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Collins: Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? (Part 2)

Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? Part 2
Voter Fraud Scam Fails in Milwaukee Test Market

“Voters likely to feel they’re being watched”
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – JSOnline- 31 Oct 2004)
Michael Collins
“Scoop” Independent News
Washington, DC
Part 2 (Part 1)

This article describes the coordinated effort on the part of the Republican Party to establish alleged voter fraud committed by Democrats as a serious problem. Despite the disruptions it caused, an evaluation of the evidence shows the effort failed on multiple levels. Yet the effort perseveres and the myth that voter fraud is rampant is promoted even today by Republican operatives and others who should know better.

The latest version of the voter fraud myth had its origins Milwaukee before, during and after 2004 presidential election. The Republicans rolled out voter fraud as a crime of epidemic proportions; test marketed that concept with a vigorous press campaign; and encouraged a law enforcement effort to catch the hypothesized vote cheaters. This effort is well documented.

Based on prior experience, the news of impending investigations and arrests would be expected to suppress the minority vote. The Milwaukee effort, combined with others, offered to (a) strengthen the voter fraud myth as a vehicle to restrict voting by minorities and (b) provide inoculation should the Democrats or anyone else claim massive election fraud in Ohio or other key battleground states.

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The Myth of Voter Fraud – Opening in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee scheme relies on the largely invented phenomenon called voter fraud that occurs an average of 8 times a year (2002-2005 data). Think of that city as a test market for the next new thing in the Republican bag of tricks. Voter fraud charges weren’t new, but systematic packaging represented a new level of sophistication for voter suppression. The strategy was two pronged. First establish the brand identity, then let the legal system establish brand credibility (i.e., pervasive voter fraud is epidemic) through massive prosecutions.

Branding (brand identification) began with the widely heard and read Wall Street Journal’s John Fund. Fund published his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy just six weeks before the 2004 election and promoted the book with wide exposure, thanks to the cable news talking heads. Then we got the local media onslaught.

Here is a sampling of the story of Milwaukee 2004 put together by the Republican Party of Wisconsin published by TPMMuckraker.Com. These headlines represent the core narrative for the marketing campaign offered to substantiate the alleged problem presented by voter fraud in Wisconsin. There’s just one problem. Despite all the law enforcement effort, only five convictions resulted. Nevertheless, the effort is ongoing.

The press summary below is part of a memo found its way into Karl Rove’s office and may have been part of the rationale he offered when he encouraged the National Republican Lawyers Association to keep the heat on “ballot integrity” issues.

Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary
Prepared for Chris Lato, RPW (Republican Party Wisconsin),
Communications Director
27 Oct Republicans Challenge 5,600 Addresses that may not exist
28 Oct GOP Fails to Get 5,619 Names Removed from Voting List
30 Oct GOP Demands IDs of 37,000 in City
31 Oct Voters Likely to Feel they’re Being Watched
01 Nov RPW News Release: Republican Party Wisconsin (RPW) Seeks Elections Board Action on Phantom Milwaukee Addresses
02 Nov Election Day
14 Jan Lawmaker Criticizes Voter Verification Process
28 Jan Scandal Fuels Renewed Push for Voter ID Bill
26 Jan Police, FBI Join Investigation into Possible Election Fraud
31 Jan RPW News Release: Voter ID Bill Introduced

The Republicans would make a voter fraud charge, the media would cover it, and then the coverage was used as evidence of impending vote fraud. All the while, the most vulnerable voters in Milwaukee, minority voters targeted in the articles, were in a position to question what might happen on Election Day were they to be challenged or otherwise investigated. At the same time, the mainstream media coverage served to promote the myth of corrupt urban (read minority) Democratic machine control and manipulation of elections.

There’s no need for a back room conspiracy between the Wisconsin Republicans and the press. This insidious strategy was made possible by the notion of equal coverage without critical review. Thus, these articles in the mainstream media might just as well have been Republican press releases. They served that function well, as indicated by the sampling above and the entire body of releases in the original document. Very few of these charges have been substantiated despite the combined efforts of FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and the cooperative local District Attorney.

All the Wisconsin Republicans had to do was make a charge, no matter how unfounded, and that charge entered the public dialogue as part of the political mix with built in credibility provided by the coverage. After all, there’re always two sides to every story as in this case the great lie goes.

As if on cue, a task force consisting of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and local law enforcement began investigating the alleged crime wave of voter fraud infecting Milwaukee. The U.S. Attorney didn’t find much until reported complaints about his performance reached him.

The pre election Republican charges and resulting press coverage had a message: the Democrats were going to cheat and cheat big in Wisconsin’s largest urban (read largely minority) area. Those people would come out to vote multiple times or vote without proper credentials. The message was clear: The Democrats and their minority base are up to no good. Vote Republican! The Nixon southern strategy moved north.

Voter intimidation was a central theme. Make baseless demands for voter identification (e.g., “GOP Demands IDs of 37,000 in City”). Spread fear of prosecution for any errors in registration or other voting laws (e.g., "If you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election” from the nonexistent Black Voters League). Conduct and promote high-visibility law enforcement campaigns (e.g., “40 assistant district attorneys in the field on Election Day”) for purely political purposes against a problem the enforcers knew was trivial.

This is not new. In 1982 the Republican Party signed a consent decree to stop promoting voter fraud efforts that targeted specific ethnic groups (No. 81-3876. D.N.J. Nov. 1, 1982, see page 55). This finding was upheld in 1987(page 3) and again in 2004 by federal courts. That suit was renewed in 2004 due to a repetition of the behavior. This is called the politics of Jim Crow and is a direct descendent of the voter suppression efforts begun against black citizens right after Reconstruction ended in 1877.

The Results – Less than Spectacular

The results were less than spectacular. In fact, they represented an abject failure. A brutal summary appeared in the Milwaukee JSOnline (Journal Sentinel). Columnist Daniel Bice laid it out on 11 April, 2007:

It’s not as if U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic's office didn't file any voter fraud cases (in 2004).

It's just that Biskupic's crew was often unsuccessful when it did.

In all, federal prosecutors indicted 14 individuals for either being a felon on probation or parole who voted in November 2004 or for voting twice in that contest. All but one of those charged with felonies were African-American, and all were Milwaukee residents.

Were those who generated the flurry of press releases so myopic that they missed the mark on the size of the crime wave? What a gap: the 37,000 Milwaukee voters who better have those ID’s compared to the five individuals convicted of voter fraud. Another gap: 5500 voters who had phantom addresses and the 14 charged voter fraud with only 5 convicted nationwide despite a coordinated law enforcement all over the case. The efforts to frighten minority voters away from the polls and knowingly push baseless charges were a key part of that effort.

The voters were not fooled. The voter suppression strategy failed as miserably as the prosecutions. Turnout was up 13% from 2000 to 2004. Kerry’s victory margin was 4% higher than Gore’s and he won the City of Milwaukee by over 120,000 votes. Kerry was 12 points above his national average of 60% for big cities. Bush was 12 points off of his national big city average of 39%. The people of Milwaukee spoke clearly.

Did Bush and the White House Commit Election Fraud, an Impeachable Offense?

Daniel Bice established the connection between the Milwaukee marketing campaign and the White House, specifically, Karl Rove:

That document, entitled "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary," turned up last week in the horde of White House and U.S. Justice Department records released by the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"The report was prepared for Karl Rove," said a source with knowledge of the situation. "Rick wanted it so he could give it to Karl Rove."

Yeah, that Karl Rove, President Bush's political mastermind and his deputy chief of staff.

The connection between this voter fraud program and the president is crystal clear from the Rove connection. In addition, the Republican Party is explicitly linked to these efforts through the “Timeline/Summary” and the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) (pages 43-47). In April 2006, a meeting of the RNLA featured Rove who thanked the lawyers for all they were doing to protect “ballot integrity” and urged more action. He must have known that 25 Department of Justice attorneys belonged to RNLA. Rove could simply trot over to Justice and hit the water cooler.

If you’re a candidate looking for help with voter fraud, you need go no further than the NLRA web site which had this information: “Their names appeared on the organization's Web site under the heading Find a Republican Lawyer, in many cases along with their federal government e-mail addresses and work telephone numbers.” If you’re a Republican candidate and you want a voting rights specialist, you’ve got it made.

WASHINGTON - In his day job, Christian Adams writes legal briefs for the voting rights section of the Justice Department, a job that requires a nonpartisan approach.

Off the clock, Adams belongs to the Republican National Lawyers Association, a group that trains hundreds of Republican lawyers to monitor elections and pushes for confirmation of conservative nominees for federal judgeships. 11 April 2007

One tie in to the Milwaukee campaign is through the Wisconsin Republican Party and RNLA state director, who supported the removal of 5600 Wisconsin voters from the registration rolls: “Donald Daugherty, the attorney for the Republicans, noted that if any valid voters are removed from the list, they can simply reregister on the spot on Election Day.”

There is a strong argument that the White House and the Republicans who ran the Milwaukee marketing campaign are guilty of election fraud. Look at the definition of election fraud from a recent study by Minnite, PhD, Barnard College, Columbia University: “All other forms of corruption of the electoral process [besides voter fraud] and corruption committed by elected or election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers fall under the wider definition of election fraud.”

Another definition of election fraud is worth considering. Florida voting rights activist Bill Faulkner distinguishes between retail and wholesale election fraud:

Retail fraud involves voting multiple times, excess ballots marked, and other small voting-inflation techniques that produce a small number of improper votes. Wholesale fraud involves manipulation of voting equipment, tabulation and voting to steal tens of thousands of votes.

By pursuing a strategy of promoting voter fraud as a wide spread phenomenon, the authors and supporters of this scheme were trying to influence the votes of tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens exposed to this effort. This is certainly a corruption of the election process any way you look at it. It is reasonable to assume that many, if not all of those involved knew that intentional voter fraud was very infrequent.

The participants were committing wholesale election fraud in the process of promoting the myth of voter fraud.

Previous “Scoop” coverage of the voter fraud scandal and the U.S. Attorneys:

Sources for Did Bush Commit Election Fraud (Part 2, this article, and Part 1 )


Special thanks to The Scholar, Phil, and Jill Hayroot for their comments and encouragement.

Please feel free to reprint this article as long as attribution of authorship and a link to the original article on “Scoop” is included.

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