Guest Blogged by Howard Beale of Fired Up! Missouri
On Wednesday The BRAD BLOG pointed out just one of the reasons he may be trying, as much as he is, to make his American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) past disappear. It seems the group lied about their activities on their federal 990 public tax disclosure forms. But here comes another reason he may be hoping to hide his sordid past.
More so than ever before, the interconnected nature of the national and Missouri-based efforts to advance specious "voter fraud" claims and bend the operation of government entities to specific partisan political advantage is becoming clear. And the centrality of Mark F. "Thor" Hearne II to all of those efforts has never been more obvious than it is after the aggregation of a number of key facts.
State corporate and federal tax filings indicate that Thor Hearne --the undisputed mastermind and ringleader of the now-defunct and "disappeared" ACVR --- was responsible for the creation of a Missouri-based front group that issued public "reports" about topics like voter registration fraud which echoed messages being pushed at the national level by prominent GOP officials and ACVR itself. The Missouri organization, the Center for Ethics and the Free Market, was partially funded with one of the only (if not the only) monetary grants awarded by the ACVR and had its bookkeeping and non-profit filings done by Garrett Lott, a key figure in the Missouri fee office management company scheme overseen by Show-Me State Governor Matt Blunt and run out of Hearne's powerful Missouri law firm, Lathrop & Gage.
While the ACVR was likely not even a gleam in his eye, back in February 2003, Thor Hearne filed paperwork with Missouri's Secretary of State to create a non-profit corporation called Center for Research of Ethics in Public Policy and the Free Market. Those records indicate that Hearne --addressed at the St. Louis office of his Lathrop & Gage law firm --- is the registered agent for the outfit. That organization, either for purposes of brevity or for throwing researchers off the trail, uses a slightly modified version of that name --- the Center for Ethics and the Free Market-- for its operations.
Among the work done by the Center for Ethics and the Free Market is "research" that tracks very closely with the "voter fraud" and "voter registration fraud" fearmongering that had been undertaken nationally by the American Center for Voting Rights. In June 2004, just months in advance of a presidential-year general election, the Center for Ethics and the Free Market issued a report that purportedly pointed to "concerns" with Missouri voter registration efforts [PDF] undertaken by progressive groups like America Coming Together and Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition. That report included language intended to inflate the potential for "voter fraud" --- language that has become familiar via various national voter suppression efforts...