[See BREAKING UPDATE at bottom of story. NBC News now reports the RNC has also cut ties with Strategic Allied Consulting.]
The North Carolina Republican Party has fired the shady voter registration firm owned by Mitt Romney's paid political consultant and longtime GOP operative, Nathan Sproul. The firing came as Democrats in the state were on the brink of denouncing the Republicans' tie to the operative's firm.
The state GOP joins the Republican Party of Florida, which also fired Sproul's company (who accounted for the party's largest 2012 expenditure, some $1.3 million over the last two months) after more than 100 apparently fraudulent voter registration forms were turned over to the FL State Attorney in Palm Beach County on Monday for investigation. The BRAD BLOG first reported the emerging story in detail on Tuesday.
The firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, is the latest creation of Sproul, a longtime, high-level GOP operative whose companies --- including Sproul & Associates and Lincoln Strategy Group --- have been accused of destroying Democratic voter registration forms and changing information on them in election after election, in state after state, year after year. He was hired for similar operations by Bush/Cheney in '04, by McCain/Palin in '08 and by Mitt Romney's campaign late last year.
When the FL GOP fired Strategic Allied on Tuesday night, they noted that the firm had been hired "at the request of" the Republican National Committee. On Wednesday, during our exclusive interview with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Susan Bucher, she described some of the "similarities in the signatures and certain characteristics in the applications that were very disturbing" on registration applications collected by Sproul's firm and turned in to her office. Among the "disturbing" defects on the forms, addresses of existing registered voters changed "to commercial buildings or addresses" and, "in some places, they were changing political parties."
Bucher stressed her concern that voters were likely to be disenfranchised by the effort when showing up at the polls on Election Day, only to find their address has been changed, removed or moved to another precinct entirely.
The firm is still said to be operating in key battleground states like Virginia, Nevada and Colorado, where a young lady who may have been working for the contractor was caught on a disturbing viral video tape published over the weekend. The young lady, who was hired by "a third-party contractor" retained by the Colorado State Republican Party, as their Communications Director confirmed to The BRAD BLOG on Wednesday, is seen on the tape asking a potential registrant whether she would vote for Obama or Romney before she would allow her to fill out a voter registration form.
When Gregg Flynn of BlueNC reported on Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting in his state late last month, he reported the NC GOP had paid some $333,000 to the firm in July alone. He also discovered the company had taken steps to hide its ownership by Sproul's firm, Sproul & Associates, shortly after first publication of his initial exposé...
Mark Binker at North Carolina's WRAL is reporting today that NC GOP spokesman Rob Lockwood says, "The NCGOP takes any threat to the voting process very seriously. We have terminated our relationship with Strategic Allied Consultants." The spokesman also added that the state GOP claims to have no other vendor doing similar work in the state.
According to Binker, before the NC GOP fired Strategic Allied today, Democrats were preparing to release a statement decrying their involvement with the disreputable firm of Romney's paid political consultant, Sproul. The statement from Rep. Larry Hall was to have included:
On Tuesday night, The Nation's Lee Fang confirmed the company's operations on behalf of Republicans in Colorado, and unearthed a photo of Sproul and his wife taken at the George W. Bush White House during a Christmas party in 2006. Moreover, a Twitter user directed us to evidence that the firm is also operating in San Diego. Earlier this year, thousands of fraudulent voter registrations were turned into the Sacramento County, GOP in a $50,000 bounty scheme for Republican-only voter registrations. We have not yet been able to tie that scheme to Sproul's efforts.
Finally, for those who are just coming to this story, before you bother to equate Sproul's dirty work to anything a handful of ACORN's voter registration were accused (by ACORN!) of doing over the years, please read our original report on this matter which details how there is absolutely no comparison between those incidents and the explicit attempts to defraud the electoral system which Sproul's firms have been accused of doing in election after election. As Republican Congressman Chris Cannon noted, he when highlighted just some of the differences in the organizations during a 2009 hearing on voter suppression: "The difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out."
Though Republicans in FL and NC have now disavowed their relationships to Sproul, the GOP in VA, NV, CO and CA have not. Neither has the Republican National Committee or the Romney Campaign.
We suspect there will be still more to come on this story...
BREAKING UPDATE: Just after publishing, word comes that the RNC has also now reportedly "cut ties" with Strategic Allied Consulting, as evidence of fraudulent registrations emerge in
four six ten counties in FL, including "dead people being registered as new voters" by the GOP firm.
According to Michael Isikoff at NBC News:
The move came after the Palm Beach County, Fla., elections supervisor discovered 108 potentially fraudulent registration forms submitted by the GOP consulting firm, including suspected phony signatures and home addresses that matched those of a gas station, a medical building, and a Land Rover automotive dealership.
NBC News has learned that four other Florida counties have also reported hundreds of possible fraudulent registration forms submitted by the firm, including apparent dead people being registered as new voters.
An updated version of Iskioff's article, at the same URL, now says the FL Secretary of State's confirms problems with apparently fraudulent registration applications in six, not just four counties:
[UPDATE 9/28/11, 12:09pm PT: LA Times is now reporting that the number of counties where "suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms" were turned in by the Republican Party and Sproul is "at least 10".]
Isikoff reports that the RNC has paid $2.9 million to Strategic Allied Consulting so far this year, according to FEC records. [UPDATE: LA Times, which is also now running a similar report, pegs the number at $3.1 million over the past two months, since the firm was formed in June under a new name to hide Sproul's involvement.]
He also received a response from the Romney Campaign who claims: " "We used this vendor for signature gathering services during the primary but have not used them since 2011."
Moreover, a statement posted to Strategic Allied Consulting's website late today claims the company has "a zero tolerance policy for breaking the law" and says "all questionable cards" were traced "to one individual" who was fired.
But Sproul subsequently told Isikoff during a phone interview that "possible fraud in other Florida counties were isolated acts by individuals hired by the firm".
See Isikoff's report for more, including details on the dead voters signed up as new registrants by the company.
But one note to Isikoff who repeatedly refers to "voter fraud" in his article: There is no known "voter fraud" related to this scandal. This is a form of election fraud known as "voter registration fraud". There are no actual voters involved in this scandal. The voters have been, and are, doing just fine. Please leave them alone. Inappropriate attacks on voters are best left to members of the Republican Party. Thanks.