Matthew Vadum will lie about anything he needs to in order to collect his wingnut welfare paychecks apparently. American values such as democracy be damned. It's partisan politics (and paychecks) at all costs.
Vadum has, of late, taken over from the disgraced Bush/Cheney general counsel turned fake “voting rights advocate” Thor Hearne of the fake “American Center for Voting Rights” (ACVR), and the disgraced liar John Fund of the Wall Street Journal as the moment's GOP master of media misinformation meant to confuse the public about polling place Photo ID restriction laws passed by the GOP in statehouses around the country over the past few months in order to suppress the legal Democratic-leaning vote in advance of 2012.
Like Hearne and Fund before him, he's very good at his job. He's very aggressive. And there is little he is unwilling to blatantly, if cleverly, lie about to fool his gullible constituency.
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Vadum's latest misinformative article, as published by Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller and, predictably, echoed around the intellectually dishonest and incurious wingnut blogosphere last week, picks up where his recently published propaganda book about ACORN leaves off.
That book, which he was kind enough to send us a copy of recently, is pitched on its cover and its publicity sheet as an exposé uncovering the truth behind the former four-decade old community organization who he describes as “Ballot Box Stuffers,” “Urban Terrorists,” and “Gangsters.”
That his silly book fails to detail even a single ballot box “stuffed” by ACORN is little surprise. There exists no actual evidence, after all, of any illegal vote ever having been cast by any voter who was improperly registered by an ACORN worker. But this is all politics as usual to partisans like Vadum. So preposterous propaganda meant to directly undermine American democracy is merely all in a days work for dudes like him.
The same disingenuous “voter fraud” sleight-of-hand used in his book is once again recycled in his latest “news” article. Like his book, the article is meant to do little more than dishonestly reinforce support for reprehensible voter suppression laws that offer an advantage to Republicans at the ballot box. As Vadum knows, it's far easier for Republicans to “win” elections by keeping their opposition from being able to cast their legal votes —- and certainly easier than risking jail time by gaming electronic voting systems —- than it would be to actually garner popular support for their actual agenda. That's the game for which Vadum gets paid.
He's a rather silly man, and its child's play, naturally, to demonstrate, using his own words —- as we've been doing similarly for years with now-disgraced 'voter fraud' fraudsters like Hearne and Fund —- how Vadum knowingly lies to his constituency. But we guess it's necessary to do it one more time here with Vadum, if only to place it on the Internet record to help those who don't know about him or his pernicious scam, and how it's meant to mislead otherwise good folks with clever “voter fraud” rhetoric that represents the problem as something far different than what it actually is….
The story that Vadum uses as the hook for his Daily Caller disinfo has to do with a Mississippi woman named Lessadolla Sowers who was convicted last April of 10 counts of absentee ballot fraud. Vadum calls it a “massive voter fraud scheme,” and uses her role as a member of the Executive Board of the Tunica, Mississippi, NAACP to bash the national NAACP and its President Benjamin Jealous for “lash[ing] out at new state laws requiring photo ID for voting.”
Vadum presents no evidence in his article that Sowers' crimes were part of a broader conspiracy that involved the NAACP itself in any way, either locally or nationally, or even evidence to justify calling it a “massive scheme.” As far as we can tell, the crimes were Sowers' and Sowers' alone. Nonetheless, we have no quibble with pointing out what appear to be very serious crimes on the part of the woman, if the account of the court case as reported by the tiny Tunica Times newspaper is accurate. (Their April article is here, thought most of it is now behind a pay-wall.)
Sowers was convicted of requesting that absentee ballots be sent to a PO Box of hers, where she then received them, filled them out and returned them, unbeknownst to the voters whose names she was defrauding.
We're glad she was caught. We have spent many years pointing out on these pages that when it comes to voter fraud —- fraud actually committed by voters, versus insider election fraud, which is largely as simple as a single election official punching a few buttons on a computer tabulator to change the outcome of an election wholesale, or removing voters from the computerized voter rolls —- absentee ballot fraud is far and away the easiest and most common way to game the system.
What Vadum doesn't bother to point out in his article, for some odd reason, is that polling place Photo ID restriction laws do nothing to deter absentee ballot fraud of the kind committed by Sowers. Nothing. Apparently, Vadum forgot to mention that, even though he used the Sowers' case as the hook on which to hang his article arguing for Photo ID restrictions.
Polling place voter impersonation —- which Sowers was not accused of doing, but which Photo ID restrictions are said by Republicans to be needed to deter —- is extraordinarily rare. It's also an incredibly difficult way to have any real affect on any actual election.
By way of just one example to underscore this point, we'd point you to the George W. Bush Dept. of Justice's own statistics from October 2002 to September 2005. Even after investing unprecedented resources into investigating and prosecuting the crime of voter fraud, the federal government was able to find “scant evidence” of it during that period, successfully convicting just 23 people for casting a vote while ineligible or for voting multiple times. That, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast during the same period. Of those 23 convictions, the numbers are not broken down into how many were convicted of absentee fraud versus how many carried out the dangerous and exceedingly rare practice of showing up in person at the polls and impersonating another voter. But even if all 23 cases were polling place impersonation —- and they almost certainly were not —- the number is exceedingly small.
Compare that to the more than 20 million legal voters in the nation —- the great majority of them Democratic-leaning —- who, according to the NYU Brennan Center for Justice [PDF], the League of Women Voters, and many other non-partisan studies, would be unable to cast their legal vote unless they managed to obtain a state-issued Photo ID under the new GOP laws.
In Wisconsin alone, where last week we detailed the absurd video-taped hoops a voter was forced to jump through hoops at the DMV in order to obtain an ID for voting, some 300,000 previously-legal voters, according to a University of Wisconsin poli-sci professor David Canon, will no longer be able to cast their legal votes next year unless they quickly come up with the free time, money, and resources to obtain an ID deemed acceptable by the state. (Ironically, but not accidentally, student IDs from the University of Wisconsin will not be acceptable.) The law, according to a 2005 U-W study [PDF], will have a vastly disproportionate affect on minorities, students, and the elderly —- in other words, Democratic-leaning voters. Nonetheless, the state's new law was quickly forced through by the GOP-majority legislature and Gov. Scott Walker in advance of upcoming state Senate recall elections which could result in the GOP losing their majority.
It's precisely that sort of Big Government stripping of rights of private citizens that Vadum is hoping to support with his misinformative article (and book), and the same issue exists in each of the states where the GOP is frantically passing similar voter suppression laws.
Another study by the League of Women voters found that out of more than 9 million votes cast in the state of Ohio in 2002 and 2004, just 4 votes were found to have been cast illegally — “a rate of 0.00004%” (that's 4 one-hundred-thousandths of one percent.) In Indiana, the first state in the nation to have their Photo ID restrictions approved by the Supreme Court in 2008, the supporters of the bill were unable to identify a single case of polling place impersonation in the state's entire history which might have been stopped by their new law.
We could go on, but you get the point. So does Vadum. So he finds it necessary to obfuscate these points in all matter of dishonest ways. His favorite: accusing the now-defunct ACORN “voter fraud.”
“54 individuals employed by or associated with ACORN have been convicted of voter fraud,” writes Vadum, failing to note that most, if not all, of those employed or associated were actually turned in to officials by ACORN themselves, since it was ACORN that was being ripped off by the voter registration fraud carried out by those scofflaws. It's the equivalent of calling Walmart a criminal organization after they turned a handful of workers into the police for stealing merchandise off of their shelves.
Vadum also fails to note that not a single vote is known to have been illegally cast, ever, via any of those improper registrations, most of which were flagged as “likely-fraudulent” by ACORN themselves when they turned in the registration forms anyway, as required by law.
In other words, there were zero acts of “voter fraud” committed by ACORN or their employees or associates, unless you purposely choose to confuse readers about the definition of “voter fraud” by conflating all manner of election-related fraud, such as voter registration fraud, with “voter fraud.” That, of course, is exactly what Vadum conveniently does:
Voter fraud, sometimes called electoral fraud, is a blanket term used by lawyers that encompasses a host of election-related improprieties including fraudulent voting, voter registration fraud, perjury, forgery, counterfeiting, impersonation, intimidation, and identity fraud.
So, there ya go. Vadum can decry “voter fraud” by ACORN! Even while he knows they committed none, ever, because a handful of their workers (out of tens of thousands deployed each election cycle over the years) padded their days' work with fraudulent registration forms in order to get paid when they shouldn't have. None of those fraudulent registrations were ever used to actually cast votes in any election.
By Vadum's measure, however, Republican organizations such as Young Political Majors in CA and Sproul and Associates in a number of states, just to name two, committed tens of thousands of acts of “voter fraud”! In the case of Young Political Majors, the outfit contracted by the CA Republican Party in 2008 to register voters, the head of the organization himself, Mark Anthony Jacoby, pleaded guilty to voter registration fraud as he falsely registered in the state himself, and was then paid some $12-$21 per Republican registration that each of his employees could come up with. When workers registered as Democrats, they were told how to simply change their registrations to Republican through various nefarious means.
In the case of Nathan Sproul & Associates, the Rightwing operatives have been accused in several states of wholesale shredding of Democratic voter registration forms. In Orange County, CA, alone, for example, 11 workers were arrested in 2006. The group was tied to the shredding of Democratic voter registration forms in 2004 in Nevada, West Virginia, Oregon, and elsewhere. Nonetheless, the McCain/Palin campaign hired them for voter registration work in 2008.
That's a lot of “voter fraud” by Republicans, as Vadum would put it! Or it would be, if he bothered to point to the crimes actually carried out by Republican organizations —- as opposed to workers turned in for their crimes by non-partisan organizations like ACORN —- and then call it “voter fraud.”
Then there's the New England “voter fraud” scheme (phone-jamming, really, meant to undermine the Democrats GOTV effort, but we'll stick with Vadum's conveniently-broad definition for the moment) for which top Republican Party activists and officials were sentenced to jail for gaming the 2002 US Senate election in New Hampshire. After serving his time in jail, one of the conspirators, Allen Raymond, went on to write a book about it called How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative.
None of the cases highlighted above, though most of them actually directly affected election results, were mentioned by Vadum in his article and, far more importantly, none of them would have been stopped in any way by the GOP polling place Photo ID restrictions he is opportunistically pimping for.
Vadum also fails to highlight cases like the recent massive —- seriously, massive —- Clay County, KY, GOP election fraud conspiracy, where 8 top officials on the County Board of Elections, including the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge, and the School Superintendent, were convicted and sentenced earlier this year to 156 years in federal prison for gaming the results of elections year after year from 2002 to 2006 in the county. (During the trial, the federal prosecutor charged the county-wide scheme had been going on for decades.) That scheme even included changing the votes of voters on electronic touch-screen voting machines after voters had left the booth. None of those crimes would have been deterred by the GOP polling place Photo ID restrictions that Vadum pretends are needed to stop the nefarious, and now-defunct, ACORN, etc.
We could go on. And on. But lastly, since our point has otherwise been made one would think, we should also note that Vadum fails to point out in either article or book, the actual cases of actual voter fraud, both proven and alleged, as recently carried out by GOP superstars themselves. Folks such as Ann Coulter, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Missouri's US Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, and Indiana's current Sec. of State Charlie White who now stands accused of 7 felonies, 3 of them related to voter fraud.
Photo ID restrictions would not have deterred any of the above noted cases either, as they were all absentee ballot fraud, as Sowers' case in Mississippi was. All except for Coulter's third incident of apparent voter fraud, the one in the state of Florida. In that case, however, she falsified her driver's license as well as her registration form according to the local police, so when she knowingly voted at the wrong precinct in Palm Beach County she would not have been caught committing voter fraud by a polling place Photo ID restriction either.
Meanwhile, in his article, Vadum then goes on to tell readers about one actual case of ACORN itself (versus a hired worker) being “convicted of voter fraud in Nevada in April.” What he doesn't bother telling his readers, because he's dishonest, is that ACORN's federal court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, who didn't want to fight a criminal case, actually pleaded guilty to one count of “felony compensation for registration of voters,” which the organization doesn't even believe to be constitutional, but no longer has the funds to fight.
Far from “voter fraud,” unless you use Vadum's absurdly misleading definition, the case involved a contractor who, according to the Las Vegas Journal Review, “rewarded workers with $5 extra per shift if they brought in 21 or more completed voter registration cards” each day. That, even as ACORN maintains they ordered the contractor “not to run the incentive program” and, in any case, they question the constitutionality of Nevada's new law, which disallows such incentives for voter registrations.
Contrast that with the GOP cases in California where the party itself paid some $12 per registration, legally, while their contractors were convicted nonetheless of massive voter registration fraud. But, to Vadum, who will stretch the truth on just about anything, ACORN “was itself convicted of voter fraud in Nevada.” That's the dishonest best he can do.
When it comes to ACORN, the cases of registration fraud which they themselves alerted officials about when they themselves were defrauded by workers, were routinely turned into “massive Democratic voter fraud” in the media by opportunistic partisan scoundrels like Vadum, Fox “News,” and their partisan compatriots. When the same crimes, and usually far worse, are committed by actual Republican organizations, they fail to notice it. ACORN's worst “crime” of all, of course, which Republicans don't care to point out, is that ACORN managed to legally register millions of legal low- and middle-income voters —- voters who tend to vote for Democrats, not Republicans. So they had to be destroyed.
Nonetheless, no matter how you slice it, both voter fraud and voter registration fraud are serious and pernicious crimes, no matter who carries them out, no matter for what reason, no matter how it's done, and no matter who it may serve to benefit. But to purposely mislead the public about who is committing it; when it actually does (and doesn't) have anything to do with elections or votes cast in any way; who is actually behind it; and what does (and doesn't) deter it, is arguably as reprehensible. Particularly when misrepresenting it all, as Vadum knowingly does, it is likely to result in tens of thousands, if not millions, of legal voters being unable to exercise their legal franchise at all.
Vadum may be a clown, but he, like John Fund, Thor Hearne, and the bulk of the other GOP “voter fraud” fraudsters before him, knows exactly what he is doing, and exactly how they are lying to the public in hopes of achieving partisan gain at the expense of the great experiment of American democracy.
Paul Weyrich, one of the godfathers of Rightwing partisan “conservatism,” infamously said in 1980 (see the very short video here), “I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Weyrich would go on to found the American Legislative Exchange Counsel, or ALEC, the group responsible for penning much of the voter suppression legislation being passed by Republican statehouses across the country today.
Vadum is now carrying Weyrich's voter suppression torch.
The knowing deceptions carried out by folks like Vadum are, in truth, fraud of the first order. He should be ashamed. No doubt, he is not. To Vadum and friends, the ends justify the means, and undermining American values like democracy in order to game elections is simply all in another day's work.
This Wikipedia description of the character of “Squealer”, the “minister of propaganda” from George Orwell's “Animal Farm”, seems an apt, if literary and poetic, description of Vadum's current role on behalf of the GOP and their long-playing “voter fraud” fraud…
A small white fat porker who serves as Napoleon's right hand pig and minister of propaganda…Squealer manipulates the language to excuse, justify, and extol all of Napoleon's actions. Squealer limits debate by complicating it and he confuses and disorients, making claims that the pigs need the extra luxury they are taking in order to function properly, for example. However, when questions persist, he usually uses the threat of the return of Mr. Jones, the former owner of the farm, to justify the pigs' privileges. Squealer uses statistics to convince the animals that life is getting better and better. Most of the animals have only dim memories of life before the revolution; therefore, they are convinced.
Squeal on, Mr. Vadum. Most of your readers have only dim memories of life before the lies of Fox “News”; therefore, they are undoubtedly convinced by your persistent anti-democracy fraud. Congratulations. Your country couldn't be prouder.
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UPDATE 6:38pm PT: Since publishing the above, Vadum has tweeted that I'm “dishonest,” a “socialist,” and a “voter fraud apologist.” In a brief blog post, he compares me to “a homeless person scrawling his manifesto on scraps of paper,” calls me a “left-winger,” and this article “a lengthy screed.” He has failed, however, in all of that, to offer a even one single point to dispute anything in this entire article. Because, of course, he can't, and he knows it. That's how propagandists like Vadum work.