The RNC is petitioning a federal district court in New Jersey to lift a Consent Decree that blocked an ugly Jim Crow voter purge scam known as “caging.” Hereâ€™s an excerpt from a memo filed on November 5th, 2016 by the presiding US District Judge, John Michael Vazquez, which provides some background on the case:
The original Consent Decree was entered in 1982. The Decree was the result of the settlement of a lawsuit which claimed that, in connection with the 1981 New Jersey Gubernatorial election, the RNC and the New Jersey Republican State Committee attempted to intimidate the minority voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Actâ€¦ Specifically, the RNC sent sample ballots to areas where a large portion of the voters were ethnic minorities, then asked that the name of each voter whose ballot was returned as undeliverable be removed from New Jerseyâ€™s voter rolls.
The Decree was modified and extended twice, in 1987 and 2009, but it’s set to expire on December 17, 2017 â€” unless, as per Vazquezâ€™s memo, â€œthe DNC proved in the interim that the RNC violated the Decree, in which case the Decree would be extended an additional eight years.â€
I discovered that the RNC was violating this Consent Decree in 2004, when my BBC Newsnight team caught George W. Bushâ€™s campaign red-handed. And, get this, Roy Mooreâ€™s campaign chief, Brett Doster, was the one doing the dirty work for George W. in Florida. The RNC was busted when a little bird gave me an email from Tim Griffin (Karl Roveâ€™s dogsbody) to Doster (Mooreâ€™s goon) with a subject header marked “caging” â€” with one of the caging lists attached.
The full skinny on my investigation into the RNCâ€™s racist caging operation is chronicled in Chapter 13 of my book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. We’ve posted the complete chapter, entitled â€œKarl Rove Confidentialâ€, below.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. explains caging in The Case of the Stolen Election â€” the post-election update of our film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (see clip), which is based on the book. Kennedy also discussed the original RNC Consent Decree with me and asserts that even if it is allowed to expire, caging remains illegal under the Voting Rights Act because it targets voters of color. However, it’s unlikely that GOP officials will choose to interpret the law in the same way, and the Consent Decree’s expiry could lead to a vastly increased, and more overt, use of these nefarious vote-stealing tactics as we head towards the 2018 and 2020 elections.
CAGING: Mailing to registered voters â€” soldiers, students, the homeless, and others â€” and using â€œreturnedâ€ letters to challenge their registrations and absentee ballots. SEAL Team Six members, itâ€™s a week before the election: Do you know where your ballot is?
Congressman Tim Griffin is a big, BIG supporter of the XL Pipeline. And the Kochs are big, BIG supporters of Congressman Griffin. Koch interests lined up $167,183 for Griffinâ€™s run in 2010. Let me put that in perspective: for $167,183, the average member of Congress would be willing to wash your car â€” with their tongue.
That kind of money doesnâ€™t come into a GOP candidateâ€™s hands without the helpful hand of Karl Rove.
When voting-rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joined our investigations team in 2008, he examined the latest documents weâ€™d squirreled out of Republican Party headquartersâ€™ files. And then he said, speaking of Karl Rove and his associate Tim Griffin, â€œWhat they did was absolutely illegal â€” and they knew it and they did it anyway. Griffin should be in jail.â€
But Griffinâ€™s not in jail, he went to Congress. Rove is not in prison either. According to IRS records, heâ€™s director of a non-profit â€œsocial welfareâ€ organization. American Crossroads, GPS, tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, aims to improve societyâ€™s welfare by dragging Democrats out of their seats in Congress and removing a Democrat president from the White House. A federal prosecutor expressed the same sentiment to me. How Griffin ended up in Congress, not in prison, is the more intriguing story.
It was well after midnight, some time in the first week of October before the 2004 election, when the e-mails started pouring in.
The chieftains of the George W. Bush reelection campaign were copying me on their most intimate and confidential messages â€” and Ollie, my research director, pissed me off by waking me in my cheap motel room to tell me this whacky-ass news. I was in the middle of nowhere USA with my election investigation for BBC going nowhere, so I wasnâ€™t in the mood for this bullshit.
But it wasnâ€™t bullshit. It was a miracle. Karl Roveâ€™s right-hand man, Tim Griffin, Bushâ€™s research director (read, smear director), had sent the data for some sick scheme to the chairman of the Bush reelection campaign in Florida, Brett Doster. Griffin, instead of sending copies to GeorgeWBush.com, their internal e-mail domain, sent copies to GeorgeWBush.ORG, to my friend John Woodenâ€™s joke site. Wooden passed them on to us for forensic analysis.
Holy Mama! Do I have to believe in God, now?
What weâ€™d been handed proved to be an electronic back door into the darkest corners of a criminal vote-suppression machine.
By the morning, we had booked flights to Washington, DC, and Tallahassee, Florida, while Ms. Badpenny, in charge of our investigations, began the decoding work. We knew there was a scheme afoot, but what exactly was it?
Smoking-gun memos rarely read, â€œLouie, this is how we cheat the public,â€ or â€œBrett, hereâ€™s the plan to steal Florida.â€ If they do say that, theyâ€™re fake.
These e-mailsâ€™ clues were a bit tougher than most to crack. That pudgy little wad Griffin had written to Doster several e-mails with the cryptic subject line Caging.xls, with Excel files attached, and terse messages like â€œHereâ€™s another list.â€
Each was a very selective list of voters, names, and addresses. What struck me right off were names like Rodriguez, Washington, and Goldberg â€” typically Hispanic, black, and Jewish. Badpenny and the crew mapped the addresses and, sure enough, it was a perfect scattergram of poor, minority neighborhoods and townships with Gone With the Wind names like â€œPlantation, Florida.â€ There was also that list of Yiddish names from retirement homes: the GOP was certainly targeting the Elderly of Zion.
But for what?
At the Bush headquarters in Floridaâ€™s capital, Campaign Director Doster agreed to an interview. But when BBC required me to disclose we had his â€œcagingâ€ e-mails, Doster fled like a bunny into his Tallahassee offices and sent out his mouthpiece, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, clutching a supersized cup of Coca-Cola as big as a mortar shell. She brought a flunky to nod at whatever she said, and a sneering list of explanations, beginning with a corker: the â€œcagingâ€ lists, she said, were a compilation of Republican donors.
Really? Including these folks? Here were the Bush-Cheney â€œdonorsâ€ who all lived at the State Street Rescue Mission:
Page after page of names contained residents of homeless shelters.
Want to try again, Mrs. Tucker Fletcher?
A â€œcaging list,â€ she explained, was a term of art in the junk mail business referring to returned letters. I knew that. The Republicans, she said, didnâ€™t want to send duplicates to wrong addresses.
You donâ€™t say! So Mindy, youâ€™re telling me that Karl Roveâ€™s top attack dog is now running the mailroom via confidential messages to state party chairmen â€” for address corrections?
Why donâ€™t I give you one more try, Mrs. Tucker Fletcher. Could these, by chance, be lists used to systematically challenge the registrations of voters of color?
Mindy Tucker Fletcher grinned and said, carefully, â€œThis is not a challenge list. Thatâ€™s not what itâ€™s SET UP to do.â€ Bingo.
You see, weâ€™d already made a couple of visits to experts before stopping by Fortress Bush. After sending the lists to Americaâ€™s junk mail king Mark Swedlund, whoâ€™d helped me on many an undercover investigation, I had a damn good idea what these were â€” an opinion confirmed, without prompting, by Ion Sancho, Floridaâ€™s county elections supervisor, the recognized expert on voting systems â€” and vote heists. â€œThey couldnâ€™t be anything but challenge lists. And if they are, theyâ€™re breaking the law.â€
More than one law, actually, especially if the targets have a racial or religious profile. And it would be breaking a consent decree: years earlier, the Republican National Committee was caught challenging black voters en masse at polling stations and had promised, under penalty of perjury, not to do it again.
Now it looked like they were doing it again, but in a most sophisticated way. Bobby Kennedy explained the game: â€œThey send out letters to poor black and Hispanic voters, first class, with instructions to return, donâ€™t forward, if the letter is not deliverable. The returned [â€œcagedâ€] letter is then used as â€˜evidenceâ€™ the voterâ€™s listed address is fraudulent, and the Republican functionary then gets the name struck from voter rolls, or the absentee ballot, if mailed in, is not counted.â€
Targeting the black, Hispanic, and Jewish vote this way is not just icky and racist, itâ€™s against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Kennedyâ€™s late father Bobby Sr., the US attorney general, and his uncle, President John Kennedy, helped draft. Bobby Jr., looking at the evidence, suggested hard time for Griffin and Rove.
But who was going to prosecute Griffin and company, anyway? Was the Bush Justice Department going to tell Mr. Griffin, â€œspreadâ€™m?â€ Mr. Griffin, of the Bush campaign? Mr. Griffin, assistant to the senior advisor to President Bush?
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