After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) --- cited for the third year in a row by a public interest watchdog as one of the "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" --- has finally decided to "apologize" for going on that $75,000 lobbyist-funded junket to play golf in Scotland in 2003, along with the disgraced, and convicted, Jack Abramoff. The "apology" comes in the form of a desperate, 30-second campaign ad (at left.)
Feeney is the last remaining member of Congress to have gone on one of those Abramoff-funded private jet trips to hit the links in St. Andrews. The other two, Tom Delay (R-TX), who went in 2001, and Bob Ney (R-OH), who went in 2002, have both left Congress in disgrace and under indictment.
You'll note that the ad --- in which Feeney never bothers to mention that he's a Republican --- ends, laughably, with: "Because public service is about being honest, even when you make a mistake."
That line might more appropriately, at least for Feeney, have been: "Public service is about admitting that you broke the law, five years after you took a huge favor from a corrupt lobbyist and were finally forced to admit it outloud in a desperate, last-ditch attempt, to save your Congressional meal ticket."
But he might have had trouble getting all of that into his :30 spot.
The ad also says, on screen: "Get the facts: Tom Feeney.com" Might we suggest if you really want the facts on Tom Feeney, one of the filthiest players remaining in Congress, that you see instead our special coverage page about him, and former Republican computer programmer Clint Curtis. Curtis worked at the same company as Feeney, back when Feeney was both the powerful Speaker of the Florida House and a lobbyist for the software firm with millions of dollars in state contracts. The same company also employed undocumented Chinese aliens working on systems for NASA and others, even as Feeney has continued to protect that company to this day (he was also their one-time general counsel) and has housed his campaign headquarters in their building.
A remarkable documentary film, Murder, Spies & Voting Lies, covering that story, and The BRAD BLOG's attempts to tell it over the last four years, has just been released. If you'd rather learn the facts in movie form, please check out that film! NOTE: It's terrifying and includes untold details on at least two grizzly deaths related to the Curtis/Feeney scandal.
Curtis himself eventually switched to the Democratic Party following the incident and, after Congress refused to take action on Feeney, he ran unsuccessfully against him in 2006. His attempts to do so again this year were derailed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which backed wealthy opponent Suzanne Kosmas in the primary. With polls showing the well-funded Kosmas in a tight race with Feeney, clearly, one of the dirtiest Republicans in America is now running very scared.
I sat down with Ohio's Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, for an exclusive, detailed, one-on-one interview while in Denver at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago. We chatted for nearly an hour and a half in what was the first opportunity we'd had to speak, in detail, since my interview with her last December, following the release of Ohio's landmark "EVEREST" testing of e-voting systems finding "critical security failures" on virtually all fronts.
We covered a lot of interesting, and even newsworthy topics in our recent discussion, just published at AlterNet, as the Buckeye State barrels towards either redemption or disaster in the 2008 election. In my Q&A with the Secretary of State we discuss, among other things:
Challenges and surprises she's faced since becoming SoS in 2007, even by constituencies one might think would otherwise be supportive of her;
Concerns about her tie-breaking decision to move Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) to an all paper ballot system, just 73 days before the state's primary election last March;
Directives she's issued (and will be issueing) for this year's general election, such as requiring counties to inform all voters that they may vote on paper ballots; that there must be two lines created at polling places --- one for those who wish to vote on paper, and another for those who prefer to vote on touch-screen; the end of voting machine "sleepovers" at poll workers' houses prior to elections, and other new security requirements;
Whether or not there has ever been any accountability for so much that went wrong in 2004 in places like Warren County, where press and public were famously locked out of the counting room on Election Night, or in Knox County, where the last vote was not cast at Kenyon College until 4am on the morning following Election Day;
Concerns about student access to polling places this year, and steps being taken to try to help assure it;
Whether citizens may use video cameras in the polling place to document what may go on there this year;
And beyond all of that: Will Ohio be ready for whatever may come this November, and will it be the Buckeye State again in 2008, or the "blackeye" state that it became in 2004?
As you'll see, Brunner seems to feel confident that Ohio "will be ready" this year, even as the challenges sure to come will be monumental. Of course, I hope she's right. Undoubtedly, as I hope you'll agree after reading the piece, the voters of the state --- of all parties --- are surely in far better hands than they were with the criminal J. Kenneth Blackwell (former SoS, co-chair of Bush/Cheney '04) at the helm four years ago. Still, there are many reasons for worry, and I do my best, in the interview, to ask tough questions and push for answers where I can.
As noted in my intro to the Q&A over there, we also discussed a number of more complicated issues, better suited for technical/computer/election junkies (such as myself, and perhaps readers of The BRAD BLOG.) I'll be running the shorter, geekier portions of our interview, in which we discussed lawsuits with Diebold, the future of e-voting and the possibility of hand-counting in Ohio, elsewhere shortly. [Update 10/8/08: That portion of the interview now published at ComputerWorld here...]
Working on a number of deadlines today, so pardon the light posting for the moment. In the meantime, the blizzard of anti-democracy GOP voter-caging/suppression reports continue to come in from around the country.
While we will, no doubt, have more on all of the latest soon, I wanted to quickly point out the brand new Voter Suppression Wiki that was set up late last week, by Baratunde Thurston, to track some of the stuff now rolling in at an alarming pace (with vastly inadequate Obama/Dem response, as far as I can tell.)
Thurston introduced the new participatory Wiki in a HuffPo article late last week. He included, along with it, a quick introductory video that pulls just together just some of the reports piling in from just the day or two before he finally decided such a site was very much needed. That short video alone is worth a quick view, as it offers a pretty astounding collection of just a few of the most appalling incidents rolling in the news late last week, courtesy of the well-organized GOP troops marshaling the latest full-frontal assualt (surge!) in the coordinated Republican War on Democracy. Here the short video...
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The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, is calling on the John McCain campaign to "immediately halt Republican vote suppression efforts," as seen recently in Michigan --- where a county GOP chair announced his intention to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voter eligibility at the polls on Election Day --- and elsewhere.
Conyers has announced hearings on these issues, and is calling on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to launch an immediate "full scale investigation" into these matters. He has sent letters both to McCain [PDF] and to Mukasey [PDF] (the latter signed by 23 members of Congress) to that effect, as well as issuing the following statement today...
Tribune Media Services' Bob Koehler was one of the first voices, from within the corporate mainstream media, to speak about the bastardization of our current electoral system. He did so, beginning way back in the darkest days of 2005, when writing and/or saying such things aloud got folks fired, spiked, and otherwise Dixie Chicked for daring to speak such truths in a country which once claimed to believe in "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press."
From Ohio's 2004 abberation of democracy, to voting systems that don't work, to those who would do anything to win, such as keep voters from voting however they can, Koehler has continued to bang the drum, no matter the heat he has taken in return.
This week he continues to beat that drum, and offers us a few kind words in the bargain, yet again. Here's a few key grafs from his latest, headlined "Goo Goo Government"...
TALLAHASSEE — A new pitch for John McCain's presidential campaign aimed at older Democratic voters is causing complaints by Democrats and concern by elections officials.
The piece, paid for by the Republican National Committee and authorized by McCain, tells voters it is seeking to double-check their "unconfirmed" party affiliations while asking for money. A letter signed by McCain tells the Democrats: "We have you registered as a Republican."
"I was a little bit shocked and a little bit surprised," said recipient Bill Smith, 81, of Tampa, who calls himself a lifelong Democrat and has been registered at his current address since 2000.
The RNC declined to discuss the mailer, which Democrats said has landed in five counties: Duval, Hillsborough, Collier, Miami-Dade and Escambia.
The article goes on to note that FL's Republican SoS Kurt Browning believes the mailing is "confusing" and "unfortunate", but does not note whether or not he plans to do anything about it. We're not holding our breath. Neither are we holding it for Democrats down there to do much about it either.
The mailings sent to registered Democrats appear to be classic "caging" letters, marked as "Do Not Forward", so that they will then be returned to the GOP if there is any problem with delivery. Those returned letters will likely then be used as a basis to challenge the legitimacy of those particular voters on Election Day....
MSNBC reports on the Dem injunction filed this week to try and stop the MI GOP's "anything-to-win" scheme to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls this year. Kieth Olbermann discusses the matter with Allen Raymond, the formerly-jailed Republican, election rigger, and author of How To Rig an Election. Raymond notes that the scheme, while unseemly, is hardly unusual for the GOP...
Rather than being cowed by the press' mini-sermons about truth-telling, McCain and Palin are practically laughing at the press.
Can you blame them?
Nope, and Eric Boehlert explains why. After years of having abdicated their Constitutionally-guaranteed role as watchdog for the public, the corporate media's too-little, too-late, temporary stint at actually reporting is now regarded as little more than a joke. And one that not even McCain/Palin feel they need to take seriously. What they've sowed, so shall we reap.
I'll once again be hosting KPFK/Pacifica's "Special Election Year Coverage" hour from 2p-3p PT (5p-6p ET) today (Wednesday).
I hope to be focusing on plans (or lack thereof) by both Democrats and Republicans to help protect your vote, though neither the Obama/DNC nor the McCain/RNC has so far been particularly forthcoming in offering a rep to discuss those plans. So if they don't show up, I guess I'll have to discuss their plans myself. To bad for them, I guess.
Guests scheduled for today...
JON GREENBAUM - Director of the National Lawyers Committee's Voting Rights Project, on their new, non-partisan, 866OurVote.org election protection effort announced today.
KPFK is heard at 90.7FM in Los Angeles and 98.7FM in Santa Barbara and streams live on the net at KPFK.org. Please tune in, stream in, and call-in at 818-985-5735, if you like.
POST-SHOW UPDATE: It was another lively, and hopefully very informative show today, with a bunch o' great calls and more. Unfortunately, our best laid plans for Mark Crispin Miller were for naught, as we lost him on the Long Island Railroad somewhere, but Jon Greenbaum was great, with a lotta good info, and some interesting information concerning the National Lawyers Committee's support for a bill that supported the continued use of touch-screen voting machines. I'm hopeful they will consider changing their position in the future, even as they're doing a great job of serving the voters with their 866-OUR-VOTE election protection effort this season!
BTW...I hope those within spittin' distance of L.A. will come to the screening of Uncounted in Los Angeles --- as mentioned during the show, next Tuesday (9/23) at Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd. --- where you'll be able to spit on me, filmmaker David Earnhardt, "Diebold Document Whistleblower" Steve Heller, and host Jerry Quickly of KPFK in the Q&A that follows. If you can't come, you can get the DVD at the website, OR help support our work here and get a special version of the DVD, signed by Earnhardt, in exchange for a contribution of $50 or more to The BRAD BLOG.
I've been quite critical of the Obama/DNC plan (or lack thereof) for "election protection" this year, noting that it looks, smells and sounds a lot like a slightly beefed-up version of the Kerry/DNC "we'll have thousands of lawyers in place on Election Day should anything go wrong."
On Election Day, of course, if DNC lawyers are still trying to keep up with what's going on, it's already game over. While for years Osama Bin Laden and Muslim extremists had supposedly declared war on the U.S., as the legend goes, America paid little attention until it was too late. So it is with the raging Republican War on Democracy, where proactive steps are necessary (beginning long ago, but we'll take what we can get at this point) to join the war and push back against the GOP's assault on the most democratic of all values, the right to freely cast one's vote, to have that vote counted, and to have it counted accurately.
Back in 2006, after speaking to a group of DNC election attorneys in Chicago, I wrote about the "Dysfunction at the DNC" and the persistent cluelessness they had displayed at the time concerning a number of very real threats to our electoral system. While Obama has certainly displayed a tendency to understand at least some of the issues at stake --- far more so than his '04 counterpart --- the party, from every sign I'm able to get, remains out of touch with the serious threats they face: from the massive front-end disenfranchisement efforts, about which they are at least somewhat aware, to the back-end disenfranchisement efforts via manipulation and/or often-undiscoverable "tabulation error" of completely un-transparent electronic voting systems used in virtually every county, in every state in the union.
So we may be grasping for any optimistic straw we can find here, but at least today we have one such sign of proactivity from the Obama/DNC that we can tell you about...
"Strategists say that Mr. McCain can now count on a more motivated social conservative base to help him in areas like southern Ohio, where the 2004 race was settled."
--The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2008, A1
"In investigating the 2004 election in Ohio--examining pollbooks, talking to pollworkers and election officials, as well as reading local newspaper accounts --we could find no data of a late surge to the polls by born-again Christians. What we did find is certified voting totals in areas favoring Bush that didn't match the number of voters who officially signed-in on the poll sign-in sheets."
--Email from Bob Fitrakis of The Columbus Free Press, Sept. 7, 2008
To understand how Team McCain intends to get away with stealing this election, we must recall how Team Bush got away with it four years ago. (Those aren't two different teams.)
The plan for stealing this contest has everything to do with the ostensibly surprising choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP.
Wow. Poor Tucker Bounds. First CNN's right-leaning Campbell Brown (she's married to Bush Admin loyalist/lackey Dan Senor, despite the fact that CNN rarely, if ever, discloses that serious conflict of interest) committed a rare act of actual journalism by asking Bounds what foreign affairs experience Sarah Palin had. The McCain/Palin shill had nothing, and embarrassed himself under Brown's repeated, and responsible, prodding. So the McCain camp subsequently cancelled an interview with CNN's Larry King, claiming "that exchange was over the line" because Brown bothered to ask actual questions, and follow-ups, of their campaign.
And now, it seems that even Fox "News" is holding a McCain foot to the fire for some currently inexplicable reason. Fox's Megyn Kelly went after Bounds in regard to the McCain camp's continuing lies, and new ad claiming Obama plans to raise taxes on the middle class, despite countless independent think-tanks that have studied the Obama tax plan and have reported the McCain claim to be simply untrue.
"I want to hold you accountable for what McCain is doing," Kelly said for some reason today. ThinkProgress has details, here's their video...
The remarkable video of Brown's grilling of Bounds on CNN during the Republican Convention follows below, in case you missed it previously, or in case you'd like a nourishing second helping of freshly grilled Tucker...
Despite last week's agreement by the Dept. of Veteran Affairs to follow federal law --- after months of pressure from vet groups, members of Congress, and the public --- and relent to allow voter registration drives on the department's federal facilities, The BRAD BLOG has learned that the department is continuing to block non-partisan groups access to our wounded warriors in order to sign up voters. With most voter registration deadlines for the general election just one month away, the continuing stonewall, in this case by the San Francisco VA, continues to outrage.
The non-partisan Veterans for Peace organization has now been forced to file an emergency motion with the court in order to gain access. They contacted us this morning with the following statement...
Preminger Seeks Enforcement of Court Mandate Against VA Interference with Voter Registration Drives
By Scott Rafferty, attorney | Press Release
PUBLISHED: September 15, 2008
WASHINGTON – On September 12, 2008, the San Francisco VA prohibited Veterans for Peace (“VFP”) from registering voters, even though a recent “directive” instructs local officials to “facilitate” nonpartisan groups who wish to register voters. VFP is 501(c)(3) humanitarian and educational organization. VA officials told VFP that their visit would be delayed for at least 12 days by an investigation into each visitors “political activities” and a tuberculosis test, which requires two medical appointments. This violates a February 2008 court mandate.
In February 2008, the Federal Circuit in Washington held that VA cannot impose special requirements on visitors because of the content of their message. The Federal Circuit ruled that the VA cannot use its rule against “unauthorized demonstrations” to interfere with voter registration unless there is physical “disturbance” that also offends “decorum and decency.”
Today’s emergency motion seeks to enforce that order.
"Having registered only 414 veterans nationwide, the VA needs all the help it can get," notes the press release from VFP, which continues in full below...
Following up on the arrest last week of Pima County (Tuscon), Arizona, election integrity advocate John Brakey... You'll recall, he was arrested after noticing that some 7 out of 10 bags of ballots being counted during a post-election audit last week were missing their proper security seals.
As an election observer representing both the Libertarian and Democratic parties during the hand-count audit of a Sept. 2nd state Primary, Brakey began to ask questions about the bags --- which had supposedly been chosen at random the day before --- prompting Pima's Brad "Election Director Gone Wild" Nelson to call the sheriff on him.
Despite the missing seals (which even Nelson admitted to himself, as seen in the Channel 9-KGUN video report we posted with our original coverage of the incident), the Pima County Board of Supervisors went ahead and certified the election canvass anyway, "over the objections of activists who wanted the county to wait until an additional hand audit could be conducted over the weekend," according to the Arizona Daily Star.
"The supervisors said they were very concerned about persistent problems in the Division of Elections, but they could not legally postpone the canvass," the paper reported over the weekend. That, despite a news conference that Brakey and the other activists held late in the week to call for a new audit, using properly sealed ballots, "and focusing on contested supervisor races, of which there were three."
They have also called for the removal of the beleaguered, hot-headed and perhaps even criminal Nelson, after years of problems and obstructions from the Pima Election Director. According to the Daily Star, at least one of the Supervisors agrees it's time for Nelson to to be removed...