Director of 4-Day Old Group Called as Expert Witness along with Blackwell in U.S. House Hearings Yesterday.
By Brad Friedman on 3/22/2005, 12:50pm PT  

Yesterday, in Columbus, OH, the U.S. House Committee on House Administration held a hearing on the mess otherwise known as the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio.

Unlike the previous hearings last December in Columbus run by Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, this committeee, led by Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney was given a hearing room in Ohio's State Capitol building. (The Judiciary Committee member's hearings last year had been originally scheduled to take place in the statehouse, until "someone" decided they were not welcome there. But we digress.)

Ney has been a big supporter of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and has shown an interest on the CHA website in doing everything possible to leave the flawed Help America Vote Act (HAVA), hastily passed in the wake of the 2000 election debacle, in place and unchanged so that things like mandatory paper ballots with every vote cast cannot be amended to the law. HAVA sets asides millions of federal dollars for the purchase of new electronic voting machines from a few select private companies.

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, tasked with running a free and fair election in the Buckeye state last November --even while he was tasked with being the OH Co-Chair for the Bush/Cheney Re-Elect Committee --- finally decided to show up and take some questions yesterday.

As well, a Republican operative by the name of Mark F. (Thor) Hearne was also called as a "Witness" to discuss Election Reform issues despite fronting an organization, the so-called "American Center for Voting Rights" which suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the web just last Thursday.

Last month, Blackwell had succeeding in displeasing even his theoretical Ohio Republican ally, Ney, by refusing to attend the committee's first such hearings in D.C. Even though Blackwell was already in town.

Yesterday, however, he finally showed up...

In the few reports on the hearings that we've so far been able to collect from the media, it seems that their were quite a few testy moments during Blackwell's questioning. It's being reported that debate became particularly heated between some of the Democrats on the panel, like Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who had challenged the Ohio Electoral Vote in a joint-session of Congress on Jan. 6th, and Blackwell.

Here's how The Toledo Blade barely describes some of yesterday's hearing:

COLUMBUS - The battle over the 2004 presidential election raged anew yesterday as a congressional committee questioned Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell over what happened on Election Day and his decisions leading up to that day.

"What you don't want to hear, or what you are not hearing, is that Ohio, whether you're talking about the National Association of Secretaries of State or any other objective measure, had one of the best election administration performances in the country," Mr. Blackwell told the House Administration Committee.

U.S. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, countered: "Irrespective of that, there have been allegations put out there. Again, you don't want to hear that, but they're out there."
...
"I must speak to the fabrications and exaggerations that some who dislike the fact their presidential candidate lost Ohio keep repeating," Mr. Blackwell said. "Sadly, these fabrications come not only from disappointed partisans talking to each other on the Internet boards, but also from people in responsible positions and people with enough experience in electoral politics to know better."

The "fabrications and exaggerations" that Blackwell would seem to be referring to, are presumably the 102 pages of confirmed, sourced and verified "fabrications and exaggerations" (otherwise known as evidence) compiled by Rep. John Conyers and U.S. House Judiciary Committee staffers after their exhaustive investigation into thousands of reported Election Day irregularities in the months of November and December 2004.

Those would be the same "fabrications and exaggerations" that Blackwell was unable to respond to when queried in a letter sent by Conyers asking for an explanation. (Blackwell's spokesman had originally promised that Blackwell would respond in full until a few days later they changed their mind and decided they would not answer to the ranking minority member of the U.S. Congressional Judiciary Committee.)

We hope to find more information on yesterday's hearings, of which we are highly dubious. If only because one of the "witnesses" scheduled to testify was to be a member of the American Center for Voting Rights, a Dallas TX group which seems to have sprung up out of nowhere --- just in time for the hearings --- and which is clearly tied to Republican Party operatives.

The ACVR established their website just last Thursday --- 4 days ago --- on March 17th, 2005.

The director of the supposedly non-partisan 501(c)3 organization scheduled to testify as a witness at yesterday's hearing was Mark F. (Thor) Hearne. Hearne is listed on the site as "National Election Counsel to Bush-Cheney '04 and Missouri counsel to Bush-Cheney ?00" amongst other very Republican credentials.

Apparently the voices for real Electoral Reform must be making enough headway that advocates against actual reform find it necessary at this point to set up this sort of Talon "News" like front group as a smoke-screen to murk up the call for true Electoral Reform.

A quick surf of their hastily constructed website reveals that they have no interest in "Voting Rights" as their name would imply, but rather, keeping folks from voting and targeting voter registration activities. Apparently only those groups who may be targetting minority and other potential Democratic voters.

We will attempt hope to learn more, both about this seemingly phony organization, as well as the hearings which were held in Columbus yesterday.

UPDATE: More details now coming in on the "American Center for Voting Rights" to suggest that they are little more than a GOP front group! New article here...

UPDATE 3/23/05: Details, including audio, from Blackwell's extraordinarily arrogant testimony here!