David Cole

David Cole

Republican Alabama state Rep. David Cole was arrested Tuesday and charged with fraudulently voting at an unauthorized location. Seeing as the people most likely to be charged for actually committing voter fraud often belong to the political party constantly screeching about voter fraud, Cole’s arrest is not much of a surprise. However, after all of the Republican Party’s talk about election integrity, it was not the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature that brought Cole’s infraction to court—it was a Libertarian candidate who ran against him.

In order to run for election in District 10, Cole seems to have used someone else’s address. Tuesday’s charges mean that apparently, Cole was also using that same address to vote. The arrest stems from the well-documented questions surrounding Cole’s residency. After Cole won election in 2022, he was sued by Libertarian candidate Elijah Boyd, who finished third in the race. Boyd insisted that due to residency requirements, Cole was ineligible to run for the position in the first place. During a May deposition, Cole admitted under oath that he could not recall having spent a single night in the residence where he claimed to live.

The evidence that Cole did not live in the district seems to have been very clear since well before he won the nomination. But the Alabama Republican Party backed him the whole way, and considered him their best chance at winning the district. Boyd’s attorney told News 19, “Cole‘s hubris and loose relationship with the truth finally caught up with him. The voters in Madison County deserved better and I’m glad that our election contest was able to shine a light on his fraud.”

Alabama Republicans, like the rest of the Republican Party, have been making so much hay over the past decade about voter fraud and election security that it seemed inevitable this chicken would come home to roost. But they still tried their darndest to pretend Cole wasn’t breaking election laws.

In November, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill reviewed the evidence and said a “rental agreement” signed just days before the filing deadline was good enough for him. Merrill released a statement saying, “The Alabama Republican Party certified Dr. Cole as a Republican candidate for the nomination for House District 10.”

Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon has been following Cole’s troubles since November. At that time the Cole campaign’s excuses were less than sufficient. If you were to believe Cole’s side of the story, he and his family of five wanted to downsize from their home in District 4 to an apartment in District 10. But, since that was taking a lot of time, they rented from a friend, signing the lease just a couple of days before Cole would have been ineligible to run without proof of residency.

Then, if we are to believe Cole, he and his family of five moved into a rental—where another entire family was already living. Yeehaw! In an opinion piece he wrote after the arrest, Moon pointed the finger at many people and suggested Cole was doing what many others told him was okay to do. Moon points out that Republican lawmakers didn’t move an inch when Cole’s residency was fully exposed as a lie.

Madison County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Shelia McNeil gave a statement about Tuesday’s arrest, noting the Republican Party’s hypocrisy in the matter.

“Voter fraud is an assault on democracy and is especially egregious when perpetrated by an elected official. I’m happy to see that Madison County takes voter fraud seriously and is taking steps to protect the integrity of our electoral process.“But Mr. Cole isn’t the only one at fault here. The Alabama Legislature could have corrected this wrong itself, according to the Alabama Supreme Court. The GOP-dominated House of Representatives, apparently more concerned about politics and power than the voters of House District 10, declined to do so. The Madison County residents in District 10 deserve better than to be treated as tools of the GOP’s political priorities. We hope that Cole’s arrest will begin the process of restoring to them their right to elect legal, eligible candidates, regardless of party.”

Cole was released on $2,500 bail. The charge against him is a Class C felony, meaning a conviction could result in up to 10 years in prison.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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Report: Funder Of Right-Wing Anti-Trafficking Film Busted In Child Abduction

Fabian Marta

One of the funders behind Sound of Freedom, an anti-trafficking film that was widely embraced by right-wing media this summer, was arrested in July on felony child kidnapping charges, according to Newsweek and a Missouri court website.

Fabian Marta appears to have referred to himself as an “angel investor” in the film, according to a screenshot of a since-deleted Facebook post. (Media Matters has not independently verified the Facebook post.)

Newsweek reported:

Fabian Marta was charged with felony child kidnapping in July, while since-removed Facebook posts appear to show the same person revealing their pride in funding the film. Marta's name appears in the movie's credits among the "investors [who] helped bring Sound of Freedom to theaters."

St. Louis Metropolitan Police confirmed to Newsweek that Marta, 51, from Chesterfield, Missouri, was charged on July 21, and was arrested on July 23.

Police also provided a booking photo of Marta, which appears to show the same person pictured on a Facebook account of the same name. Screenshots of since-removed posts from multiple online sources, seen by Newsweek but which could not be independently verified, show Marta speaking about his involvement with the film.

Sound of Freedom stars Jim Caviezel, who pushed several QAnon conspiracy theories while promoting the film earlier this summer. Caviezel claimed that centralized cabals of pedophiles were torturing trafficked children to extract adrenochrome from them — what’s known in QAnon jargon as the “adrenochrome empire.” He additionally said Ukrainian biolabs were involved in the conspiracy and that the CIA and FBI were implicated in a cover-up.

Marta’s arrest isn’t the only controversy surrounding the film, which is based on the life of Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard. Ballard has long claimed that his organization saves children from trafficking rings, but critics allege that most of OUR’s work has been in service of glorifying Ballard and building his brand.

Following the film’s release, Ballard and OUR parted ways “after an internal investigation into claims made against him by multiple employees,” according to Vice News. Ballard was later removed as CEO of The Nazarene Fund, an anti-trafficking group funded by Glenn Beck. He had previously been ousted from the same position in 2021.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.