NBC's Todd Mocks Election Fraud Critics, Wins Washington Applause

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on January 30, 2013

NBC Political Director Chuck Todd ridiculed election machine critics at a major conference of vote-counters last weekend -- thereby underscoring how Washington works.

Todd told the National Association of Secretaries of State that their critics must be paranoid to fear that anyone would deliberately alter results. Allegations against Karl Rove, left, are among the most common.
 
"That's just stretching the bounds of reality," NBC's chief White House correspondent said in response to my question asking him to amplify his Tweet last fall on vote-tampering claims. "That's feeding the conspiracy." Todd had Tweeted: "The voting machine conspiracies belong in same category as the Trump birther garbage."  
 
Todd won a round of applause for his response, the only such interruption during his enlightening and entertaining Jan. 26 address and Q&A. Audience members were mainly state secretaries of state at their mid-winter conference, plus sales reps for voting machine and software companies.  

The rest of this column examines why those involved are so reluctant to discuss election machine fraud publicly except to deny its existence. Hint: Silence is golden. 

Suspicious Elections Prompted Study  

The secretaries of state, the voting machine companies, and a traditional media benefiting heavily from campaign ads do not want voters thinking about election machine software. But Karl Rove, a longtime consultant to the Bush family, long ago discovered the possibilities. Let's retrace Bush-Rove footsteps. Three elections beginning in 2000 helped create an "election integrity" movement in reaction. Opponents of software fraud advocate paper ballots and similar protections for the public.

First was the 2000 presidential race. Greg Palast's reporting for the BBC and The Guardian documented how the Florida administration of Gov. Jeb Bush used the ChoicePoint subsidiary Database Technologies Online (DBT) secretly to remove some 91,000 eligible voters, mostly Democrats and minorities, from Florida's rolls just before voting began. This helped the Bush-Cheney ticket to eke out a victory by a little over 200 votes in the recount.

In 2002, a second notorious milestone occurred in Alabama's gubernatorial election. Incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman, a potential future presidential nominee, went to bed believing he had been re-elected to a second term by some 3,000 votes. He awoke the next day to learn that 6,000 votes had mysteriously disappeared from his column in rural Baldwin County. Authorities later framed Siegelman on trumped-up corruption charges and imprisoned him with the help of a trial judge who secretly controlled a company receiving $300 million in defense contracts.
 
The third landmark was the 2004 Bush-Cheney victory in Ohio, whose electoral votes decided the presidency. Suspected IT fraud in that election prompted grassroots activists to try to prevent reoccurrence in 2008 and 2012.
 
These elections implicated Republicans as the main suspects and beneficiaries. Serious but less-documented allegations concern suspected Democratic plots.    

Last Oct. 24, election fraud sleuths Jill Simpson and Jim March presented a chart at the National Press Club to warn against fraud in 2012. Simpson, an Alabama lawyer, had broken with the Republican Party in 2007 to testify that a Rove-inspired plot had framed Siegelman. March is an IT consultant, Libertarian, and member of a local election commission in Arizona. They have created a non-profit group, Election Protection Action, showcasing the chart below.

In the late summer of 2012, the two documented leads that Simpson says she developed while working with Rove and his allies as an opposition researcher against Democrats. Rove denies ever talking with her, or any misconduct.  The Simpson-March chart alleges an eco-system whereby partisan Republicans train and finance prospective candidates, and also help election machine companies in ways ignored by mainstream media.


The chart supported several news reports last fall by the Free Press of Columbus, Ohio. Co-founder Robert Fitrakis, attorney Clifford Arnebeck, and their colleagues for years have alleged fraud in electronic-ballot-counting in ways decisive to important elections. A Fox News affiliate in Cincinnati illustrated the problem in "Reality Check: Can Ohio Voting Machines Be Hacked?" The WXIX-TV video report also focused on a Romney family investment in voting machines.
 
Jon HustedJust before the Nov. 6 presidential election, Fitrakis filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in federal and state court after hearing from a whistleblower that Husted's office had authorized secret software on the state's voting machines.
 
A Bush-appointed federal judge denied an injunction. Husted boasted that the ruling absolved the state from suspicion. Husted failed to comment on the state court ruling. It denied an injunction but warned state officials the suit might continue if irregularities occurred. Arnebeck and other election fraud investigators believe Rove's Election Night meltdown on Fox News occurred because he was expecting vote-flipping in Ohio and elsewhere, and wanted to prevent a premature concession.  The officials and their vendors deny any irregular or sinister conduct. My book, Presidential Puppetry, explores this topic upon publication next month.

Working the Room

The rest of this column suggests reasons why news coverage of election machine fraud is so sparse. Officials and the media tend to have collegial relationships these days. One visual illustration is the backup dance routine by NBC's David Gregory with Rove in the "MC Rove" skit, excerpted here and then lampooned by Jon Stewart. The occasion was a black-tie, broadcasters' gala in the spring of 2007. This was as the U.S. attorney purge scandal unfolded across the nation involving Rove and such political targets as Siegelman.

The politico-media relationships are ongoing. The traditional media are heavily reliant on quotations from officials and former officials, and the revenue from campaign ads. Also, most media organizations these days are small parts of larger companies that depend financially on favorable government action.

Kevin MartinThe five-member Federal Communications Commission regulating the nation's news media has always had since 2001, curiously enough, at least one member, and usually two members, drawn from the small Bush-Cheney Florida vote recount team created post-election to ensure the GOP victory.  Kevin Martin, left, commission chairman from 2005 to 2008 after leading the Florida team and serving as an FCC commissioner, benefited from an especially close relationship with the Bush White House. Martin's wife was communications director for the vice president and then for the president. In essence: her job was to influence the media, and his was to regulate it.

Furthermore, politics is a way of life for all concerned. Many of the top political reporters have spouses who are campaign consultants or office-seekers. Todd's wife, for instance, co-founded Maverick Strategies and Mail, a political consultancy.

Rove is the ultimate example of DC cross-pollination between the media, campaigns, and elected officials. He receives press passes as a journalist. Also, he dispenses hundreds of millions of dollars to political causes, thereby creating vast loyalties and dependencies for years ahead. Think about it: Most of that spending goes to media organizations, especially broadcasters.

Cleaning Up Washington

 For the secretaries of state, Todd waived his usual speaking fee as a goodwill gesture. "I owe you a 'thank you,'" Todd told the officials at the beginning of his remarks. "The more complicated elections are state-by-state," he joked, "the harder it is for NBC/Universal to get rid of me."

The officials and their vendors obviously welcomed the presence of a media celebrity, and sought to leverage it even in small ways. Ohio's Husted, an executive committee member of the secretary of state association, boasted on Twitter afterward, "Enjoyed having lunch today with NBCs @chucktodd -- he and I agree Redistricting reform needs to happen in OH and across the US."

This, then, is your Washington. Officials and the media seem to be getting along quite well.

Even better -- as always when one hand washes the other -- everyone looks clean.

 

Research Appendix

In 2011, OpEd News published my column, Cutting Through Vote Fraud Claims, Hypocrisy, about the release in an Ohio court of testimony by the controversial GOP IT expert Mike Connell following his death in an airplane crash. To assist other researchers, the Justice Integrity Project compiled also a comprehensive overview with hotlinks to dozens of major books and other commentaries about electronic elections fraud.

Shortly before the 2012 election, a half dozen authors published additional books documenting various aspects of the kind of electronic election fraud derided by Todd. The books included Greg Palast's New York Times best-seller Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, and Palast and Boss Rove by Vanity Fair columnist Craig Unger, documenting how Rove achieved a political comeback by 2012.

Harper's Magazine published in its November 2012 issue arguably the first major mainstream treatment of electronic election fraud in How to Rig an Election by Victoria Collier, leader of the reform organization Votescam. Also, she is the daughter and niece of two pioneering investigators of the problem, each deceased. Also, OpEdNews published her column, Calling Out the Left-Wing Election Rigging Denialists on Nov. 3. In it, the author responded to what she called "the damaging attempts by left-wing journalists to deny the possibility of right-wing electronic vote tampering -- or any e-vote tampering -- particularly in the 2012 election."

Early this month, the Washington Spectator reported on Ohio controversies this year, Did an Election day lawsuit stop Karl Rove's vote rigging?  Then the ABC-TV show Scandal broadcast an episode Jan. 17 based on documented voting machine fraud in Ohio via the secretary of state's office determining the 2004 presidential race.

 

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

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C-SPAN, Campaign Finance after Citizens United: What Happened? What Now?Jan. 23, 2013. (Video: 3 hours.) Three years ago the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United. Later, lower courts followed Citizens United in deciding SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, the legal foundation for Super PACs. The nation has now experienced mid-term and president elections governed by these decisions. This conference will examine the consequences of Citizens United. Did anything change? Our experts will then turn toward the future and ask what policies should be enacted (or not) in light of experience and Supreme Court doctrine.

Other Elections and Political News

Huffington Post, What The 2012 Election Would Look Like Under The Republicans' Vote-Rigging Plan, Aaron Bycoffe and Andrei Scheinkman, Jan. 25, 2013. Republicans have a new strategy for 2016: Change the rules of presidential elections in order to swing the Electoral College in the GOP's favor. On Wednesday, Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature became one of the first to advance a bill that would allocate electoral votes by congressional district. Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed pushing through similar proposals in other states with Republican legislative majorities. The strategy would have states alter the way they translate individual votes into electors -- thereby giving Republican candidates an advantage. Had the 2012 election been apportioned in every state according to these new Republican plans, Romney would have led Obama by at least 11 electoral votes. See also, Washington Post, GOP is pushing electoral changes, Nia-Malika Henderson and Errin Haines, Jan. 24, 2013.

Vice Magazine, Aaron Swartz Died For Piers Morgan’s Sins, Greg Palast, Jan. 31, 2013. This is the tale of two geniuses.  One on TV.  One Dead. In 2000, Aaron Swartz, aged 14, had just released his astonishing invention, RSS, liberating news and information, replacing the selection of the tiny minds of editors with your own wide judgment. Around the same time, one of Piers Morgan’s stringers hacked into the phone of Sir Paul McCartney’s wife and stole some highly personal, and highly valuable, information – the type of gossip used to sell Morgan’s grotty little scandal sheet, The Daily Mirror, the cornerstone of Morgan's $20 million fortune based on tittle and titties.

OpEdNews, In Amerika Law No Longer Exists: The Extermination Of Truth, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 31, 2013. In the 21st century Americans have experienced an extraordinary collapse in the rule of law and in their constitutional protections. Today American citizens, once a free people protected by law, can be assassinated and detained in prison indefinitely without any evidence being presented to a court of their guilt, and they can be sentenced to prison on the basis of secret testimony by anonymous witnesses not subject to cross examination. The US "justice system" has been transformed by the Bush/Obama regime into the "justice system" of Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia. There is no difference. In an article available here, Stephen Downs, formerly Chief Attorney with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and Kathy Manley, a criminal defense attorney and member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, report on how the US government destroyed a charity, the Holy Land Foundation, which provided money for feeding the poor and for building schools and hospitals in Palestine.

Bill Moyers & Company,  U.S. Rep. Peter Welch on Amgen’s Sweet Senate Deal, Bill Moyers, Jan. 25, 2013. A recent article in The New York Times reported on a cost-control exception provided to Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm. According to the report, the sweetheart deal — hidden in the Senate’s final “fiscal cliff” bill — will cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. Bill talks to U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) about the bi-partisan bill he recently sponsored to repeal that giveaway, and the political factors that allow such crony capitalism to occur. “When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.

Crooks & Liars, Maddow Slams Reid for Failing on Filibuster Reform: 60 is the New 60, Heather, Jan. 25, 2013. Rachel Maddow took viewers through the litany of statements made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the need to reform the filibuster rules to prevent the Republican minority from forcing 60 votes on every single bill, but as she noted, what ended up passing this Thursday was nothing that anyone could consider any type of meaningful reform. About the only issue I'd take with Rachel's reporting on the subject is that I'm not sure if it's fair to lay all of the blame at Reid's feet, or if it's what I believe is a more likely scenario, which is that he'd have gladly signed onto the reforms himself if he thought he had the votes within his own caucus, which he did not. If that is the case, I'd like to know which Senators he was dealing with that refused to go along with stopping the unprecedented obstruction we've seen from the Republicans since Barack Obama was elected president.

Washington Post, Can Obama’s second term make good on his first? Ezra Klein, Jan. 25, 2013. President Obama begins his second term confronting a familiar and frustrating incongruity: the gap between how much he has changed and how little about the country seems different. A partial accounting of Obama’s first term reveals more accomplishments than most presidents secure in two. But analysts agree that Washington is holding the recovery back. House Republicans’ strategy of forcing a seemingly endless series of cliffs, ceilings, sequesters and potential shutdowns has cast a pall over the economy. Every business that considers expanding confronts another potentially disastrous political showdown in the weeks, or months, ahead. Each high-wire conflict gives business a reason to pause rather than invest. If Washington would simply stop threatening the recovery — forget actually making it better! — the economy would probably look a lot better in four years than it does now.

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Martin H. Bosworth, ChoicePoint-FBI Deal Raises New Privacy Questions, May 16, 2006,  While the NSA's practice of collecting billions of telephone records drew outrage in many quarters, another potential threat to individual privacy flew smoothly under the public radar -- the lucrative extension of a contract between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and notorious data broker ChoicePoint. Last month, the FBI awarded a five-year, $12 million contract for ChoicePoint to improve the agency's software systems for investigation and analysis. The deal was sharply criticized by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who called the Alpharetta, GA-based information seller "the poster child for lax security." Leahy was referring to the infamous data breach of ChoicePoint's records by a ring of Nigerian identity thieves, leading to the theft of information on nearly 150,000 people. The theft sparked public awareness of the relationship between data brokers and identity theft, and led to several convictions and a $15 million fine for ChoicePoint by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the FBI-ChoicePoint deal, saying that the contract was for technology and hardware, not data services. "Obviously, there were mistakes made by ChoicePoint, and they suffered the consequences for that," he said. FBI Director Robert Mueller said the deal was absolutely necessary in order to upgrade the FBI's outdated information technology infrastructure and systems.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

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Associated Press / Mississippi Business Journal, U.S. Supreme Court weighing appeal of Scruggs, Minor, AP Staff, Jan. 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court will hold a conference Feb. 15 to decide on whether to hear an appeal from Zach Scruggs, who was implicated as having knowledge of a judicial corruption scheme that toppled his father, plaintiffs’ lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs. The conference will also make a decision in the case of former attorney Paul Minor, who was also found guilty of judicial corruption. In Zach Scruggs’ case, court officials say a decision could be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Scruggs conviction last October. The younger Scruggs, a law partner with his father, pleaded guilty to failing to report a conspiracy to improperly influence a judge in a dispute with other lawyers over $26.5 million in legal fees. He served a 14-month prison sentence and also lost his law license. Richard Scruggs and three others were convicted in the bribery scheme. Minor has asked the nation’s high court to overturn his sentence in a Mississippi judicial corruption case. Court officials say a decision could also be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August upheld the sentences of Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. Prosecutors said Minor backed loans for the judges in exchange for favorable court rulings. In court documents, Minor has argued prosecutors didn’t prove he received something in return for guaranteeing loans for Teel, a Chancery Court judge, and Whitfield, a Circuit Court judge.

Nieman Journalism Lab, Newsonomics, The Tribune’s Metro Agony, Ken Doctor, Jan. 24, 2013.  Soon, the next act of the Tribune newspaper agonies will play out. That’s agonies, as in a Biblical passion play. The Tribune papers have endured a special kind of agony, the Hell of Zell, but really their story is the story of metro newspapers throughout the U.S. and now largely across the developed world. It’s a moment that will mark another major passage in American newspapering, and one that reopens big questions about the fate of metro dailies in American life.  The Tribune Company owns eight newspapers, six of them metros. Two — the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — are in top 10 of U.S. dailies; five — adding in the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Baltimore Sun — are in the top 40, while the Hartford Courant ranks 60th. Their likely sale will be the single largest sale of metro newspapers in the U.S. since McClatchy bought Knight-Ridder in 2006. (That sale included the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Charlotte Observer and Akron Beacon Journal.)

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, The Swartz suicide and the sick culture of the DOJ, Harvey A. Silverglate, Jan. 23, 2013. The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country. It’s difficult for lawyers to step back and view the larger picture of the unflattering system from which we derive our status and our living. But we have an ethical obligation to criticize the legal system when warranted. Who else, after all, knows as much about where the proverbial bodies are buried and is in as good a position to tell truth to power as members of the independent bar? Yet the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world. Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights.

Black Agenda Report, FCC Opens Rulemaking Process To Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls, Bruce A. Dixon, Jan. 16, 2013. The families of millions of federal, state and local prisoners have been viciously squeezed by the legal collusion of long distance phone companies with jailers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons down to state departments of corrections and local sheriffs. Federal regs require phone companies to deliver cheap local phone service, with a locality usually defined as the telephone exchange, the first three digits after the area code. Rates for calls outside an exchange however, were classified as “long distance,” and not subject to rate controls. Phone companies made deals with jailers for exclusive access to their prisons and jails in return for lucrative one time kickbacks or a percentage of the gross, along with the occasional campaign or charitable contribution. For the jailers and phone companies it was a classic win-win situation in which everybody at the table got over, except of course prisoners and their families. Researchers attempting to gather information on the actual rates across the country have often been met with non-cooperation on the part of state and local officials reluctant to divulge their manifestly corrupt deals which have constructed this onerous toll booth blocking communication between prisoners and their families. Ten years ago a grandmother filed a petition with the FCC noting that a five minute call with her grandson cost $18. In the decade since agitation and organizing across the country has finally moved the Federal Communication to take the first tentative step to remedy the problem. On December 28, 2012, the FCC finally issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the beginning of the period in which it assembles information and takes public comment prior to the issuance of new rules.

Cato Institute, On Benghazi, the Buck Stops with Hillary, Malou Innocent, Jan.  23, 2013. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will face the wrong questions when she testifies today on the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi. The buck stops with Secretary Clinton—and it should. But members of Congress will focus on politically charged and distracting issues. The terrorist attack on the consulate was abhorrent. However, a broader discussion about the NATO-led regime change in Libya—and its unfolding political aftermath in Mali—would be a better use of Congress’s time. The consequences of intervention should not be ignored, and its antecedents must be explored.

Associated Press / Mississippi Business Journal, U.S. Supreme Court weighing appeal of Scruggs, Minor, AP Staff, Jan. 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court will hold a conference Feb. 15 to decide on whether to hear an appeal from Zach Scruggs, who was implicated as having knowledge of a judicial corruption scheme that toppled his father, plaintiffs’ lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs. The conference will also make a decision in the case of former attorney Paul Minor, who was also found guilty of judicial corruption. In Zach Scruggs’ case, court officials say a decision could be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Scruggs conviction last October. The younger Scruggs, a law partner with his father, pleaded guilty to failing to report a conspiracy to improperly influence a judge in a dispute with other lawyers over $26.5 million in legal fees. He served a 14-month prison sentence and also lost his law license. Richard Scruggs and three others were convicted in the bribery scheme. Minor has asked the nation’s high court to overturn his sentence in a Mississippi judicial corruption case. Court officials say a decision could also be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August upheld the sentences of Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. Prosecutors said Minor backed loans for the judges in exchange for favorable court rulings. In court documents, Minor has argued prosecutors didn’t prove he received something in return for guaranteeing loans for Teel, a Chancery Court judge, and Whitfield, a Circuit Court judge.

 
 
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