A criminal investigation into voter registration fraud by a company hired by the Republican National Committee for some $3 million to sign up voters in at least five key battleground states this year is now widening, according to a new report by the Washington Post.
The reason for the expansion appears to relate to an overlooked aspect of the nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal highlighted initially by The BRAD BLOG some weeks ago.
The probe by the office of Virginia's Attorney General began last week after the State Board of Elections voted unanimously to refer the matter to state law enforcement officials after 23-year old Colin Small was arrested in Harrisonburg and charged with 13 election fraud counts for allegedly dumping completed voter registration forms into a dumpster.
Small had been hired by Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm created over the summer by Mitt Romney's paid political consultant and longtime GOP activist Nathan Sproul. Sproul has said the company was registered in Virginia, without his name on it, at the request of the RNC, due to myriad election registration fraud allegations in multiple states, in multiple elections, as long ago as 2004. An RNC spokesman has said he's unaware of the party's request, though Sproul has told The BRAD BLOG he stands by the claim. The issue resulted in a testy exchange with a Denver television reporter this week. (That video is posted at the end of this article.)
According to the Post, "state prosecutors canceled Colin Small’s grand jury testimony to gather more information, with their focus expanding to the firm that had employed Small, which is led by longtime GOP operative Nathan Sproul."
"State authorities are seeking to learn whether any of Small’s supervisors instructed him or any of his 40 co-workers in Virginia to ask potential voters about their political leanings during registration drives," according to two unnamed sources cited by the paper. "Asking such questions could be a violation of state election law," WaPo reports.
Last month, in an investigative report by The BRAD BLOG, we highlighted video-taped and other evidence from half a dozen states, including Virginia, detailing how Sproul had trained his workers to misrepresent themselves as pollsters to potential registrants in order to determine their political leanings before offering to register them to vote. The ruse was meant as a way to register only Republican voters, while keeping Obama supporters from being able to register at all...
Filtering out Obama supporters
In that investigative report, we highlighted videos of Sproul's voter registration workers both in Colorado and in Nevada lying to potential registrants about taking a poll, asking them who they supported in the upcoming election. According to the Post, that would be a violation of Virginia law.
During conversations with Sproul, after the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal first emerged over a month ago, he pointed us to an email sent to Strategic's field supervisors after the airing of the report in Nevada by Las Vegas ABC affiliate Action News 13. The report had aired prior to the voter registration fraud charges against his company first surfaced in Florida in late September. The email boasted that the Strategic worker was seen doing her job "perfectly".
In, Virginia, the third state where criminal investigations are now ongoing against Sproul's company, Richmond's CBS 6 news covered the scandal just after it broke, several weeks before Small's arrest in Harrisonburg for destroying registration forms.
In the CBS 6 report, Chesterfield County, VA's chief election official, General Registrar Larry Haake, is quoted citing the very same deceptive registration strategy being used by Strategic's registration workers there.
"They were responsible for people that appeared in some libraries in Chesterfield County, supposedly to conduct voter registration drives," Haake said, "but they were asking voters for whom they are going to vote."
Haake says he informed the GOP of the incident when it occurred, but, apparently, no action was taken at the time.
The same training was also cited by a Strategic employee in Palm Beach County, FL, after he was identified as the one who allegedly turned in more than a hundred apparently fraudulent registration forms, including some that included changed addresses for existing voters. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told us that such address changes could result in disenfranchised voters, if they turn up to vote at their usual precinct, only to find they are no longer registered to vote there.
The Florida man, 50-year old William T. Hazard, maintains his innocence, though he told the Los Angeles Times he was trained by Sproul's company "to approach people and ask whom they supported in the presidential election. When people answered with President Obama, he said, he wished them a good day. If someone said Mitt Romney, he asked if they were registered to vote. If not, he handed them forms to fill out."
He was "expected to register Republicans," he added.
Sproul, whose companies are based in Tempe, AZ, finally admitted publicly to the deceptive registration strategy during an October interview with the Arizona Republic:
If the person supports Obama, the worker moves on without offering to register the individual to vote, Sproul said.
'A very important investigation'
According to the Washington Post's report on Friday, Marsha Garst, the VA Commonwealth Attorney overseeing the investigation, told the paper, "This is a very important investigation to the state, and we intend to prosecute Mr. Small to the fullest extent."
They go on to report: "The commonwealth’s attorney had planned to question Small about his employers and training before a special multi-jurisdiction grand jury based in Stanton, Va., according to the two persons familiar with the probe. But state officials changed course when they realized that Virginia law would give Small immunity from election-law charges if he were questioned about his superiors."
As we reported last week, the office of VA State AG Ken Cuccinelli may have its own conflicts of interest as well. Cuccinelli was seen in photographs with Small, just days before his arrest, at the Harrisonburg Republican Party "Victory office", where the Republican AG was encouraging the staffers hired by Strategic Allied Consulting.
"@kencuccinelli is here thanking volunteers for all they do!! @va_gop," the Harrisonburg GOP tweeted giddily that afternoon while posting the photograph in which Cuccinelli is seen with Small and other workers hired by Strategic.
Sproul's company was supposedly fired by the RNC weeks earlier after fraudulent registration forms collected by Strategic employees and submitted by the Republican Party of Florida to county officials initially began to appear in the Sunshine State. Questionable applications are now being investigated in twelve counties in a statewide criminal probe by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement. The firing, however, was a sham. Only Sproul was seemingly cut off, while Strategic's employees continued their work under the supervision of local Republicans and were paid by PinPoint Staffing, an employment agency which was hired by Sproul to hire workers in states across the country.
Subsequently, The BRAD BLOG detailed evidence that Sproul's companies were still working for Republicans in at least 10 states --- Alabama, California, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia (with former Sproul associates reportedly at work in Ohio as well) --- even after the RNC had supposedly "cut ties" with him. The Los Angeles Times later reported that Sproul's spokesperson had admitted he was still "hiring workers for a voter canvassing operation this fall in as many as 30 states," as of mid-October.
His spokesman, crisis response manager David Leibowitz, later backed off that claim, telling us, "What we said on the record to various media outlets is that his companies are working in as many as 30 states.' That could mean 1 state. Or 2. Or 30. You get the idea, I'm sure."
Yes, we get the idea.
How high does it go?
Late last month, three Democratic U.S. Congress members from Virginia wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking a nationwide investigation of the RNC's voter registration firm by the Dept. of Justice. Three other ranking members of the U.S. House Judiciary, Oversight and Elections committees sent letters to Sproul seeking a number of documents, as well as to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Karl Rove and former RNC Chair turned Senior Romney Campaign adviser Ed Gillespie, seeking responses to questions about their dealings with Sproul.
The letter to Gillespie [PDF], who co-founded the American Crossroads Super PAC with Rove before going to work for the Romney/Ryan campaign, cites some $750,000 that the Republican political action committee paid to Sproul's firms. The Washington Post's new report pegs that number at "$1.5 million in the week before the 2010 midterm elections for get-out-the-vote efforts and voter phone calls, according to a review of election records."
As we recently detailed, American Crossroads, Strategic Allied Consulting, and even the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity outfit have all filed their corporate registrations at the same Warrenton, VA address of HoltzmanVogelJosefiak PLLC, a top RNC law firm headed up by Jill Holtzman Vogel who also now serves as a Virginia State Senator. A number of other high-powered RNC election attorneys, with histories going back to the 2000 Presidential Election contest in Florida, are partners at the firm.
Despite his checkered past, and continuing allegations of voter registration fraud against his companies --- which, we should note, have yet to be found guilty of any crimes, despite multiple criminal investigations --- Sproul was hired to work for the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004, by the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008, and by the Mitt Romney campaign during the GOP Presidential primary cycle before being asked to create the new company to head up the RNC's national voter registration and "Get Out the Vote" drives in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin this Summer.
"In total," according to the Washington Post, "companies led by Sproul have received $21 million from Republican campaign committees for voter outreach work since 2004."
Sproul had initially told the LA Times that "he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC’s request because the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations," though RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer claimed to have no knowledge of that request.
When we asked Sproul about it, he told us via email: "I'm not going to comment on this further but I'm not retracting my prior comments either."
On Thursday, he was once again directly confronted about the issue by Denver's Fox 31 reporter Josh Bernstein, during a video-taped interview for an investigative report on the local TV outlet. A Strategic employee is currently under investigation in Colorado's Arapahoe County for tearing up a Democratic voter registration form.
Sproul's amusing responses to Bernstein, seen below, as he is repeatedly asked to confirm his earlier statement about creating Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC's request, include a seeming non-sequitor response that it was necessary to do so, thanks to "liberal bloggers."
"If you look at what the liberal blogs write about me, it makes it very difficult for us to operate," Sproul tells Bernstein, who continued to press him as to why his name was nowhere to be found in Strategic's corporate filings.
"Because there are liberal blogs that follow me, Nathan Sproul, around the country, and create distractions and diversions from us being able to do our job and do it well."
The short and somewhat heated video exchange with Bernstein is well worth watching...
Bernstein's 11/1/2012 investigative report for Fox 31 in Denver follows in full below...