An official criminal probe has been launched into the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal we first reported just over one week ago. The investigation, confirmed by Reuters tonight, comes on the heels of an election fraud complaint filed on Friday by the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) after an initial batch of more than 100 apparently fraudulent voter registration applications were discovered in Palm Beach County. The forms had been submitted to the county by the RPOF after being collected by employees of Strategic Allied Consulting, a group hired by the party and headed by Mitt Romney's paid political consultant and controversial longtime GOP operative Nathan Sproul.
The announcement of a criminal investigation comes on the day after state officials sent an email, obtained by The BRAD BLOG, informing county election officials to sequester hundreds of potentially fraudulent registration forms which may be needed as "evidence" in court proceedings.
Tonight, Reuters is reporting that officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirm that they have "found enough evidence to warrant a full-blown investigation" of Strategic Allied Consulting.
Since the emergence of the initial batch of irregular GOP voter registrations early last week, similarly fraudulent forms have reportedly discovered in some 12 Florida counties. During our exclusive interview with Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher last Wednesday, she told us some of the forms her office first discovered included suspicious address changes, "sometimes to commercial buildings or addresses", which could result in voters becoming disenfranchised when they go to the polls on November 6th.
The confirmation of a criminal investigation buttresses information we mentioned yesterday during our appearance on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture TV program, about an email sent by Florida's Dept. of State to all county election officials on Tuesday. (The email is posted in full below.) The missive advises county Supervisors of Elections to sequester all questionable voter registration applications they have discovered since the scandal emerged, as they "may become evidence used in court, so it is important for you to take steps to protect them from tampering"...
As Reuters reports tonight...
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said the agency had found enough evidence to warrant a full-blown investigation of Strategic Allied, a Virginia-based voter registration company doing work for the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida.
The Florida Division of Elections on Friday forwarded a complaint to FDLE after reports of suspicious voter registration forms linked to the company first surfaced in Palm Beach County.
"After reviewing this complaint, FDLE has decided that a criminal investigation into these allegations is warranted," said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger in an email.
"This is now an active investigation, which precludes us from providing further information until such time that the investigation is complete," she said.
Strategic Allied Consulting was hired by the FL GOP for $1.3 million in late summer, at the request of the Republican National Committee which reportedly paid the group some $3 million for registration efforts in five key battleground states (FL, NC, VA, CO and NV) and "Get Out the Vote" efforts in two more (WI and OH). The party says they have since cut all ties with the GOP firm.
All of the potentially fraudulent registration forms were submitted by the state GOP, after being collected by Strategic.
Sproul confirmed to The BRAD BLOG that he was asked by the RNC to create the firm. He says he was asked by the party to do so, in order to avoid publicly tying the company, formed as a Virginia corporation in June of 2012, to allegations made against Sproul's companies in years past when Democratic registration forms were found to have been destroyed and discarded by employees of his firms. (See our initial coverage of the scandal for a summary of allegations against Sproul's firms over the years.)
Despite allegations in multiple states, during multiple elections going back as far as 2004, charges have never been filed against either Sproul or his companies.
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer denies that the party had asked Sproul to create the company, though Sproul tells us he stands by his assertion. He has also claimed the Republican Party of Florida has made multiple "libelous" statements about his firm, though he has yet to elaborate on those charges.
Election officials in the other states where Strategic was employed by the RNC are said to be combing through tens of thousands of registration forms submitted by the company, looking for similar improprieties to those found on forms submitted across the state of Florida. There have been several reported instances of Democratic registration forms being destroyed by employees of the company, as well as party affiliations changed from Democratic to Republican in NV, CO and NC.
On Tuesday, The BRAD BLOG documented another disturbing revelation from the scandal: Voter Registration workers employed by Strategic, and other Republican outfits, caught on video tape in a number of states, lying to potential registrants about being pollsters, rather than registration workers, in an attempt to keep Democratic-leaning voters from being able to register at all. The effort seems to be systematic and coordinated, as witnessed in states from Florida to Nevada to Virginia to Oregon and elsewhere.
In other recent GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal news... Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has sent a letter to Nathan Sproul requesting a transcribed interview and documents related to Strategic Allied Consulting's contract with the RNC. The Congressman's letter to Sproul is posted here. On Monday, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sent a blistering letter to FL Gov. Rick Scott, demanding a bi-partisan task force to probe the scandal and develop an action plan to help ensure voters are not disenfranchised in the wake of the fraudulently modified registration forms. He slammed Scott for his "shocking and hypocritical" silence and lack of action in the scandal to date. Deutch's letter is posted here.
The email sent from Bennett M. Miller, Assistant General Counsel at the Florida Department of State yesterday, 10/2/2012, to Florida county Supervisors of Elections, cautioning them to safely secure any questionable registration forms in case they are needed to "become evidence used in court", follows in full below...
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 5:14 PM
Cc: Detzner, Kenneth W.; firstname.lastname@example.org; Cate, Chris
Subject: Strategic Allied Consulting
Thank you for your diligence in implementing the new 3rd Party Voter Registration requirements as required by law. As you may have heard, irregularities have been reported in several counties regarding a vendor, Strategic Allied Consulting, who was working under a contract with the Republican Party of Florida.
On Friday, the Department forwarded a complaint against Strategic Allied Consulting to FDLE for investigation. I have copied Chief Inspector Cindy Sanz from FDLE on this message.
At this time we are asking the Supervisors in all counties to take the following actions:
1. If you have not already done so, please begin the process of reviewing all of the registrations in your possession that were submitted with the 3P-11-93 number. Please review them again for any irregularities you might question. We recommend that you archive or file those registrations into two groups and separate them away from other registrations. The first group should be the registrations that you have reviewed and determined do not need further review. The second group should be the registrations that you have identified as having irregularities, missing information, or otherwise cause you concern about the authenticity of the registrations. Obviously, if you do not have any concerns about irregularities in your county, there will only be one group. Once your review is complete, we ask that you store these registrations in a secure place. Please limit access to the registrations to yourselves and a trusted member of your staff. At some point, these registrations may become evidence used in court, so it is important for you to take steps to protect them from tampering. If you are unable to secure the registrations to your satisfaction, please contact me and I will provide you with a few suggestions.
2. After you have finished your review, we ask that you contact Chief Inspector Sanz and provide her with copies of each registration that contains an irregularity. If the person has already voted, be sure to indicate that in your packet. Under normal conditions, FDLE would conduct their own review and that may occur at a later date. However, because voting has already begun, it is vital that we identify all of the registrants that might experience difficulty in casting a ballot, so that we can contact them and make every effort to avoid any complications at the polls. The Department will also be undertaking additional efforts to identify affected registrants and will provide you and FDLE with that information if it becomes available.
3. If you reported registration irregularities by Strategic or RPOF to your local State Attorney's Office, we ask that you provide to Agent Sanz the contact information for the investigator that has been assigned to your case so that FDLE can coordinate their efforts and avoid duplicate investigations.
The Department will provide additional guidance in the future to assist you with minimizing any disruption that may result at the polls. In the meantime, if you are still conducting poll worker training sessions, you may want to include special emphasis on address changes, signature verification, and other procedures.
Bennett M. Miller
Assistant General Counsel - Elections
Florida Department of State