Chalk this one up as one for the good guys. The Internet real estate once owned by a group of deceptive White House-connected Republican operatives has now come under the control of one of the non-profit groups which had taken the brunt of the GOP outfits relentless anti-democratic political tactics.
The ironic turn of events comes on the heels of new revelations connecting the Republican operatives to high-level DoJ and White House officials, and underscores the need for an immediate Congressional investigation into the conspiracy behind the supposedly "non-partisan" GOP operation....
As we reported some weeks ago, revelations of the GOP's "voter fraud" scam at the heart of the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal, has sent the longtime "non-partisan" GOP front group calling themselves American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) scurrying for cover. The home base for the still-mysteriously-funded organization --- created and run by former Bush/Cheney '04 general counsel, and good friend of Karl Rove, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne --- was the alarmist propaganda filled website once featured at the domains AC4VR.com and AmericanCenterForVotingRights.com.
Filled with unsubstantiated claims and anecdotal reports of widespread Democratic "voter fraud", the GOP site for the tax-exempt Republican front served as a clearinghouse for their lengthy reports, slick spin and cherry-picked media headlines (often spurred by ACVR's own disinformation campaign) portending to support their charges.
But the ACVR failed to renew the domain names when they expired on March 17th, just as AttorneyGate stories on the Internet began to reveal the full breadth of the Republican scheme to forward the breathless claims of "voter fraud" and to file unprecedented, high profile criminal cases in order to advance their agenda. That agenda: to call for more restrictive Voter ID requirements at the polls in key swing states. Such requirements, found unconstitutional time and again, are known to disproportionately affect minority, low income, elderly and disabled (read: Democratic-leaning) voters.
When the ACVR's domains suddenly went down, a number of interested parties --- including The BRAD BLOG who has been exposing the ACVR scammers since just days after their appearance, and subsequent disingenuous testimony before Congress in March of 2005 --- placed bids for the Internet namespace.
Last week, the lucky winner of the domain names was revealed to be DC-based attorney, Elizabeth Kingsley of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, a law firm specializing in providing legal advice to nonprofit organizations. Among their clients: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, the social justice foundation which has registered millions of low-income voters over the last several elections cycles, and which has outrageously taken the brunt of a good portion of ACVR's unsubstantiated claims of "voter fraud".
Upon receiving word that Kingsley had won ownership rights to both of ACVR's former domain names, she promptly handed the keys over to ACORN.
"When I saw that the names had become available, I put in a bid for them, really on a whim," Kingsley told The BRAD BLOG over the weekend. "I didn't know what I was going to do with them at the time. When I found out I got them, I turned them over to ACORN to do whatever they might like with them."
ACORN's communication director Kevin Whelan told us he was all too happy to finally have control of the ACVR domain names after so many years of outrageous and irresponsible attacks and lawsuits brought at the behest of Hearne's group and the other GOP operatives who had politicized both the Department of Justice --- and the electoral system as a whole --- in order shave voters off the rolls and keep them out of polling places in a number of very tight swing states.
The great irony --- in addition to the amusing news that ACORN now "owns" ACVR --- is that while the GOP snake-oil salesmen had been mercilessly, and successfully, promoting reports in the media of "voter fraud committed by ACORN", it was actually ACORN themselves who had routinely exposed concerns about the small percentage of likely-fraudulent voter registration forms collected by some of the organizations workers...
ACORN Fought Against Voter Fraud
"By law, in most states, it's mandatory that we turn in all voter registration cards, even the ones we suspect of being fraudulent," Whelan explained to the The BRAD BLOG. "We call the phone number on every card to try and verify that its legitimate. Obviously you don't reach everybody, but if someone says I didn't register or if the registration looks fraudulent you flag it before turning it in."
ACORN, who registered some 1.6 million new voters nationwide during the last election cycle, works closely with election officials in each state to deal with varying laws in the different jurisdictions and talk through concerns and procedures, Whelan said.
"We tell them," when we find something we believe to be suspicious. "But if they see something they don't like they can throw it in a box that says 'ACORN VOTER FRAUD' and then they call Fox News and they run with it."
And run with it they did. From the rightwing media of Fox "News", Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh to --- perhaps more disturbingly --- the not-necessarily-rightwing mainstream media outlets, reports of a handful of voter registration forms in the name of "Dick Tracy" and "Mary Poppins" and "Jive Turkey" made national headlines during the 2004 Presidential Election cycle and beyond. You can thank the hard work of Hearne and the ACVR for that.
Never mind that nobody was ever found to have voted under such names, and that all of the legal cases against ACORN themselves had eventually collapsed after having been found lacking in merit, the damage had been done in time to take effect in the 2006 Election cycle.
Just prior to last November's election, the hard right Wall Street Journal ran the headline "The Acorn Indictments - A union-backed outfit faces charges of election fraud".
Their report which describes ACORN organizers as "shock troops for the AFL-CIO and even the Democratic Party," spoke of the "voter fraud" indictments brought just days before last years election against four ACORN workers in Missouri. The case was filed by Bradley Schlozman, the Bush-appointed "voter fraud" zealot who had politicized the DoJ's Civil Rights department before being installed as interim U.S. Attorney under new PATRIOT Act provisions allowing for the bypass of Senate confirmation.
(Please see this recent BRAD BLOG report detailing a contemporaneous parallel scheme by Hearne and his law firm, Lathrop & Gage to ward off an investigation by the Arkansas U.S. Attorney, Bud Cummins, into L&G's involvement with Missouri Governor Matt Blunt in a scheme to privatize lucrative state licensing offices. Cummins was fired just after the investigation came to light. There will be more on that front here in the coming days.)
DoJ Claims an 'Unwritten Exception' to Voter Fraud Indictment Policy
Over the weekend, The Boston Globe reported on the DoJ's unprecedented indictments brought just prior to the election, in violation of the DoJ's own written rules concerning such cases.
"Federal prosecutors...should be extremely careful not to conduct overt investigations during the preelection period" to avoid "chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities" and causing "the investigation itself to become a campaign issue," the DoJ's 1995 manual says.
"In investigating election fraud matters, the Justice Department must refrain from any conduct which has the possibility of affecting the election itself," the Globe reports the manual as stating, and continuing to include, "most, if not all, investigation of alleged election crime must await the end of the election to which the allegation relates."
Nonetheless, Schlozman brought his indictments in the heat of the election, despite the fact that it was even ACORN themselves who had alerted law enforcement officials after they discovered problems in the registration forms turned in by the four workers.
A DoJ spokesman told the Globe that permission was given to Schlozman's office from headquarters to bring the indictments due to "an unwritten exception" to DoJ policy "for voter registration fraud."
David Becker, a former DoJ attorney who now works on election related issues for People for the American Way (PFAW) wrote this morning in an email that the DoJ's explanation was "simply not credible."
"In my experience in the DOJ," Becker wrote, "there has NEVER been any 'unwritten exception' of the type described. Indeed, the DOJ has always (apparently until now) avoided 'unwritten exceptions'. The idea that 'voter registration fraud' somehow falls into an 'unwritten exception' to the longtime policies of the Department is simply not credible."
ACVR Pushes the Scheme into the Media
Schlozman's charges in Missouri were filed so hastily, according to the Globe, that "his office got one of the names on the indictments wrong."
The WSJ's editorial at the time, points out the damaging, partisan political opportunism that comes in the wake of such purposely-timed indictments meant to achieve maximum political impact at the polls on Election Day.
"We wish this were an aberration," the partisans at WSJ penned, "but allegations of fraud have tainted Acorn voter drives across the country."
The operative word in that phrase, of course, being "allegations" --- as opposed to substantiated evidence --- and that's where the White House's operative Thor Hearne and the ACVR delivered the goods, big time, to the gullible "fair and balanced" mainstream media.
The WSJ editorial began this way:
The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos.
Of course, the wingnuts in the Rightwing blogosphere echo chamber trumpeted the "allegations" along with much of the mainstream media and it all becomes conventional wisdom. Mission accomplished.
"Out of 1.6 million cards, there's gonna be someone who forgot to sign something, or had a wrong address. Anytime there's something wrong, we're always happy to cooperate with officials to work out any concerns," the ACORN communication director explained to us over the weekend.
"But what do you do when some anti-ACORN official calls the media and says 'we have 4000 potentially fraudulent cards?' It's hard to do anything about it during the heat of an election when you don't have all the information."
"It takes time to check out these claims," Whelan said. "During an election that's next to impossible to do immediately, but the damage is already done when it makes its way onto Fox News or the newspapers."
Congressional Investigation of ACVR's White House Ties is Needed
Hearne and the ACVR have been covering their tracks for years and, by and large, both the MSM and Congress have allowed them to do so despite our years-long exposé of their chicanery.
We first contacted Hearne back in March of 2005, just after ACVR had appeared out of nowhere in time to be called to testify before then-Rep. Bob Ney's U.S. House Administration Committee hearing on the 2004 Election. At the time, Hearne testified about "Democratic voter fraud in Ohio"(!) during the Presidential Election, and didn't mention his ties to the Bush/Cheney campaign committee as national general counsel. He identified himself only as "a longtime advocate of voter rights."
When we questioned Hearne about his group, and requested information on his groups activities and tax-exempt, 501(c)3 status, he quickly shut down the conversation. "Sounds to me like your coming from the Left," he told us, failing to explain why such an issue would be important to his "non-partisan" outfit.
We then contacted Jim Dyke who was the original owner of the AC4VR.com domain. Dyke, who had previously been an RNC Communications Director, who co-founded the "non-partisan" ACVR with Hearne.
When we queried him on who owned the Dallas address on the Internet record of the domain name which had been acquired just days earlier, the following exchange occurred:
DYKE: I'm Charleston, South Carolina.
BB: The Internic record for your group says you're a Dallas, TX group?
DYKE: That's the company that designed the website.
BB: I see. What company is that?
DYKE: I'd have to look into and get back to you.
BB: You don't recall their name?
DYKE: I'll have to check and get back to you on that.
Of course, he never did.
Later, we ran a photographic essay on ACVR's headquarters, housed in a PO Box in a Dallas strip mall.
To our knowledge neither the mainstream media --- nor, more notably, either the Dept. of Justice or Congress --- has ever looked into the funding and conspiracy behind Hearne and Dyke's American Center for Voting Rights.
As ACVR Runs for Cover, ACORN Won't be Letting Them
ACORN's plans for the domain names are still being worked out according to Kingsley and Whelan who said they will temporarily be auto-redirecting the domains to TruthAboutFraud.org, a site by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice devoted to exposing the myth of Republican claims of "voter fraud".
Whelan said they will also likely link to The BRAD BLOG's Special Coverage Page on the ACVR featuring our two-plus years of reporting on Hearne and his "vote fraud" fraudsters.
And while Hearne his various operatives buddies have been attempting to excise evidence of ACVR's well-funded scam from the Internets, the Republican groups and law firms with whom they have been associated have similarly been attempting to send their own connections to the scammers down the memory hole. Photographs of Hearne have been removed from the Republican National Lawyers Association website, and ACVR operative Jason Torchinsky recently removed references to his tenure at ACVR from an Internet resume.
But the truth is not easy to hide these days. A great deal of ACVR's propaganda is still available via the Internet Archives.
Whelan and Kingsley have said they will likely be making that information available as well from pages to be posted at their new domains so all the world can see how the anti-democratic Republican sheisters had operated before they slithered back under their rocks...for the time being.
Congress needs to begin investigating the orchestrated and well-funded conspiracy behind the ACVR. Subpoenas for Hearne, Dyke, Rove, Torchinsky and the others involved in the scheme from the get-go are now long overdue. They need to be called in to testify, under oath, about the entire matter. Such an investigation would likely lead to cracking the GOP's entire systematic "voter fraud" scheme to defraud American voters wide open.
Smart money says it all goes straight up to the White House.