An election fraud probe, and a case of hypocrisy

    Now that the Pennsylvania judiciary has finally put the kibosh on the GOP’s 2012 voter suppression scheme – a scheme that was ostensibly designed to combat fraud and “protect the integrity of our elections” – let us behold the chasm that separates what the party says and what the party does.

    Because, over the past week, the party that supposedly seeks to protect electoral integrity has been caught red-handed trying to undermine that integrity. Turns out, the purported GOP fraud-fighters hired a voter registration firm (at a cost of nearly $3 million) that is now being scrutinized by law enforcement officials for allegedly engaging in widespread election fraud.

    You simply cannot make this stuff up; as sportswriter Red Smith famously wrote, “Reality has strangled invention.” The whiff of hypocrisy, in the episode we are about to examine, is more pungent than rotting fish.

    Election officials in nine Florida counties have discovered “hundreds” of highly suspicious or outright fraudulent registration forms, all of them garnered by employes of an outfit called Strategic Allied Consultants. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been summoned to determine what one state election official calls “the full extent of the problem….I don’t think we’ve ever had this number of counties that have had this number of cases at one time.” And Palm Beach County prosecutors have launched their own criminal probe.

    “The problem” apparently includes: incorrect addresses, addresses that don’t exist, signatures that don’t match the names, signatures in the same handwriting, dates of births that don’t match the names, and (my favorite) names that match up with the names in death records. As one unamused Florida country supervisor tells a local reporter, “A number of dead people were trying to register to vote.” In another county, roughly 25 percent of the registration forms are suspect or bogus. And in the wake of what has surfaced in Florida, election officials in North Carolina are now reviewing the local activities of that same registration group, Strategic Allied Consultants.

    Turns out, the Republican National Committee hired that group to do all its signup efforts in five key swing states – Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia. (More precisely, the RNC cajoled its state chapters into hiring the group.) Most importantly, the RNC did so even though the guy behind the group, a gentleman by the name of Nathan Sproul, has long been under a cloud for alleged signup shenanigans dating back to 2004. To put it in Casablanca cinematic terms: Of all the legit voter registration gin joints in the world, the RNC decided to walk into his.

    And the RNC apparently knew all about Sproul’s checkered history; as Sproul himself has told the press, national party officials asked him last June to create a new firm – hello, Strategic Allied Consultants – and to keep his name off the incorporation papers, in order to conceal any links to the old Sproul firm that allegedly engaged in ’04 registration fraud in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Nevada, and West Virginia. (Sproul employes made the allegations, but no criminal charges were ever filed.) Sproul says he agreed to the party’s June request that he do the new job “with a different company’s name.” When a party flak was asked the other day to comment on Sproul’s claim, he said he had no knowledge of any such party request.

    Is this story a smile, or what?

    Anyway, the various state Republican parties have now fired Strategic Allied Consultants. The aforementioned RNC flak said the firing was imperative because – get ready for this one – “we have zero tolerance for any threat to the integrity of elections.” Yeah, right. There’s “zero tolerance” only when the integrity threateners get caught.

    How ironic it is that the GOP state legislatures, most notably in Pennsylvania, have been concocting laws to combat nonexistent election fraud – yet here’s the GOP itself, spending three million bucks on a guy who is once again under investigation for actual election fraud. I’m tempted here to quote from the Bible (“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”), but the old saw about people who live in glass houses should do just fine.

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    Hey, I hear that a couple guys are debating tonight. I also plan to live-tweet the event, which reminds me:

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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