In January of 2012, just as the GOP Primary election cycle for President was getting under way, The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively that the office of the Virginia Attorney General had opened a criminal election fraud investigation into the failed effort by the campaign of Newt Gingrich to appear on the primary ballot in the Commonwealth.
Now, a woman hired by the campaign has "pleaded guilty to felony counts of fraud and perjury," according to a report just out tonight from Charlottesville's NBC affiliate WVIR.
31-year old Jennifer Derrebery reportedly worked for Gingrich's election contractor Stillwater LLC and, according to prosecutors, turned in campaign petitions with some 400 signatures in the failed attempt to collect the 10,000 needed for Gingrich's name to appear on the primary ballot last year. According to WVIR, nearly all of the signatures submitted by Derrebery were fake.
"We don't know what was going on, and we are pursuing charges for the people who did something wrong here in Augusta, on Mr. Gingrich's primary election," said Rupen Shah, assistant commonwealth's attorney.
Shah says there were similar problems in other parts of Virginia, where GOP candidates needed 10,000 valid petitioners to get on the ballot. Gingrich submitted more than that, but a quarter of the names could not be verified.
The report also notes that the "investigation is still active, and may result in additional arrests" and that Derrebery is cooperating with prosecutors and state police. WVIR says the "judge suspended all of her prison time". That is likely in exchange for her cooperation on the case. Her co-defendant, Adam Dustin Ward, faces a total of 42 criminal counts and will face a judge in June.
In late December of 2011, 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.
Clearly, the effort was by more than just "one guy," as Gingrich asserted at the time.
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."
In late January, an official at the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) described to described to The BRAD BLOG what had happened as "definitely an illegal act." He told us that the matter had been referred by the SBE to the office of VA's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R). The Director of Communications for the office, Brian J. Gottstein, then confirmed to us that an investigation was "underway," though he could not disclose the details at that time...
Gingrich and GOP hypocrisy
As Chris Hayes, sitting in for MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted at the time of the incident, citing a 2009 op-ed by Gingrich, the 1,500 acts of alleged election fraud committed on behalf of his campaign came straight from "from the Department of Shameless Schadenfreude."
Gingrich had joined his fellow Republicans years earlier in blasting the community organization ACORN for alleged "voter fraud" (which they never committed) in his op-ed, falsely claiming "ACORN has a long history of engaging in voter fraud."
But, of course, while a handful of ACORN's tens of thousands of voter registration workers turned in fraudulent signatures at various times over the years, there is no evidence that it was either condoned or ordered by ACORN themselves. Moreover, in almost every instance, when fraud by one of their workers was discovered, officials were notified of the fraudulent forms by ACORN themselves who also turned in the names of those workers to officials for prosecution.
There is no evidence that any illegal vote has ever been cast, in any election, due to an improper registration by any ACORN worker.
Those handful of voter registration fraud (not "voter fraud", as Gingrich described it) incidents by ACORN workers was condemned by Gingrich and his fellow Republicans. Famously, during a 2008 Presidential debate, then GOP nominee John McCain described those cases as "one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."
Gingrich, McCain, Fox "News" and many others in the GOP opportunistically and inaccurately described the cases as "massive voter fraud". Yet, when 1,500 cases of actual fraud was apparently carried out by Gingrich's own campaign (and prosecutors indicate it may be more than that), he marginalized the matter as "just a mistake."
The Republican Party has continually misrepresented the ACORN worker cases in order to push for new laws requiring state-issued Photo ID at the polling place for voting, even though such laws would not deter the type of fraud they were accusing ACORN of committing. They are pushing for such laws not because it will deter incredibly rare acts of in-person impersonation at the polling place, but because those laws will disproportionately disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters, such as minorities, students, the poor and the elderly.
At the time of Gingrich's caught-on-tape admission to his supporter about his campaign's own fraud, Mediate's Tommy Christopher aptly described what he admitted his campaign had done to be "arguably worse than what ACORN was accused of."
"ACORN was required, by law, to submit each and every voter registration that they gathered, no matter what, but unlike Gingrich," wrote Christopher, "ACORN reviewed and flagged tens of thousands of dodgy applications to make it easier for registrars to weed out the likes of Mickey [Mouse] and Donald [Duck]."
"ACORN had a much better ratio of valid registrations to fraudulent ones than Gingrich," Christopher also noted. "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."
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 came to his own campaign's actual "illegal and illicit activities," however, those were "just a mistake," as he described it to his supporter in the Iowa video. The ongoing criminal investigation by the Virginia Attorney General, however, has clearly determined otherwise.
The question now is: How many more arrests will there be and how high will they go? Given the recent record of the VA Attorney General however, and other Republican prosecutors in the state --- as detailed in our report earlier this week on felony charges just dropped against a GOP registration worker caught dumping registration forms into a dumpster just before last year's election --- we're not holding our breath. But we shall see what happens next.
Year of GOP Election Fraud
We documented, throughout the Presidential election cycle last year, the pervasive record of recent election fraud carried out by high-ranking Republicans, many of whom had previously been (inappropriately) critical of non-existent "voter fraud" by ACORN. See this article --- written last August when four U.S. House staffers of then Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) were indicted on charges of ballot petition fraud almost identical to those which Gingrich's campaign worker has now pleaded guilty to --- for a quick summary of the some of the most recent cases of alleged and/or confirmed voter fraud and election fraud by high-ranking Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, the CA Republican Party, Rep. Todd Akin, James O'Keefe, Ann Coulter and several others.