By Brad Friedman on 1/31/2012, 5:35am PT  

Had the same thing been carried out by a worker for the now-defunct ACORN, Republicans --- and even Newt Gingrich --- would have called it massive "voter fraud." But the 1,500 acts of fraud, by Gingrich's own admission, were carried out by a worker hired by his campaign, so it seems the media have barely noticed it.

Nonetheless, The BRAD BLOG has received confirmation from two different state agencies that the 1,500 alleged cases of ballot petition fraud said to have been carried out on behalf of the Gingrich campaign, in their unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Republican primary ballot in Virginia, are now being carried out by the state Attorney General's office.

In late December, after Gingrich had failed to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, he was caught on video tape telling a supporter in Iowa that the reason for the failure was due to a campaign worker who created 1,500 fraudulent signatures.

"We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud," Gingrich is seen and heard saying in video originally aired by CNN.

The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives downplayed the incident, by explaining to the woman that the entire affair was "just a mistake," after they had "hired somebody who turned in false signatures."

Neither he nor his campaign, however, has made the name of the alleged "one guy" public, to our knowledge, despite the extraordinary number of fraudulent signatures created and turned in by that "one guy" in what an official at the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) described to us as "definitely an illegal act."

News of the embarrassing criminal investigation is confirmed today, even as voters go to the polls for Florida's 2012 GOP Primary, where Gingrich is facing off against front-runner Mitt Romney who, ironically --- and uncomfortably enough for Republicans --- may also find himself the subject of a criminal voter fraud investigation in the not-too-distant future...

Gingrich fraud investigation confirmed

In mid-January, in a little-noticed blog item by the Washington Post's Anita Kumar, it was reported that the SBE was requesting a probe by the office of VA's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) into what SBE chairman Charlie Judd described as "irregularities" found on the Gingrich petitions.

Late last week, SBE Deputy Secretary Justin Riemer confirmed to The BRAD BLOG both the referral to the AG's office as well as the fact that an investigation into the ballot petition fraud was officially being carried out by the AG.

"We're not an investigative body, but this issue has been referred to the State AG by the State Board of Elections, after learning of allegations of fraudulent signature gathering in that case, and a number of others," Riemer told us by telephone. "My understanding is that an investigation is under way," he said.

When we asked what "other" cases had also been referred to the AG, he pointed us to them for more details, though he characterized the petition signature fraud as described by Gingrich, if true, as "definitely an illegal act."

"We can confirm that there is an investigation underway," Brian J. Gottstein, Director of Communication for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia confirmed to The BRAD BLOG via email on Monday, "but other than that, we cannot comment about an ongoing investigation."

When pressed as to whether Gingrich and his campaign were cooperating with the investigation, whether they had revealed the name of the "one guy" they claim created 1,500 fraudulent signatures, and what other cases were being probed as a part of the same investigation, Gottstein demurred.

"To maintain the integrity of any investigation, we can't disclose details. Sorry," he wrote.

He also responded that our related requests under the state of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were "exempt" from the act, presumably due to the ongoing criminal investigation.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul successfully turned in enough valid petitions to qualify for the GOP primary in VA, which happens to be the home state of Gingrich, formerly a Congressman from Georgia, until he was forced to resign following an unprecedented ethics scandal in which he was fined some $300,000.

'Worse than what ACORN was accused of'

When Gingrich's 1,500 cases of alleged fraud first came to light at year's end, The BRAD BLOG observed that "If the same standards are applied to Newt Gingrich as have, for years, been applied to the now-defunct ACORN organization by both Republicans and their media arm, Fox 'News,' then it seems Newt Gingrich's campaign has committed thousands of acts of voter fraud."

Indeed, while neither ACORN, nor any of their hired workers have ever been found to have committed even a single instance of voter fraud, a handful of their workers --- almost all of whom were discovered and turned in to authorities by ACORN themselves --- did commit voter registration fraud by turning in fraudulently signed registration forms. There is no evidence that any of those fraudulent registrations has ever resulted in an actual vote being cast illegally in any election.

Nonetheless, Republicans, lazy (or worse) members of the media, and even Gingrich himself, have all long described those acts of fraud against ACORN as "voter fraud" by the former community organization itself. The relentless, years-long disinformation campaign against ACORN was carried out by the GOP in retaliation for the group's perfectly legal registration campaign, which succeeded in signing up hundreds of thousands of legal, low- and middle-income voters (who happen to vote largely Democratic) to participate in their own democracy.

When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show picked up on the extraordinary hypocrisy exposed by the Gingrich campaign's apparent 1,500 acts of fraud --- in what guest host Chris Hayes described as being "from the Department of Shameless Schadenfreude" --- they pointed to a 2009 op-ed in which the former Speaker had inaccurately blasted ACORN for a crime they never committed. [See the Maddow Show's video below.]

"ACORN has a long history of engaging in voter fraud," Gingrich falsely charged in his op-ed at the time, in reference to the exact same thing that Gingrich himself now refers to as little more than "just a mistake": Submitting thousands of fraudulent signatures to election officials.

Mediaite's Tommy Christopher, however, notes that what Gingrich admits that his campaign has done "was arguably worse than what ACORN was accused of":

First of all, the “voter fraud” that ACORN was accused of didn't actually result in Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck being “added to the voter rolls.”

In fact, ACORN was required, by law, to submit each and every voter registration that they gathered, no matter what, but unlike Gingrich, ACORN reviewed and flagged tens of thousands of dodgy applications to make it easier for registrars to weed out the likes of Mickey and Donald. Although it's a popular talking point, this type of “fraud” doesn't result in any fraudulent votes being cast.

Christopher went on to note "Another distinguishing feature between ACORN and Gingrich":

ACORN had a much better ratio of valid registrations to fraudulent ones than Gingrich. 13% of Gingrich's signatures were bogus, while ACORN's error rate was around 1.5%, according to Project Vote. Most of the ACORN applications that were rejected were duplicates, not fraudulent ones.

The biggest difference, though, is that ACORN was registering voters in heavily minority communities, registering the kinds of people that Newt Gingrich wants to fire and replace with poor little inner-city nine year-olds. Registering those people is a heinous crime. Fraudulently getting Newt Gingrich on the Virginia primary ballot, apparently, is just a "mistake."

Gingrich's 2009 op-ed was littered with other inaccuracies and scurrilous false charges, including what he described as ACORN's "illegal and illicit activities." When it comes to his own actual apparently "illegal and illicit activities," that is was "just a mistake." The Virginia Attorney General's criminal investigation may conclude otherwise.

Their own petard

The long campaign against ACORN has been part and parcel of the even longer GOP campaign to push for Photo ID restrictions on voters at the polling place, despite the dearth of evidence to show that in-person polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud which might be deterred by such measures --- is actually carried out by more than an infinitesimally tiny number of voters (at very best), out of hundreds of millions of votes cast each year. In fact, according to the George W. Bush Dept. of Justice's own statistics from 2002 to 2007, during which an unprecedented amount of resources were poured into ferreting out evidence to support GOP claims of a "voter fraud" epidemic among hundreds of millions of votes cast during the period, not a single instance of polling place voter impersonation was uncovered.

That, even as some 25 million legally registered voters nationally --- disproportionately minorities, elderly, and students, all of whom tend to vote Democratic --- lack the type of state-issued Photo ID required for voting under such laws, and will be put at risk of being disenfranchised by them.

Despite that risk, Republican officials around the nation have pushed over and again for such laws, often resorting to dubious "facts," such as claims about (non-existent) "voter fraud" by ACORN, or dead voters casting votes at the polling place, in order to support their claims that such measures are needed to combat a "voter fraud" scourge.

Just days ago, for example, after the U.S. Dept. of Justice rejected South Carolina's new Photo ID restrictions on the grounds that the state's own data reveal the measure to be discriminatory against minority voters, the state's Attorney General publicized an apparently specious claim that some 953 "dead voters" had been found to have cast votes in recent elections in the state.

As The BRAD BLOG detailed on Monday, however, claims of those 953 "dead voters" voting in SC appear to be greatly exaggerated, at least according to the state's chief election official, who testified in response to the allegations before a state legislative committee last week.

Marci Andino, Executive Director of the SC State Election Commission, pointed out during her testimony that, of the handful of names of alleged "dead voters" so far turned over to her office by the AG, not a single one of them has turned out to be an illegal vote. Most of them amounted to clerical errors by poll workers who checked the wrong name in the polls books or, in one case, "an absentee ballot cast by a voter who then died before election day."

Of the 10 voters claimed by the state DMV to be "dead," but who were found by the SC Election Commission to have applied for absentee ballots prior to the recent January 21 GOP Primary in the state, Andino noted: "In every case, the signatures on these forms were matched, and each of these ten voters was confirmed to be alive."

Of course, polling place Photo ID restrictions do nothing to deter absentee ballot voter fraud --- far and away the most prevalent type of fraud committed by actual voters --- but it hasn't stopped Republicans like Gingrich was using such incidents to push for polling place photo ID restrictions nonetheless.

Andino concluded her testimony by aptly noting: "Just as one instance of voter fraud is one too many, a single voter denied his or her right to vote because of a clerical error or the vagaries of data analysis is one too many as well."

Despite the risks of hundreds of thousands of legal voters being unable to cast their previously-legal ballot under such laws in the upcoming Presidential election, the GOP campaign for them has been relentless, and Gingrich has been all too happy to participate in it. When it comes to his own admitted fraud, however, he's more than happy to look the other way. Most in the media, to date, have unfortunately joined him in that distraction.

Speaking of actual voter fraud, let's not forget Mitt Romney's

If pre-election polls hold true, while today's GOP Primary in the state of Florida may effectively knock out Gingrich from contention for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination, the party's likely standard bearer, Mitt Romney, seems to have some actual voter fraud issues of his own.

Charges concerning the former Massachusetts Governor's apparent voter fraud have largely been ignored by the media to date as well, just as the Republican Party would like them to.

As originally highlighted by long-shot Republican Presidential candidate Fred Karger last summer, Romney had been registered to vote in the unfinished basement of his son's manse in Belmont, Massachusetts long after the former Governor and his wife had sold their own home there, and purchased two others --- one in California and another in neighboring New Hampshire.

Despite testimony from local Belmont residents that neither he nor his wife had been seen in the town he was registered to vote in for years, Romney cast a ballot in the January 2010 special election for the U.S. Senate between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley. However, it wasn't until July of 2010 that the Romneys once again purchased a small townhouse in MA in preparation for their Presidential run.

Last week, Romney release his federal income tax forms stating his residence to be "Belmont, MA." However, as we noted at the time, his specific address was redacted, so it's impossible to know, based on that return, if he used the address at his son's house or his newly purchased townhouse in the same small town, as his residence for tax purposes that year.

Notably, Romney failed to release his state income tax returns for 2010, nor any of them for years prior. A 2009 return showing his residence to be income-tax free New Hampshire would be damning evidence of voter fraud in the January 2010 election in Massachusetts.

The Romney campaign has failed to respond to several of our queries on this matter seeking to find out whether or not Romney considered himself a resident of Massachusetts, or not, at the time he cast his vote in the January 2010 special election.

At this time, it appears entirely possible that the likely 2012 Presidential nominee for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, is, himself, a voter fraud criminal, even as his current alternative-of-the-moment, Newt Gingrich, faces a confirmed criminal felony investigation for some 1,500 acts of ballot petition fraud in his own home state of Virginia.

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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show on 12/29/11 covers Newt Gingrich's claim that "one guy" turned in 1,500 fraudulent signatures to the Virginia Board of Elections on behalf of his campaign, but that it was little more than "just a mistake"...

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