A major element of the Republican National Committee’s overall attempt to game the 2012 elections by trying to affect who gets to vote and who does not, has just been stopped dead in its tracks.
Along with it, a criminal election fraud complaint has now reportedly been filed with law enforcement in the state of Florida against a Republican firm, owned by a paid Mitt Romney consultant, which was hired by the GOP to carry out partisan voter registration operations in at least five battleground states.
Millions of dollars were spent on the aborted effort by the GOP over the last two months — their largest single expenditure in several of the states where the scheme was in full tilt — to seek out Romney supporters only, and sign them up to vote.
The strategy resulted in (or included) fraudulent registration forms collected by the firm and then submitted in Florida by the state GOP with voter addresses, signatures and party affiliations changed. Election officials in the state have told The BRAD BLOG that they fear the scheme could result in the disenfranchisement of a still-unknown number of otherwise legal voters, and they are taking extraordinary measures to try and contain the potential damage as they attempt to work through more than 45,000 new and updated registrations submitted by the GOP and verify their legitimacy.
The fraudulent voter registration forms have so far been discovered in “at least 11” FL counties at this hour, all submitted by the state Republican Party and collected by the RNC’s top voter registration firm, a shell company formed in June called Strategic Allied Consulting, owned by a notorious GOP operative named Nathan Sproul.
On Thursday night, the RNC finally fired the firm to which they’d paid more than $3 million over the past two months alone, for voter registration work in at least five key battleground states, and “Get Out the Vote” efforts in at least two more.
But despite the efforts by the RNC and Strategic Allied Consulting, run secretly by Romney’s paid political consultant, the 2012 GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, which The BRAD BLOG initially reported late last Tuesday night as it began to break, is not over yet. Not by a long shot.
It took several days for the story to go national, and for the RNC to eventually take action in firing the company that Sproul says he was specifically asked to create for them, but only after the Republican Party of Florida, and then the North Carolina GOP fired the firm first. The state parties say they had hired the company “at the request” of the RNC. They fired Strategic after allegedly fraudulent and purposely changed voter registration forms turned in by the group emerged in other counties beyond Palm Beach County, FL where the Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher initially discovered and then turned in over 100 “questionable” forms to the State Attorney last Monday.
The story has been moving quickly over the past 24 to 48 hours, even as the RNC and Strategic have been trying, with the initially uncritical help of the Associated Press and others in the media, to downplay the scandal as the work of just “one individual.”
Now that “suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms” turned in by the Republican Party and Sproul have been found in “at least 11 counties” in Florida, as reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, their “one bad apple” talking point has fallen to pieces.
Similarly laughable is the RNC’s claim that once the fraudulent registrations emerged they acted “boldly” or that they have a “zero tolerance policy” for such things. Their own admissions in this matter, as well as Sproul’s, highlight how absurd those positions are. But more on that below.
Another matter worth looking at is the claim that this scandal is contained to only five battleground states — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado — where Strategic Allied Consulting is known to have been operating. There is evidence, however, that SAC and/or other Sproul companies may still be operating in other states, such as California and Oregon, and that the specific type of rather offensive registration work they were doing — lying to potential registrants and only offering Romney supporters the opportunity to register to vote — is not necessarily their own strategy, but that of the entire Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign.
And then there’s the hypocrisy of Republicans and their media outlets, such as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, now trying to pretend that this entire matter isn’t happening at all. Yes, the very same outlets that all went wall-to-wall in 2008, and beyond, in claiming (inaccurately) that ACORN was doing what this GOP group appears to actually have done, are now going out of their way to ignore this scandal.
After some terrible reporting on this originally by the AP, in which they simply took whatever they were told by the RNC and Strategic Allied Consulting and reported it uncritically, the wire service finally noticed there is much more going on here.
“What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide,” AP’s Gary Fineout reported on Saturday. Of course, it only appeared to the RNC “to be an isolated problem.”
In any event, AP is now reporting that the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) — whose largest expenditure this election cycle, $1.3 million, was on Strategic Allied Consulting — filed an election fraud complaint against the company on Friday. It’s now in the hands of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Of course, that’s the same law enforcement outfit who chose not to prosecute one-time Republican superstar Ann Coulter for voter fraud and voter registration fraud, despite the open and shut case against her, reflected by hard documentation showing that she purposely lied on her voter registration form, on her FL driver’s license, as well as knowingly voting at the wrong precinct back in 2005 — in Palm Beach County, coincidentally enough. Her crimes amounted to two 3rd degree felonies and one 1st degree misdemeanor in all, according to the report from the Town of Palm Beach Police Department obtained by The BRAD BLOG back in 2007.
The PBPD said, at the time, they did not have jurisdiction in the matter, and it moved up the food chain for years to state authorities and others. Thanks in no small part to her Republican friends in FL, and a very close friend at the FBI, Coulter was able to run out the statute of limitations clock, and was never held accountable for her election crimes in FL.
Florida, it seems, is very selective about who it chooses to prosecute for election fraud. So we’ll see what comes of the Republican complaint against the Republican voter registration outfit.
In another example of selective interest by Republican state officials, as of late Friday night, the Florida Secretary of State’s office still hadn’t bothered to return the Monday call of Susan Bucher, who had reported the fraudulent registration forms before turning them over to the State Attorney on Monday afternoon. So much for the pretend concerns about voter registration fraud by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his hand-picked Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who are still attempting to remove supposed “non-citizens” from the rolls, even after their failed previous attempts, and even amidst a real voter registration fraud crisis in the state, as Bucher explained to us during our exclusive interview with her last Wednesday.
Many have asked us whether the U.S. Department of Justice has yet intervened in this matter. If they have, we haven’t heard about it at this time.
Joseph Tanfani, Matea Gold and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times, who have been doing some excellent work on this story, reported on Saturday that “potentially fraudulent voter registration forms submitted on behalf of the state GOP” have now been uncovered “in at least 11 Florida counties.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever had this number of counties that have had this number of cases all at the same time,” Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections tells the paper.
She says that in addition to those initially found in Palm Beach County, “problematic voter registration forms turned in by the GOP,” as the LA Times describes them, have been discovered by election officials in Lee, Bay, Clay, Santa Rosa, Escambia and Okaloosa counties.
Chris Cate, who serves as spokesman for both the State Election Division as well as the Secretary of State (the Director of the State Election Division left office just before the August primaries, for reasons unknown, and so the Secretary of State’s office has been designated as point person for issues that would normally go to the Election Division while the top spot there remains unfilled, just over one month before a presidential election) says that more “possibly fraudulent forms have also been reported in Charlotte, Walton, Miami-Dade and Duval counties.”
That’s 11 counties in Florida in all, to date. The number has been growing daily since Tuesday.
The problem has left county Supervisors of Elections scrambling in Florida to repair their voter files before the election, and in advance of October 9, when all changes to the voter database are supposed to be locked down by law.
One Florida election official tells The BRAD BLOG that the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections is rushing to organize a conference call to try and establish “a uniform, statewide plan to repair our voter file before the election.”
Currently, officials are plowing through tens of thousands of new and updated registrations that have been submitted since the beginning of August, in hopes of locating and verifying those turned in by the RPOF and Strategic Allied Consulting. The LA Times notes that the state elections website reports the state GOP has turned in 45,917 voter registration forms. Each of them must now be verified to make sure it is legitimate.
AP reports that “The Florida Democratic Party called on the state to ‘revoke’ the ability of state Republicans to continue to register voters while the investigation continues.”
“It is clear that the Republican Party of Florida does not have the institutional controls in place to be trusted as a third-party, voter registration organization,” Scott Arceneaux, Executive Director of the state Democratic Party said.
Though the Strategic county supervisors have logs detailing which applications each of their registration workers turned in, they have yet to turn over that database to county officials, Bucher tells us, making the chore even more difficult at an already hectic time at election offices just one month before the presidential election.
But Florida is not the only state where Strategic was contracted to work, and where reports of troubling registrations have begun to emerge.
The LA Times reports…
In Colorado, an attorney for the firm alerted the secretary of state’s office last week that an employee had torn up a completed voter registration form; the elections office sent that report to state prosecutors for investigation.
In Nevada, the secretary of state’s office is investigating a complaint from Gina Greisen, a Democrat and animal rights activist. Earlier this month, she said, she witnessed a man tear up a woman’s voter registration form that identified her as a Democrat and instruct her to fill out a new form without any party affiliation. Greisen said an employee from the Clark County Department of Elections determined that torn form (which Greisen retrieved from the trash) was registered to Strategic Allied Consulting.
Destroying Democratic registration forms is just one of many things that Sproul’s companies, such as Sproul & Associates and Lincoln Strategy Group and now Strategic Allied Consulting, have been accused of in the past, in election after election, in state after state. (We summarized many of the specific allegations against Sproul’s company going back some 10 years in our initial report on the scandal last week.)
It should be noted that while Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VA) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) requested that George W. Bush’s then U.S. Attorney General “launch an immediate investigation into the activities of Mr. Sproul and his firm” in 2004, no charges were ever brought. Instead, as Lee Fang observed at The Nation, the Bush Administration (whose campaign had spent millions hiring Sproul for similar work in 2004) “literally welcomed Sproul and his wife into the White House for a Christmas party in 2006.”
The Strategic website also claims that investigations into allegations of voter registration fraud by Sproul’s companies, as carried out by the “Democrat” Attorneys General of Arizona and Oregon, as well as another by the Nevada Attorney General, did not result in charges either.
The initial responses from both Strategic Allied Consulting and the RNC was to downplay the problems as little more than mischief caused by “one individual” who worked for the firm.
As NBC News noted in their first report on Thursday night, Strategic’s initial response was a two-sentence statement on its single-page, generic website, claiming that “we were able to trace all questionable cards to one individual and immediately terminated our working relationship with the individual in question.”
“No matter what quality controls you have there are always going to be bad actors in any large scale operation,” Sproul told NBC’s Michael Isikoff at the time.
Both Strategic and the RNC claimed that they had “zero tolerance” for such activity.
State GOP organizations, who spent enormous amounts of their election year budget on Strategic, offered matching responses.
“The Colorado Republican Party takes any threat to the voting process very seriously,” said the Colorado GOP’s Communications Director Justin Wilson.
“The Republican Party of Virginia takes any threat to the voting process very seriously,” echoed Pat Mulins, Chair of the GOP in Virginia in a haunting refrain, in what cynics might describe as a coordinated response to the GOP’s PR nightmare. Both state parties, along with Florida, North Carolina and Nevada, reportedly fired the firm.
But with potentially fraudulent forms tied to the Republican Party reported in at least 11 FL counties — “in South Florida, including Miami-Dade, as well as counties in southwest and northeast Florida as well as the Florida Panhandle,” as AP describes them — the “one individual” theory was dead almost as soon as it was uncritically passed on to the public by the media.
In a lengthy new statement on the front and only page of their website, Strategic has modified that theory slightly:
We are aware of questionable cards in a few additional counties. In the three counties where we know the details, each county is limited to one individual.
That claim is either true, or not.
But the most laughable part of the GOP response to all of this came from RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, who is quoted in an NBC video report on Thursday saying, with a straight face:
“We, at this point, have an allegation. That mere allegation has caused us to act — act swiftly and boldly — and sever our ties with this firm because we have a zero tolerance [policy] when it comes to this. The other side clearly engaged for a long time in inappropriate behavior. We don’t believe that that’s appropriate. And we wanted to make a swift and bold action to illustrate that.”
Setting aside his unsupported smear that “The other side clearly engaged for a long time in inappropriate behavior”, when there is no known comparison to any similar activities by the Democratic National Committee or any of its state parties to our knowledge, the most absurd part of Spicer’s declaration is the assertion that his party acted “boldly”.
On Friday, the LA Times reported Spicer’s comment about having acted “boldly.”
Yet three paragraphs earlier, in the very same piece, they report that “Sproul said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC’s request because the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations.” Very “bold” of them! And very “zero tolerance-y” too!
But there may be a serious legal rift developing between the party and their well-paid, longtime, hard-right operative, Sproul.
In an LA Times follow-up on Saturday, Spicer disputed Sproul’s claims that the party asked him to create the shell company. “To my knowledge, no one requested that,” Spicer is quoted as saying.
For his part, Sproul was quoted in NBC’s initial report on Thursday (though the quote was later removed during an update, for some reason — Isikoff did not respond to our query as to why), blasting the Republican Party of Florida for making “likely libelous comments about our efforts.”
On the Strategic Allied Consulting website, which has been replaced with a long statement from the firm, they repeat the charge: “the Republican Party of Florida chose to make likely libelous comments about our effort.”
Sproul, to date, has declined to offer specifics to The BRAD BLOG on the record, as to what “libelous comments” he and the firm are referring to.
In the meantime, in Virginia, Strategic Allied Consulting, was paid $500,000 this summer to register voters, according FEC disclosures reviewed by Richmond’s CBS 6. The company was registered as a corporation in Virginia in June of 2012, without Sproul’s name on the registration. But a visit by CBS 6’s Joe St. George to the Glen Allen address listed as the corporate home of the outfit resulted in the firm that is actually located at the address telling him that “they have never heard of the group.”
Leon County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, discussing the mess in the Sunshine State over the past several days, told The BRAD BLOG that “the irony is palpable, as the Republican Party has been caught doing the same thing they accused ACORN of when they shut them down.”
But there is no real comparison to ACORN. Unlike Sproul’s outfits, the non-partisan community organizing group was never hired by the Democratic Party to do voter registration work. Moreover, it was ACORN themselves who discovered fraud by a handful of its more than 10,000 workers and notified officials of the fraud and the names of those who had defrauded them.
As perhaps best described by former Republican Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, during a 2009 voter suppression hearing: “The difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn’t throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.”
But the pathetically amusing aspect here is watching, and waiting, for the same right-wing media outlets that turned false allegations against ACORN into a crusade to destroy the four-decade-old community organization (simply because they had the temerity to legally register millions of low- and middle-income voters with a damnable tendency to vote for Democrats), to even cover this scandal at all.
Now that the things they falsely accused ACORN of doing for so many years are actually being done — by the Republicans’ top voter registration outfit — the right-wing media have fallen silent.
Although Fox anchor Shepard Smith finally mentioned the scandal late Friday — but that came after nearly a full week of allegations of voter registration fraud in at least 10 Florida counties, including allegations by one Republican election official that the group had even been found to have registered dead people as new voters. Until Smith spoke, Fox News hadn’t mentioned one word about any of it, as Eric Boehlert noticed at Media Matters. At Salon, later that day, Alex Seitz-Wald reported that “a search on Strategic Allied Consulting or Nathan Sproul turns up zero results on The Weekly Standard, The National Review, RedState, the Breitbart sites, Michelle Malkin, Hot Air and other” right-wing outlets that decried “voter fraud” by ACORN in the past. Imagine that.
In ACORN’s case, there is no evidence that any of the fraud by any of their workers either resulted in a single fraudulent vote or in anybody ever being disenfranchised. Right now, given the addresses changed on existing voter records to places like Shell stations and Land Rover dealers, as is the case in Palm Beach County, Election Supervisor Susan Bucher told us she’s very worried that an unknown number of voters may find themselves disenfranchised when they go to vote on November 6, only to find that they are no longer registered at the precinct where they have voted for years.
Bucher told us on Friday night that she and her staff are madly working through some “37,000 plus address changes and 23,000 new and updated signatures that have occurred in Palm Beach County” since the beginning of August, to determine which ones submitted by the state GOP are legitimate and which ones might be fraudulent and result in a legal voter losing their right to have their vote counted this year.
This is real fraud, and the right-wing media couldn’t care less.
While Sproul has managed to escape criminal accountability despite years of allegations against his companies in election after election and state after state, he has raked in millions from the RNC and its top superstars. In addition to working for Bush/Cheney in ’04, his company was also hired by the McCain/Palin campaign in ’08, even after all of the years of allegations against him.
And, once again, in this year’s election cycle, Sproul was hired by the Mitt Romney campaign, who paid him nearly $80,000 late last year for work as a political consultant.
Since the scandal has emerged, the Romney camp has attempted to downplay his relationship to Sproul. NBC reports that Romney spokesperson Sarah Pompei says only: “We used this vendor for signature gathering services during the primary but have not used them since 2011.”
In fact, “this vendor” served as a surrogate for Romney in the media on at least one occasion during this year’s primary debate season.
In February of this year, AP quoted Sproul and described him as “an Arizona political consultant who is working for Romney’s campaign.”
Perhaps someone should ask the GOP nominee when, if ever, Sproul stopped working for his campaign, and why it is that his spokesperson now claims that they haven’t used “this vendor…since 2011”.
Finally, for now, when we first reported on this story on Tuesday, we had, earlier that morning, covered the video that had gone viral last weekend showing a young lady outside of a Safeway grocery story in Colorado Springs, CO (El Paso County), asking a potential registrant, “Would you vote for Romney or Obama?” before she would offer her a voter registration form.
We noted that help-wanted ads put out by Strategic Allied Consulting in North Carolina, as first discovered by Greg Flynn of BlueNC (he was also the one to discover Sproul & Associates ownership of the StrategicAlliedConsulting.com Internet domain before it was then set to “private” in a belated attempt to hide Sproul’s fingerprints) sounded suspiciously like the activity seen in the CO video tape, where the GOP had paid Strategic nearly half a million dollars for registration work.
We asked in that very first article on the emerging scandal in Florida at the time: “Was the young worker in Colorado Springs hired by Strategic Allied Consulting for her work with the local GOP?”
We subsequently received confirmation from Justin Miller, the Communications Director for the CO Republican Party, that she was, indeed, working for a third-party contractor hired by the state GOP, though Miller claimed he didn’t have the name of the group handy when we spoke.
He promised to get back to us with the name of the third-party contractor. Unfortunately, after promising to do so once again the following day, he never did.
On Friday night, FOX31 in Denver “confirmed that the young woman seen registering voters outside a Colorado Springs grocery store in a YouTube video, in which she admits to trying to only register voters who support Mitt Romney, was indeed a contract employee of Sproul’s company.”
FOX31 goes on to quote Miller telling them that “We are not aware of any voter registration irregularities from our efforts to register voters.”
The local news outlet then wisely adds: “Of course, the state has little way of knowing if some registration forms were filled out and then discarded.”
But there’s a more troubling aspect to all of this, revealed by that video as well as additional reporting we have done on this matter over the past week. We hope to discuss that disturbing revelation in an upcoming article…