the Trump birther garbage.
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) October 21, 2012
Todd was responding, no doubt, to the many folks who have been justifiably concerned of late, since it was discovered that a bunch of Bain Capital investors, led by Mitt Romney's son Tagg, via a company called H.I.G. Capital (believed to stand for Hart Intercivic Group) took over control of Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machine company, in 2011.
The Austin-based Hart company, according to VerifiedVoting.org's database, supplies electronic voting machines and paper ballot tabulators that will be used to tally votes in the Presidential Election this year in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
I offered my point of view about those concerns earlier this month, explaining that it was not just the private ownership of Hart's machines by Romney backers which voters should be concerned about, but the private ownership of the similar systems in all fifty states that will once again be used to tabulate the results of this year's Presidential Election with little --- and very often zero --- possibility of oversight by the public or even by election officials.
Todd does an extraordinary disservice to the electorate with Tweets like the one above, and I'd be happy to come on his daily MSNBC show any time to explain why, as I have told him via Twitter in response to the above.
As Todd has not responded in kind, and to expand upon my response to Todd there, I'd like to ask him these few respectful questions...
A man originally reported to have been working for the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested by the Rockingham County, VA Sheriff's office on Thursday and charged with attempting to destroy voter registration forms by tossing them into a dumpster behind a shopping center in Harrisonburg, VA.
"Prosecutors charged him with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice," according to a report late Thursday afternoon from TPM's Ryan Reilly. More charges could be forthcoming, according to officials.
But there is more to the story, as evidence emerges to document that it ties in to a still-expanding nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal that The BRAD BLOG first began reporting in late September, after we'd learned that the Republican Party of Florida had turned in more than 100 allegedly fraudulent and otherwise suspect voter registration forms in Palm Beach County. The story has continued to widen ever since, to a dozen Florida counties and several other states, now including Virginia, and even to the upper-echelons of the Republican Party itself.
The man arrested today was 23-year old Colin Small of Phoenixville, PA. As it turns out, he does not only work for the VA Republican Party. According to an online profile, he appears to be working for the Republican National Committee and, prior to that, served as an Intern for Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Joseph Tanfani at the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Small was "working as a supervisor as part of a registration operation in eight swing states financed by the Republican National Committee."
He was first hired, says Tanfani, by Strategic Allied Consulting, the firm owned by the disgraced GOP operative and paid Mitt Romney political consultant, Nathan Sproul. Even before this year's registration fraud scandal which began with Strategic in Florida, Sproul's companies have long been accused of, though never charged with, destroying Democratic voter registrations in election after election and state after state, going back to at least 2004. Despite that, Sproul was hired by the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004, by the McCain/Palin Campaign in 2008, and by Romney during the Republican Primary cycle.
Sproul's company, Strategic Allied Consulting, was hired by the RNC in August for more than $3 million, reportedly as its sole voter registration company this cycle. His company was said to have been fired by the RNC and five different battleground state Republican parties several weeks ago, after fraudulent voter registrations began to emerge across Florida. Some of those questionable applications included address changes for existing voters, such that FL election officials told The BRAD BLOG they worry voters could find themselves disenfranchised come Election Day. In Florida, as in many states, provisional ballots cast at precincts other than where voters are officially registered will not be counted. So changing the addresses on voter registrations without voters' knowledge is a serious crime with potentially very serious consequences.
Reilly's report at TPM says that Small "worked for PinPoint, a company hired to register voters on behalf of the Republican Party of Virginia." In fact, PinPoint Staffing placed ads to hire workers for Strategic Allied Consulting in FL, VA and a number of other states, though The BRAD BLOG has learned that the company removed many of those ads once the scandal began to break in FL. They have since modified some of their newer ads to hide their ties to the Republican Party.
In response to queries we sent to Sproul late Thursday, his crisis spokesperson, David Leibowitz, attempted to distance his client from the arrest of the Republican Party worker in Virginia, claiming that "the only connection between Sproul and Pinpoint is that Nathan has, on occasion, used Pinpoint to hire some workers."
It was PinPoint Staffing, in fact, which reportedly hired the man Strategic blamed for the fraudulent registration forms turned in originally in Palm Beach. But while PinPoint continues to seek workers for GOP-related efforts around the country, and as Sproul's operations continue in "as many as 30 states", it is the Republican National Committee's response to the entire affair, including to the arrest today, that may be the most troubling...
Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a "strategic investment" to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic.
"Several tanker trucks full of political ink have been spilled on Mitt Romney's tenure as a vulture capitalist at Bain Capital," Bello and Fitrakis wrote. "A more important story, however, is the fact that Bain alumni, now raising big money as Romney bundlers are also in the electronic voting machine business. This appears to be a repeat of the infamous former CEO of Diebold Wally O'Dell, who raised money for Bush while his company supplied voting machines and election management software in the 2004 election."
Lee Fang at The Nation recently confirmed the FreePress reporting in a story of his own on the "crony capitalism" of Tagg Romney, whose father's money and high-profile connections present a number of troubling corporate conflicts of interest should Mitt Romney become President. The Daily Dolt also followed up with a very well-documented article on the H.I.G. group, their connections to Bain, and their takeover of Hart Intercivic.
Hart's announcement of the deal describes H.I.G.'s role as as "co-investors", though the financial services firm which brokered the deal described it in their own announcement as a full-fledged acquisition: "Hart Intercivic was acquired by HIG Capital late last week. The deal caps off a 2+ year relationship with Hart! Congrats to both Hart and the HIG team….its going to be a great partnership!"
Also this week, in a video that has gone a bit viral, The David Pakman Show expressed understandable concerns about Romney's close business partners having this type of corporate control over a large e-voting company whose, extremely vulnerable and insecure [PDF] --- and often 100% unverifiable --- voting and tabulation systems are now used, according to VerifiedVoting.org's database, in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. [Pakman's video is embedded below.]
When the story initially broke, I spoke about it on the radio with Fitrakis, but didn't comment on it at The BRAD BLOG for a number of reasons. One being the time we've been spending, during the same period, consumed by the continuing breaking story of the RNC/Romney consultant Nathan Sproul and his companies at the center of the national GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal which we've been covering in detail since it first broke several weeks ago. Secondly, and not to downplay this story, because it's a very good and important one, the fact is that, though the names of the corporate titans and companies are different, it is essentially the same story that we have been telling here, over and over again --- and warning about with hair afire --- at The BRAD BLOG for nearly a decade.
Moreover, I've been on the road all this week for a conference, with much less time online than usual. But since so many folks have picked up on the Romney/Bain/H.I.G./Hart Intercivic stories and have sent email and Twitter queries to me about it, allow me to very quickly share a few thoughts, on this, some of which I sent to a reporter who also raised this issue with me late this week...
[This article now cross-posted at Salon...]
Questions continue to grow about Nathan Sproul and his various companies' multi-million dollar work for the Republican National Committee, despite claims that they've broken ties with him on the heels of a nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal. A virtual clone of his discredited Strategic Allied Consulting firm appears to still be operating on behalf of Republicans in at least 10 states.
At the same time, Democrats in Congress are now asking for official answers from both Sproul and very senior Republicans, according to new letters obtained by The BRAD BLOG.
Sproul went on the record with us, briefly, to address some of these issues in his own defense, before he was ordered by his newly hired crisis response manager to stop speaking to us all together.
When the RNC invested $3 million to hire Strategic Allied Consulting, a company quietly created this August by Sproul, a paid political consultant to Mitt Romney, and then instructed state GOP affiliates in seven key battleground states (FL, NC, VA, NV, CO, WI and OH) to do the same, they knew very well about his companies' long documented history of alleged electoral misconduct and voter registration fraud.
The longtime GOP operative's voter registration and "Get Out the Vote" firms have been accused, during election after election, of destroying and altering Democratic voter registration forms, though no formal charges have ever been filed against him, despite repeated urging from high-ranking members of Congress and others. Sproul's long track record of improprieties was bad enough that before they would give him the contract as their national voter registration group this year, according to Sproul himself, the RNC "asked us to do it with a different company name."
Subsequently, Strategic Allied Consulting is alleged to have collected fraudulent voter registration forms. Some of those forms had the addresses of existing Democratic voters changed so that some of Florida's county election officials now worry that voters could be disenfranchised when they go to the polls this November and find they're no longer registered at their old precinct, or even in the same county. The fraudulent forms were collected by Strategic and submitted by the Florida GOP (which paid Sproul's firm some $1.3 million for voter registration work, their largest single expenditure in the 2012 cycle) in at least 12 different FL counties.
When the RNC then publicly claimed to have "fired" Sproul's new company, after the fraudulent forms came to light, it's likely that the RNC also knew full well that many of their state GOP affiliate organizations were still quietly employing Sproul's firms for partisan work in a number of other states.
RNC spokesman Sean Spicer played dumb about having asked Sproul to create the firm without his name on it --- "To my knowledge, no one requested that" --- though Sproul told The BRAD BLOG during an on the record conversation, eventually aborted by his recently hired crisis manager David Liebowitz, that he stands by his assertion.
"I'm not going to comment on this further," Sproul told us when we'd asked for specifics, since the RNC appeared to be calling him a liar, "but I'm not retracting my prior comments either."
Perhaps even more disturbing is the evidence suggesting that his companies are still operating in states around the country under different names. That, despite the RNC's claims to have "severed our relationship" with Sproul, and the assertion that they "acted swiftly and boldly" to cut ties with the group only after the allegedly fraudulent registration forms came to light in Florida (and as Democratic registration forms were also alleged to have been destroyed by Strategic workers in other states, such as Colorado and Nevada.)
When we asked Sproul directly: "Do your other companies still work for the RNC or other state or local parties?", his response came back as a blunt, "No."
In a response to a follow-up query, when we asked Sproul to explain evidence suggesting that his companies were, in fact, still operating elsewhere on behalf of Republicans, he walked back his original denial a bit.
"I know you have additional questions, including many about SAC [Strategic Allied Consulting] and its affiliates and work we've done in other places and for other clients," Sproul said. "Those questions fall either outside the bounds of what I can discuss or outside the bounds of where I'm comfortable going in this story. I hope you'll understand."
And yet, as still more evidence is emerging to show that Sproul may have been less than forthcoming in some of his responses to The BRAD BLOG (he has refused to respond to additional, specific follow-up queries on this emerging evidence, after Liebowitz was brought on board as his crisis spokesperson), Congressional Democrats have similar questions about Sproul's work with the GOP and if it may be continuing even now.
Senior Democratic members of the U.S. House Elections, Judiciary and Oversight Committees seeking answers --- from Sproul, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, as well as GOP heavies Karl Rove and former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie (now a senior adviser to Romney) who founded one of the top Republican Super PACs and paid Sproul some $750,000 for unspecified work --- about what Sproul's operations may still be up to, despite the RNC's recent public, if unsupported, claim of a "zero tolerance" policy for election fraud and those who practice it...
Fox "News" has finally decided to cover the widening GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal. Sort of. Barely. And they've decided to include me in their coverage.
It took more than a week, and it was becoming embarrassing that they hadn't said a word about the national scandal rocking the Republican National Committee, so they had to say something because, ya know, "Fair and Balanced" and all.
I was interviewed by their "voter fraud" correspondent Eric Shawn late last week for use on Thursday night's Special Report with Bret Baier. He ended up running lengthier excerpts from the interview the following day on of their afternoon shows.
The video of both packages are posted in full below.
It's been rather amusing watching the Rightwing's pretend "news" sites twist and turn to find new ways to not cover the growing registration fraud scandal which has now resulted in a criminal investigation being launched by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, as well as by prosecutors in the state of Colorado...
We recently offered a very few, long overdue words about Colorado's embarrassingly bad, incredibly partisan, anti-democratic and anti-Democratic, wingnut Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), when, as the state's chief election official, he made a fool of himself with an attempted-then-aborted purge of "non-citizen" voters who, to Gessler's inconvenience, turned out to not be "non-citizens".
It's not altogether surprising. The state is developing a rich history of cringe-inducing Secretaries of State.
The previous wingnut to hold the job, who is now, even more embarrassingly, U.S. House Rep. Mike Coffman (R), recently revealed his own confusion about which Americans are citizens and which are not, when he told the crowd at a fundraiser last May: "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."
Moving beyond the two most recent CO Secretaries of State's embarrassing paranoia of alien invasion, Gessler isn't done shaming the great state of Colorado with conspiracy theories, not by a long shot, as displayed at a wingnut "voter fraud" conference late last week in Denver. That, even as he has, publicly at least, completely ignored what now appears to be an actual criminal conspiracy, with actual evidence, concerning actual voter registration fraud (albeit by a Republican outfit, so perhaps it doesn't count), acknowledged by his own office to be officially under criminal investigation by prosecutors in his state...
I was first interviewed by Anastasia Churkina of RT America, the English language Russian-sponsored cable and satellite news outlet in the U.S., about the failed e-voting systems in this country (and the failed U.S. corporate media as well) back before the 2008 election.
Here we are, four years later, and Churkina has put together another report or RT, for which I was interviewed again, on the same e-voting and e-tabulation concerns. Four years later and things are arguably no better in the U.S. than they were then, except that now we all know even more about the dangers of the oft-failed, easily-manipulated systems which tally votes in all 50 states --- while still having done almost nothing about it. Her new report ran Friday on RT, and afterwards I was interviewed live, via Skype, about it on their Evening News program.
As I noted earlier this week, when running CBS4 Miami's excellent first-in-a-series investigative report on the issue, focus on the serious concerns about computer tabulation failure and malfeasance have been largely lost this year, once again, amidst the continuing (and necessary) focus on rampant GOP voter suppression efforts. So it's nice to see at least a few outlets keeping their eye on this particular ball, even if it always comes way too late --- just weeks before the election --- to do much about it, other than to raise a bit of needed awareness.
Here's Churkina's very good pre-taped RT special report...
And here's my subsequent live interview following it, on the RT Evening News with anchor Kristine Frazao. Appropriately, a few computer issues, at a key moment, made the interview a bit more difficult, if instructive...
P.S. For those who may have noticed, yes, I was also interviewed by (gasp!) Fox "News" this week on the latest in the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal. The interview, by their "voter fraud" reporter Eric Shawn, was pre-taped and then parts of it were used first on Special Report with Bret Baier Thursday night, and then a longer portion on one of their afternoon shows on Friday in a separate package. I hope to share both of those videos with you, and, knowing me, a few thoughts on them as well --- as soon as I can get to 'em...
Lost in all of the front-end voter suppression and voter registration fraud news over the past many months this cycle, is the continuing "back-end" threat to Election Integrity still very much present in our unoverseeable, easily-manipulated, oft-failed electronic voting systems --- both touch-screen and paper ballot optical-scan systems.
Helping to balance that, if only a bit this week, we get some excellent investigative local TV news reporting from Miami's Michele Gillen and her CBS4 Investigative team. They have noticed that we still have a very serious problem with the privatization of our supposedly-public electoral system, which now employes proprietary computer systems from private companies to determine the results of our elections...
From the printed version of the above report...
What keeps him awake at night? Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on.
“We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.
“I think the citizens should be screaming from the rooftops,” he punctuates with the candor and directness he is known for.
The legendary Ion Sancho, quoted above, is Leon County, FL's long-time Supervisor of Elections, so trusted by both parties that he was named to oversee the (eventually aborted) 2000 Presidential Election recount in the Sunshine State. He was also the first election official in the nation to allow an independent hack test of an electronic voting system. That test resulted in the stunning hack of a Diebold optical-scan system as seen in the shocking climactic scene of HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy.
Despite that very public hack, almost seven years ago, the very same machines are still in use in dozens of states. All the rest use computers that are virtually identical, and as easily manipulated and as often malfunctioning.
Sancho goes on, in the report above, to give today's Florida election system a grade of "F. F. F." He's being kind though.
CBS4's report goes on to add that "other Florida election supervisors" that they have met with to date have similarly stressed that "they are uncomfortable that they must rely so heavily on the machine’s manufacturers for answers as to what’s working…. and potentially not working… in their voting systems."
Just go read the rest and/or watch the video report above from CBS4's Michele Gillen, please.
We spoke earlier this week to the producer of the CBS4 investigative series, and she promises The BRAD BLOG there will be regular, new installments in the series between now and Election Day, including what she described to us as a "very big" story in the weeks ahead.
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