Turning Secretaries Of State Into Partisan Political Hacks

May 21, 2009

The Secretary of State Project poses as a reform-minded effort to promote clean elections.  But their real agenda is to turn what’s supposed to be a non-political office into a partisan tool to ensure Democrats prevail in any close or contested election (see Minnesota).  Take this breathtakingly partisan appeal for funds by SOS Project official Michael Kieshnick in 2008 (emphasis added):

It’s time to act once again to stop the next Katherine Harris.

Who can forget the devastating effect Katherine Harris had on the Florida election in 2000? As Secretary of State, she made crooked decisions about who was registered and who got to vote — decisions that delivered the White House to George W. Bush.

If you are concerned, as I am, about stolen elections this November and beyond, help two women — who are mirror opposites of Katherine Harris — defeat the GOP cronies who oppose them for Secretary of State.

Electing clean Secretaries of State is the least expensive, most surefire way to protect America’s elections.

Days from now, thanks in part to the 2006 work of the Secretary of State Project, we will have five less GOP cronies running their state’s elections than we did in 2004. We helped elect reform-minded Democrats to the Secretary of State office in Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada – all pivotal swing states. Imagine the dirty tricks we’d see if the Republicans still controlled those offices.

If you agree that we can’t sit by and continue to let the Katherine Harrises of the world suppress, steal and manipulate our votes, then join me in funding Secretary of State Project candidates today.

You can agree or disagree with the sentiments in that letter.  But one thing that’s now beyond dispute:  the Secretary of State Project (funded by ultra-liberal billionaire hedge fund tycoon George Soros) has nothing to do with clean elections and everything to do with using ruthless, power politics to tilt elections unfairly toward a single political party.

More ACORN Funny Business in Indiana

May 19, 2009

I’ve already written about ACORN’s suspicious (and possibly illegal) voter registration activities in Nevada, which have attracted the attention of the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices. But why stop there? ACORN’s activities don’t.

In Indiana last year, ACORN came under attack for filing over 2,000 voter registration forms that CNN described as “bogus.” As the Republican election board member for Lake County, Indiana, Ruthann Hoagland, noted, “All the signatures looked exactly the same. Everything on the card filled out looks exactly the same.”

You can believe that the schools of Lake County teach precise penmanship – or you can believe that ACORN was trying to register thousands of voters fraudulently. This is a state that Obama eventually carried by just over 26,000 votes, after a 20-point victory for Bush over Kerry in 2004.

Democrat member of the board Sally LaSota chimed in with this: “ACORN, with its intent, perhaps was good in the beginning, but went awry somewhere.” For her part, Hoagland, trying to be generous, said, “We have no idea what the motive behind it is. It is just overwhelming to us.”

I think I can guess.

Why Secretaries of State Matter

May 19, 2009

Over the last week ACORN has received a lot of press attention.   But let’s take a closer look at an ACORN incident that happened during the 2008 campaign cycle.

If Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is a prime example of how these powerful, but little known public officials can tip the scales in tight elections (see my earlier post), then Nevada’s Ross Miller shows how they can and should operate to prevent voter fraud and ensure fair elections. Last year, Mary Pat Flaherty reported in the Washington Post that Ross’ and the Nevada AG’s office raided ACORN’s operation in Las Vegas. The state also filed criminal charges against ACORN and two former employees for allegedly paying employees to sign up voters, with quotas of new voters required to keep their jobs and a “blackjack” bonus for signing up 21 new voters (hey, it’s Nevada). According to Flaherty:

“The Nevada office of ACORN had planned a potluck dinner at its Las Vegas office Tuesday night to celebrate the 80,000 newly registered voters its staff had signed up in Clark County as part of its work with low-income communities nationwide.

“Instead, their office was raided Tuesday morning by agents of the Nevada Secretary of State and Attorney General who alleged in an application for a search warrant that ACORN had hired 59 felons through a work release program as canvassers and submitted nearly 300 apparently fraudulent voter registration cards as part of the drive.

“The submitted voter cards included addresses and names that do not exist in Nevada, duplicate registrations, names culled from telephone books and names of Dallas Cowboys players, an investigator for the Secretary of State alleged in his affidavit for a search warrant.

“One ex-employee of ACORN reached by the state investigator told him she began making up names for her forms on days when it was too hot to work outside. ACORN canvassers are paid by the hour. Ex-employees also said they were expected to collect 20 complete forms a shift or risk probation and termination, the investigator said in his affidavit.”

ACORN southwest regional director Matthew Henderson called the raid “a politically motivate stunt” undertaken because many voters registered through ACORN are “working people and people of color and there may be corners of the political world where a high injection of new voters like those is unsettling some.”

Give me a break.

Both Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto are Democrats. Glad to see that combating registration fraud and enforcing election laws are being done honestly in Nevada.

I’m looking forward to the trial. Maybe we can find out why ACORN chose the Cowboys.

The SOS Project, Mark Ritchie and the Coleman-Franken Race

May 14, 2009

As I posted yesterday, I’ll be following the Secretary of State (SOS) Project – another organization bankrolled by billionaire hedge fund kingpin George Soros aimed at pushing American politics sharply to the left.  Like Justice at Stake – which works to give special interest groups like the trial bar more influence over who sits on state courts – the SOS Project poses as a non-partisan, “good government” reform effort.  The truth is, the SOS Project is committed to electing sharply partisan Democrats who they believe can help shift votes in close elections to their favored candidates.

Consider Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, elected in 2006 with the financial backing of the SOS Project.  One of the critical roles for Secretaries of State is to oversee elections and serve as an impartial arbiter while overseeing recounts in disputed contests.  Yet shortly it became obvious that the Coleman-Franken Senate race was headed for a long, drawn-out recount, Ritchie went on national TV and accused Coleman’s campaign of trying “to win at any price.”

The Coleman campaign said Ritchie’s partisan comments showed he couldn’t govern the recount process fairly, but don’t listen to them.  Here’s what Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten had to say (emphasis added):

“Let’s assume the 32 disputed ballots in Minneapolis were legitimate. Let’s assume the newly discovered 100 votes in Pine County — all for Al Franken — were just overlooked by a sleepy official, and the 100 votes found in Mountain Iron — again, all for Franken — were valid.

“Let’s suppose the trickle of votes moving inexorably in Franken’s direction is just a function of a normal process, as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office assures us.

“One fact remains troubling. The referee in Minnesota’s hotly contested Senate race must act in a nonpartisan fashion, yet Ritchie came to office through a nationwide partisan strategy. He was elected in 2006 as part of a national campaign to ensure that Democrats could wield influence in precisely the sort of hair’s breadth race we now have here.

“Ritchie gained office with the help of the Secretary of State Project (SOS), an independent 527 group co-founded by former MoveOn.org leader James Rucker. SOS is based in San Francisco, and is funded in part by ultra-liberal kingmakers such as George Soros.

“Secretary of state positions are a “new front” in the “battle for political control,” the paper explained, because they are “the obscure but vital state offices that determine who votes and how those votes are counted.”

Ritchie has also come under attack for his ties to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the same group that figured in voting issues in Ohio in the Presidential election last year.  Trent England in the pages of the Wall Street Journal described the group as “a group under investigation in several states for suspected voter registration chicanery.”

If any of this happened under a Republican watch, you can bet the Democrats would be crying “dirty tricks.”  When it helps Democrats can get to the magic number of 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, no one seems to mind.  Tilting close elections like Minnesota’s in their favor is exactly why the SOS Project is spending millions to assure that left-leaning Democrats control these offices.

Secretary Of State Watch

May 13, 2009

Readers of American Courthouse know that I (and many others) have often written about the role of groups funded by hedge fund billionaire George Soros in trying to abolish democratic judicial elections across America and to adopt “merit selection” systems that put lawyers in charge of choosing judges.  But his influence in American politics doesn’t stop there.  Soros and other prominent Democrats are also working to influence the conduct (and therefore the outcome) of elections under the guise of something called the “Secretary of State Project.”

In many states, the Secretary of State is responsible for the conduct of elections; some are elected, others appointed.  Ever since the 2000 Florida recount, in which Secretary of State Katherine Harris played a prominent role, the office has assumed a higher prominence, particularly in swing states.  As USA Today reported in 2006, “The political battle for control of the federal government has opened up a new front: the obscure but vital state offices that determine who votes and how those votes are counted.”

So after the 2004 Presidential election, in which some leftwing folklore blames John Kerry’s loss on then-Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, some major Democratic donors decided that they’d try to go after the Secretary of State positions in certain key states.  Mathew Vadum of The American Spectator noted that “According to IRS 8872 disclosure forms, the Secretary of State Project received donations from Democracy Alliance members including [George] Soros, Rob Stein, Gail Furman, and Susie Tompkins Buell.”

And they’ve had some success.  Down ballot races often attract fewer donors, so targeted donations can make a real difference.  In 2006, the Project won five of the seven races they targeted.  In 2006, the Project targeted seven states (Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio) and won five (all but Colorado and Michigan).  In 2008, they went four for four (Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and West Virginia).

As we move towards 2010, I’ll be keeping an eye on these races, and the role that the Secretary of State Project and major Democratic donors play in trying to be sure that partisan Democrats get to count the registrations and the votes.

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