Top level Republican operatives with ties to the White House, Senate
Majority Leader William Frist and the Republican National Committee (RNC) not
only engaged in the suppression of poor and minority voters in the 2004 Ohio
presidential election' but they spun the election irregularities into a story
linking blacks to cocaine and voter fraud. Bush allies in Ohio are now using
this myth of voter fraud to pass a repressive "election reform" bill.
In the month prior to and immediately after the 2004 presidential election'
the Republican Party engaged in an orchestrated campaign to divert the mainstream
media focus away from election fraud and irregularities in Ohio and manufactured
the myth of "voter fraud."
According to a former Columbus Dispatch reporter' Ohio Senator Mike Dewine
sent his spokesperson' Mike Dawson' to meet with the editorial board of the
Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers. The primary talking point for the GOP was
that there was no evidence of irregularities in Ohio.
The Republican state legislature used the "voter fraud" spin to introduce
the draconian Ohio House Bill 3. The "election reform" bill has passed
both Republican-dominated houses and is awaiting a conference committee at the
start of the new year.
HB 3's most publicized provision will require voters to show their ID before
casting a ballot. But it also opens voter registration activists to criminal
prosecution' exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny' quintuples
the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge
a presidential vote count or' indeed' any federal election result in Ohio. HB
3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send
cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered'
the voter must rely on a provisional ballot.
As the League of Women Voters put it in a letter to Republican legislative
leaders' "Its [HB 3's] purported purpose of preventing voting fraud is
based on the fallacy that there was widespread fraud perpetrated by voters in
Ohio. In fact' the fraud was committed against Ohio voters by inadequate preparation
that suppressed the votes of those whose registrations were not recorded correctly'
those who could not wait for hours to vote' or those whose votes were not counted
because of misdirection or mishandling."
The Senate sponsor of HB 3' Kevin Coughlin' could only cite the names of a
few cartoon characters and celebrities on voting registration forms' that were
easily weeded out by county election boards' as the reason for his repressive
Fake voting rights groups tied to the White House
In March 2005' Congressman Bob Ney held a U.S. House Administrative hearing
at the Ohio Statehouse where a general counsel for the brand new voting rights
group' the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR)' told the Congressional
committee that the voting problems in Ohio were the result of the NAACP paying
people with crack in order to entice them to register to vote. ACVR's general
counsel' Mark F. "Thor" Hearne' turned out to be the former national
general counsel for Bush-Cheney '04' Inc.' with no history of working in a voting
rights organization. Hearne relied on a lawsuit filed against the NAACP in Wood
County' Ohio "alleging fraudulent voter registration under the Ohio Corrupt
Hearne wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2005 claiming
there was "substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing
by organizations such as Americans Coming Together ("ACT")' ACORN
and the NAACP – Project Vote."
"We understand that local Ohio law enforcement authorities are pursuing
criminal prosecution against some of the individuals involved in this activity'
which activities include paying crack cocaine for fraudulent voter registration
forms'" Hearne wrote.
Cliff Arnebeck' the attorney representing the NAACP' denounces this as a deliberate
racist disinformation campaign to divert attention from Ohio's election theft.
"crack cocaine' the NAACP – Hearne and the Republicans are using
racist code words'" Arnebeck said. The Wood County case was withdrawn in
June 2005' but not before it was revealed that the plaintiff' Mark Rubick' had
been "indemnified" and held "harmless" by an obscure group'
the Free Enterprise Coalition' with ties to the Republican Party. Signing as
the "Authorized representative" for the Coalition was one Alex Vogel.
Who is Alex Vogel?
This is the same Alex Vogel who is now identified as Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist's attorney. Vogel was busy in December explaining why Frist's so-called
AIDs charity' World of Hope' Inc.' paid nearly a half million dollars in consulting
fees to his "political inner circle'" according to the Washington
While Vogel fights to keep secret the amount of money that Frist's 96 World
of Hope donors gave to the "charity'" his top level political connections
are emerging in the media. Vogel co-founded a lobbying firm with Bruce Mehlman'
the brother of Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman. Vogel and Mehlman's
lobbying firm has close ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Arnebeck recently won a ruling against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce' which
he claims gave $14 million secretly to Ohio Republican candidates in the 2002
and 2004 election cycle' allowing the GOP to dominate Ohio's Supreme Court.
Vogel also served as a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
and as parliamentarian at the 2004 Republican Party platform hearings.
Other players tied to Bush-Cheney
While Vogel helped create the voter fraud myth and Hearne acted as the group's
general counsel' a man named Jim Dyke acted as spokesperson for the dubious
ACVR. Dyke served for many years as Republican National Committee Communications
Director. In October' Dyke emerged as a White House spokesperson on National
Public Radio pushing the ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme
Dyke and Hearne incorporated their "nonpartisan" tax exempt voting
rights organization in Dallas' Texas only three business days prior to the Ney
hearings in Ohio's capitol. Despite its lack of history' the ACVR was the only
"voting rights group" called to testify on election irregularities
in Ohio. With few exceptions, like Raw Story and Bradblog, news organizations
have ignored these obvious political connections.
Other interesting individuals involved in so-called "election reform"
activities in Ohio are William E. Franke of Gannon Technologies Group and Steve
Hertzberg of the Election Science Institute.
Franke' a close friend of former Attorney General John Ashcroft' installed
a computer operating system for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
The Gannon Technologies website bragged that the Ohio Secretary of State joins
the FBI and a host of other government agencies as clients of "an innovative
system that compiles records in different formats via an imaging program with
100% accuracy." One worker who helped install the technology warned the
Free Press that there were possible back doors into the system and it may have
"points of vulnerability."
Franke came to national attention during the 2004 election as the man heading
the operations of the Swift Boat Veterans and Vietnam POWs for Truth. Their
nasty attack ads against John Kerry became legendary.
Hertzberg' the project director of Election Science Institute (ESI)' received
a contract in 2005 from the Franklin County Commissioners to monitor and certify
new voting machines. Hertzberg's website is dedicated to disputing any scientific
claims of election fraud in Ohio. Oddly' Hertzberg's biography posted at the
ESI website shows he has no advanced degrees in political science' only a Bachelor's
of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. As Hertzberg explains
it' he "spent the first several years of his career as a civilian within
the U.S. Department of Defense" also ". . .serving as a Project Manager
and Test Director for highly visible military development programs . . . ."
Hertzberg launched an organization called Vote Watch in 2002 before renaming
it Election Science Institute in 2005. Recent ESI publications seek to discredit
real social scientists with Ph.D.'s who claim there was election fraud.
The ability of the Bush-Cheney White House to both blatantly repress poor and
minority voters in the 2004 election and divert attention from these activities
to spin this political operation into a bogus election reform bill bodes well
for their ability to win the 2006 mid-term elections' despite a majority of
the voters disapproving of the president's performance.
Bob Fitrakis is the co-editor of Did George W. Bush Steal
America's 2004 Election? with Harvey Wasserman
(www.freepress.org) and co-counsel
with Cliff Arnebeck in the Alliance for Democracy suit against the Hocking County
Board of Elections.