Special to The BRAD BLOG by Jim Cirile
Clint Curtis doesn’t know when to quit.
The Florida computer programmer turned infamous whistleblower was allegedly asked by Jeb Bush crony (and future FL-24-R Congressman) Tom Feeney to write vote-flipping software for him in 2000 (here's the quick summary version of BRAD BLOG's coverage of the scandal). At the time, Curtis, then a loyal Republican, delivered the vote-rigging prototype to Feeney under the assumption that his software would be used to prevent e-voting manipulation by Democrats. When Curtis learned that the true purpose was to game the election results in South Florida, he blew the whistle.
A stacked-deck investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission --- where 6 of the 8 members of the panel are either Bush or Feeney appointees, or closely tied to one or both --- dismissed Curtis’ allegations without allowing him to testify, and without examining email and other evidence in the case, in violation of FL law. But Curtis would not go quietly.
He became a crusader, speaking at election integrity events around the country and eventually delivering jaw-dropping testimony (video here) to a stunned Congressional committee (who did nothing in response). Curtis even passed a lie detector test administered by the retired chief polygrapher for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Meanwhile, Feeney has been branded among the “Top 25 Most Corrupt in Congress,” for three years straight, by CREW, the non-partisan DC ethics watchdog group, most notably for his involvement --- and golf junket to Scotland --- with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In 2006, Curtis launched his first congressional bid --- now as a Democrat --- taking on Feeney himself for his FL-24 seat. A pre-election Zogby poll showed Curtis in a statistical dead heat with Feeney --- despite Feeney’s big-money smear campaign against Curtis (‘CrazyClintCurtis.com’ featured doctored photos of Curtis wearing a tin foil hat). But on election night, Feeney was announced the winner 57%/43%. Problem is, those election results didn’t make much sense based on the Zogby poll or Curtis’ own internal polling. So Curtis did something remarkable. He filed a Congressional election challenge.
His team went door to door collecting signed affidavits from FL-24 voters testifying as to how they voted. They found the results to be wildly off, by double digits in some places. Despite this evidence, the Democratically controlled House committee summarily dismissed his election challenge, along with several others, without bothering to even review Curtis' evidence.
And yet, Curtis is once again going after the FL-24 Congressional seat. Only this time, he’s not just running against Feeney. First he must defeat an attempt to challenge him by the Democratic party's hand-picked candidate.
We caught up with Curtis on the campaign trail where he made it clear, in our exclusive interview, that he had no intention of lying down or rolling over for naysayers, Democratic insiders, the woman chosen by the DCCC to challenge him, and certainly not the corrupt Tom Feeney...
BRAD BLOG: Clint, bring us up to speed on the fund raising deadline the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hit you with.
CLINT CURTIS: Well, we’ve been talking to the DCCC. And they said basically, “Your problem is you can’t raise any money.” They don’t care about policies. They don’t care if you’re doing anything interesting. All they care about is if you can raise money. We’ve talked to them before, and they’ve always been just about the money. To them, it’s like a business deal. So I said, okay, well, how much will it take to get your support? And they said, “Well, if you could raise $250,000 in this next quarter, we would be interested.” And of course, we weren’t close. Our base is grassroots, and grassroots doesn’t have money to throw around like that. They give what they can, but they don’t have that much to give. Our average contribution last time [Curtis’ ’06 congressional bid] was $11.
BB: So they’re looking for the big-money corporate donors.
CURTIS: They select who they’re going to support based on who has money in the bank. The problem with people who have money is, sometimes they’ve kind of sold themselves to get into politics.
BB: Was the DCCC willing to listen at all to how you built the whole grass roots network --- or that you might well have won, were it not for some dubious election results?
CURTIS: Well, the party in general had never really gotten on board before the election. They never really helped us with election issues or with the campaign. The DCCC promised to support us if we won the [’06] nomination. Well, we won the nomination, and they never did. And they’re still not on board with election reform issues, which is why the challenges [by him and 4 other candidates in 2006] haven’t gotten anywhere in Congress. They are basically a status quo operation. They want to raise money. I don’t think they really care that much about beating the Republicans, because if they stay equal, it’s all status quo. They’re calling each other names so they can raise money. It’s kind of sad, but I think that’s where they are. They asked questions like, “If you get elected, are you going to vote with Speaker [of the House Nancy] Pelosi?” Of course my response is, “No. I represent the people of District 24. If she has good plans, good policies, we’ll listen. But if my constituents don’t like it, then that’s not the way we go.” I don’t think that impressed them much. They don’t understand that the only reason Feeney is vulnerable is because we’ve exposed him as basically being a crook. He’s basically selling his vote out. If they understood that, they wouldn’t have [recruited former Florida legislator Suzanne] Kosmas, because she has the same issues.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, in 1998 Kosmas was part of a 2-member board that recommended Volusia County purchase a $25,300 sculpture for a library for more than twice the county’s allocated budget. The artist was in fact a friend of Kosmas and contributed $1,000 to her campaign.
BB: Do you know Suzanne Kosmas? Why do you think they picked her?
CURTIS: She was in the [Florida] legislature for eight years, and she has, I think, $3 million in the bank, and I think that was as far as it went. In the legislature, all she really did --- I think she sponsored one bill that got through the entire time she was there, something about kids couldn’t ride in the back of a pickup truck. If you’ve ever driven in Florida, you know that bill’s not been too effective. There may be a law on the books; I don’t know if there is or not, and apparently, no one else knows either. You see kids hanging out of the back of a pickup truck going down the road all the time.
BB: Was there even a courtesy call from the DCCC telling you they’d recruited Kosmas?
CURTIS: Nope. We found out the same way as everybody else. We actually ran a little poll. She won’t win in Brevard [County]. She won’t win in Seminole. She might be able to pick up something in Orange and Volusia. The problem is she can’t take the high ground. She can’t say [about Feeney,] “I’m running against this guy, and he’s corrupt.” They’ve blown their Abramoff card if she actually wins the primary, because you can’t come out and say he took vacations and sold his vote when she tried to give away tax dollars to one of her contributors in a contest, where she was one of two people who got to make the decision.
BB: She’ll likely take the high ground anyway, facts be damned. Still, it boggles my mind that some people still don’t get that it doesn’t matter how much money you spend if you can't have confidence in how the votes are counted.
CURTIS: I wonder if they’re not trying to just make the whole thing go away. I talked to the Supervisor of Elections last night, and I told him after the election, we wanted to do an audit --- basically the audit protocol I’m trying to [spread nationwide.] I prefer to do a 10% audit; this was our chance to show that the audits work, and how long they take --- probably one or two days in each section. But we have paper ballots in Florida now, so I think it may be harder to cheat if people know we’re going to check it. The problem is, most people will never check it. [Election fraud perpetrators] think the elections can be flipped, and they can make the audit go away. Well, they can try.
BB: Right, case in point: the New Hampshire primary, which defied all the polls which had Obama ahead by a double digit margin, anomalously resulted in a Clinton win. Yet once again, none of the Democratic candidates (except Dennis Kucinich), nor the corporate media paid attention to all of the evidence of problems found after the election. There has been some progress on e-voting issues, but practically speaking, do you think it will be any better by election time?
CURTIS: In Florida, we have paper. But right now, the audit procedure in Florida is terrible. The ballots that are now paper are still counted by machines. So the flip can still occur. The only difference is now you can’t get away with it if someone checks. And since we’re running, we’re going to check. Even though we don’t have good audit procedures in Florida, we have the ballot inspection procedure. Which means, as a candidate, you’re allowed to see every ballot in your race, minus the couple of handicapped ballot machines, for the people who vote on that. Last time we didn’t have that.
BB: None of that does any good if you go to Congress with your challenge and all the evidence, and they don’t even want to listen to you.
CURTIS: At minimum, we had prima facie evidence...if you have all these affidavits, and you go to court, that’s prima facie evidence, and you have a case. At a minimum, Congress could have done a walk just like we did and asked people. It’s not like we had to force (people to cooperate). People were quite willing to tell you how they voted. It’s very simple to do; it could have been done on a volunteer basis and still receive 80 to 90 percent participation. And they chose to bury it, which is kind of sad. They said, “We’re not going to do anything.” In Christine Jennings’ case [FL-13, where she lost by 369 votes in 2006, despite 18,000 votes disappearing on touch-screen machines in Sarasota,] they stretched it out for 16 months, and then finally rejected her challenge in February.
BB: I just cannot understand why the Democrats think this is good policy. Why constantly bury their heads in the sand? It can’t be good for them as a party, let alone the nation.
CURTIS: I think they think they can control it. They don’t like what we’re saying, so they’ll make us go away. And they’ll run a millionaire against us --- and they’ll run the advertising --- and their hook is, people are stupid enough that they’ll make it go away. If Kosmas gets elected, she won’t do anything about the war. She won’t do anything about voting. She won’t do anything about anything. She’ll vote with Pelosi.
BB: Let’s fast forward. You’re going against Kosmas in the primary for the Democratic nomination. When is the primary?
CURTIS: The primary is August 7th.
BB: Wow. So that’s a long time ‘til the primary, and not much time to prepare after that.
CURTIS: I’ve been running for a long time. That grassroots organization has stayed out there and developed our base. We’d like to develop a little bit of money. We don’t need millions and millions. But if we can raise $300,000, we can be very effective. She’s got $3 million. She’s not going to spend all $3 million of her own money. And she doesn’t really do fund raisers out and about.
BB: The progressives are pretty much fed up with Pelosi and the Democrats constantly rolling over on the most important issues --- like election fraud and impeachment --- and refusing to even listen to the people.
CURTIS: They’re actually passing laws that validate what [Bush] did that they should have impeached him for.
BB: So if Kosmas is branded as another do-nothing corporate Dem, and the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied with Congress, it could be easy to knock off Kosmas. But getting elected is another story.
CURTIS: If they had run someone with a squeaky clean, impeccable record, then we would have had to fight them and then fight Feeney. But since Kosmas also has corruption issues...
BB: After you get the nomination, that doesn’t leave you with much time to campaign for the general election.
CURTIS: Nope, about 8 weeks. That’s why we have to raise money now. There is no time to raise money after the primary. Republicans generally raise money early. Democrats don’t. It’s almost too late before they can... it’s harder for them.
BB: Would you debate Kosmas?
CURTIS: We asked her, and they said they’d get back to us. We’re still waiting to hear. She has issues, because one of the only resolutions she actually passed in the Florida legislature was a resolution supporting George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. So it’s going to be hard for her to move away from that. But it would be nice to have more contributions to help get the word out.
BB: How is the fund-raising going?
CURTIS: We have a very loyal and passionate team and amazing community support on the local level, and exposure on the national level from bloggers and activists. Without the deep-pocket backers like the corporately backed candidates, we have to appeal to our grassroots and raise what we can. We have people sending in 2 bucks. That’s amazing. It may not seem like much but it says a lot. Plus, our team is scrappy, and we can do a lot with small contributions. Of course, larger ones could really help get the message out and even the odds, and at this point getting more funds is crucial.
BB: Thanks, Clint, and good luck!
CURTIS: My pleasure.
Donations may be made to Curtis' campaign via his website.