Thank you Rachel!
Thank you Rachel!
Will the GOP’s campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. & GREG PALAST
These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.
Investigation by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast released today
Don’t worry about Mickey Mouse or ACORN stealing the election. According to an investigative report out today in Rolling Stone magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, after a year-long investigation, reveal a systematic program of “GOP vote tampering” on a massive scale.
Excerpted from the Greg Palast, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Robert F. Kennedy’s comic book voter guide. See www.StealBackYourVote.org for more.
In 2002, George W. Bush signed the Help America Vote Act.
When a Bush tells you he’s going to “help” you vote – look out!
The result: in the 2004 presidential election, over three million votes – 3,006,080 – were cast
and not counted. Like, what the !@#!?
Three MILLION ballots disappeared – Pfft!
And not just anyone’s ballots. U.S. government experts reported, for example, that a black voter’s ballot is 900% more likely than a voter’s ballot to get “lost” in the machine. Bush fired the experts.
Law professor and voting law expert Robert F. Kennedy Jr. warns that it’s about to get a whole lot worse. Nasty new spores of the “Help” America Vote Act went into effect since the last election that have turned the process into a vicious game of “Chutes and Ladders,” with traps and tricks between you and your vote…
Example: the Republican Secretary of State of Colorado “helped” her state vote by eliminating
19.4% of the voters from the voter rolls. That’s one in five !@#$#@ voters!
Over three million missing ballots – and now the voters themselves are disappearing by the mil-
lions. Where the hell did they go?
Read on …
Sign up at StealBackYourVote.com and get involved!
One million Democrats attempting to vote in this year’s primaries found their names missing from voter rolls. WHERE THE HELL DID THEY GO?
Law professor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and journalist Greg Palast are launching an investigation. We want to know: where are these votes? Who swiped them? How? And how do we prevent it from happening in November?
The investigations team needs your help. RIGHT NOW. The not-for-profit Investigative Fund needs support to pay the cost of phones, airfare, microphones (hidden, when needed), detective agency fees, camera crew, researchers and all the infrastructure of inquest.
We need, right now, two dozen Producers to put up at least $1000 each to pay for the preliminary investigation and production. You’ll get a tax deduction, a box loaded with DVDs of the finished films now planned from broadcast internationally – and maybe, just maybe, an honest election.
Because it’s our plan to put out the information on the manipulation of the vote BEFORE November.
Can’t put up $1,000? Then donate $500 and get a package of all of my books and DVDs signed to you. Even a $100 gift will be put to good use – and we’ll send you my three latest DVD films, including “The Elections Files” (Watch the trailer) from our BBC TV investigations.
Bobby Kennedy, in his masterful article in Rolling Stone, exposed how Ohio votes vanished in 2004. The Palast team, for BBC Television, unmasked the vicious ‘scrub’ of Black voters in Florida in 2000.
Now Kennedy and Palast have joined together with an extraordinary team of investigators to hunt the missing votes of 2008 BEFORE we have a repeat of 2000 and 2004.
I haven’t sought funding from you all this year – but now I must. Neither I nor RFK take a dime of compensation from the Palast Investigative Fund. But the fund’s hit empty and we can’t ask a our brilliant crew to continue to survive on dog food – they’re beginning to bark at embarrassing moments!
Our investigation is non-partisan. It’s not about saving Democrats, but saving DEMOCRACY.
But we know who’s playing games with the ballots.
FACT: On Super-Tuesday, the number of Democrats missing from voter rolls in New Mexico exceeded George Bush’s 2004 ‘victory’ total by 300%. No wonder McCain’s campaign says, New Mexico is “in play.” The question is who’s playing with it?
Join our effort. If you’ve got a tip, a document, a witness – CONTACT US. And add your name to the list of Producers and Supporters.
Some Americans have taken a bullet to protect the ballot. All we’re asking is that you take a tax deduction. Add your name in bold on screen as a producer of the film that will open eyes and stop lies.
Donate HERE – and PASS ON this request to friends and patriots. Let’s stop the attack on democracy NOW – so we can make this the final investigation of a stolen election.
I can’t tell you how much your support of our investigations has meant to us.
Since the start of this month there has been more high profile, corporate media coverage of our “election” charades than perhaps any other period during the Bush regime. Could this be a sign we are approaching a bona fide tipping point, after which things will be totally different? Well, I want to believe it, but I think we first need the progressive media to get on the same page about some talking points.
1. Secret vote counting guarantees inconclusive outcomes. Whether it is paperless DREs or optical scanners with interpreted or proprietary code, votes are being “counted” in secret, without even a chance for voters, elections officials or the media to examine the process or verify the results.
2. Unverified voting means there is NO BASIS for confidence in the results reported. Blind trust is required to accept current election results.
3. The media should not report what it cannot prove or independently verify. We now have faith-based reporting about faith-based elections.
4. The Consent of the Governed is being assumed, not sought, under current election conditions. According to the Declaration of Independence, the “just Power” of government derives from the Consent of the Governed.
5. Here is a partial list (in no particular order) of additional items to which we must say: We Do Not Consent.
a) The lost presumption of innocence;
b) Spying on Americans and an overall loss of privacy;
c) Government lawlessness;
d) Destruction of our environment;
e) The promise of endless war;
f) Free speech zones;
g) Depleted Uranium (Mr. Bush’s slow-motion holocaust);
h) Government run media;
i) Secret prisons, torture and war crimes;
j) and We Do Not Consent to secret vote counting machines.
The larger question that should emerge from these talking points is: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET? Presented this way the question takes a tone of inevitability – not if, but when! This is how we pave a path to a tipping point.
This set of points varies in at least one very dramatic way from the high profile corporate coverage recently given to election integrity. For examples, start with Rolling Stone publishing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s hefty recitation of the of the travesty of the 2004 “election” in Ohio, plus the ensuing TV appearances (CNN, Fox, MSNBC – all .wmv videos), and the online rebuttals and rejoinders (Farhad Manjoo at Salon.com, Paul Lehto, Bob Fitrakis, and even Bobby Kennedy himself). In all cases, progressive people are arguing over past events that can’t be changed with people who are not even open to having their minds changed.
What would be better is educating progressive media about these powerful forward-looking arguments. Icons such as Thom Hartmann, Peter B. Collins (.mp3 of my interview last week), and Randi Rhodes can help us teach the public at large in a way that enables understanding of our current condition while fostering an appropriately strong and unified response. The talking points above allow us to discuss that which can be agreed upon, namely, what are the conditions for the elections we’re about to have. The lesson, however, is that such conditions ensure inconclusive outcomes which should never be expected to produce unanimous acceptance. By narrowly defining a common view of the problem we become poised to take united action.
The Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR) is a document reflecting all the talking points above. The City Council of Arcata, CA was the first to adopt the VCR, and Palo Alto, CA will soon be considering its own version. Each community is encouraged to use Arcata’s language as a template, keeping the main talking points and customizing other areas, including an election reform platform. This inspires local debate about sensible standards that should aim at delivering conclusive election outcomes and creating a basis for confidence in the results reported.
In Hartmann’s recent AlterNet article about the RFK piece, he very bluntly says: “George W. Bush is not the legitimate president of the United States.” But Hartmann doesn’t go much beyond encouraging us to “speak out” in response. There is no doubt that Hartmann personally knows many people who have already been among the most outspoken. Our efforts have not been in vain, but they could be more successful with a common message and call to action. And it was with this in mind that I saw the need for this talking points memo. It is worth noting that when I recently discussed these same ideas with Brother Thom on his radio show, this is what he said:
“Its a great start getting out there and saying, ‘Nope, sorry, we’re not going to play this game.’ I think we need to do more of that.
The Electronic Voting Machine Company Qui Tam Cases Explainedâ€¦ ‘Citizen media is replacing mainstream mediaâ€¦and a lot more successfully than anybody dreamed.’
Mike Papantonio and Bobby Kennedy co-host Ring of Fire on Air America. The two attorneys have filed qui tam lawsuits against the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) companies for defrauding the government. We previously posted an exclusive interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. about this case.
Papantonio is a Florida attorney who has already gone after a number of big corporations for the American people. He is named partner and head of the Mass Tort Department at his firm. He has handled many famous cases throughout the nation, including asbestos, breast implants, Dalkon Shield, Fen-Phen, hemophiliac-AIDS, L-Tryptophan, railroad disasters and the Florida Tobacco litigation. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Leading American Attorney. He is also the author of In Search of Atticus Finch, A Motivational Book for Lawyers; Clarence Darrow, The Journeyman; Resurrecting AESOP, Fables Lawyers Should Remember and a co-author of Closing Arguments â€” The Last Battle. In addition to all this, he is a popular lecturer in the legal field.
We would like to say something about what a dynamic and articulate man he is, and how much we think he’s doing for our country, but, really, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself, and this is no accident. Mike Papantonio is a hard-working, extremely generous, friendly and personable â€” and dedicated â€” man. One would be hard-pressed to find a better duo for the difficult job ahead. The Kennedy/Papantonio alliance is a particularly brilliant one. Mike took the time to talk to us about aspects of the qui tam cases they have set in motion alreadyâ€¦
BRAD BLOG: Can you tell us about these qui tam cases?
MIKE PAPANTONIO: What we’re doing with these qui tam cases is really not much different than the approach we used in the national tobacco litigation. Weâ€™ve put together that same kind of team, not the same people, but the same kind of people who are used to working with complex litigation. Because of that, thereâ€™s a benefit to the U.S. attorney saying, â€œWell, you know, we donâ€™t know if we really want to do this.â€ And once they say that, those are the golden words that will allow us to go in and handle the case ourselves. Exactly like weâ€™ve done with tobacco, asbestos, virtually every major pharmaceutical case in the country, itâ€™s always originated with the same kind of lawyers. And those are the kind of lawyers that do fairly complex stuff.
BB: I want to thank you for doing those cases, by the way, Mike.
MP: Thank you for saying that, sometimes it just takes a while to register, to where you say, well you know, I didnâ€™t want to have to do this, but apparently we have to. Thatâ€™s how I feel about this right now.
BB: How do you feel about the idea that you might be saving our Democracy?
MP: Morris Dees is a civil rights lawyer and a very good friend of mine. As a matter of fact he started the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery. If you talk to someone like Morris, and you ask him, what is it that brought some closure, some beginning for closure to the civil rights movement, heâ€™d say it was really no one event; it was kind of a collection of displaced separate events. Thatâ€™s always stuck with me, because with anything thatâ€™s worth doing, itâ€™s rare that you will accomplish it with one event that you are able to manage, or one success that you are able to gain. It rarely works like that. I think there are some similarities here, just like I thought the same thing with tobacco. When we first started talking about tobacco, everybody thought we were pretty much nuts, because we were taking on some of the biggest corporations in the world. But it wasnâ€™t just our effort, it had been the effort of people whoâ€™d gone before us, and all we did was take what they’d already done for us and make it a little bit better â€” a small reinvention of the wheel, in a way that just helped the wheel roll a little better. Itâ€™s the same thing here.
I think of Lowell Finley. Lowell Finley is a great lawyer whoâ€™s handled these voter cases a long time, but heâ€™s had to handle them by himself. First of all there’s the economics of it, and if all you are doing is going to court and arguing with some Judge, about the fact that he ought to enjoin the further use of the company, the product, or that he ought to put limitations on how the productâ€™s used, that doesnâ€™t really get you where you need to go, and it costs you instead of the company. The only thing that corporate America understands is when they have to say to their stockholders, or to their partners in their businesses, â€œHey, we have to write a big check now and it could put us out of business.â€ Thatâ€™s all they respond to. Having done complex litigation for 25 years, Iâ€™ve never seen any other formula. You know, in a perfect world we could throw them in jail.
In Japan, for example, if you are following this latest story â€” I think it has to do with an auto case where they didnâ€™t tell the consumers the truth â€” the consumer doesnâ€™t really get to sue them the same way they do in the States, but the good news is that they throw them in jail. So thatâ€™s where I wish we were. I would gladly give up the multi-million-dollar recoveries from all the pharmaceutical cases, from everything weâ€™ve done, for the last 25 years. If I knew we had a law that said, â€œWell, you guys canâ€™t really sue them for money but we can have these creeps thrown in jail,â€ Iâ€™d gladly give up every dime. But, unfortunately, in the US, the only avenue we have to punish these companies is to take their money away. And so thatâ€™s the method of operation that weâ€™ve used in pharmaceutical cases, in asbestos cases, and tobacco cases, and roll-over cases â€” all of those consumer cases are only driven by the fact that greed is such a driving force with corporate America that they only react when you take some of their ill-gotten money away from them.
BB: So itâ€™s not only the machine fraud. The Republican Party has been involved with all kinds of methods to disenfranchise voters, from intimidation, to destruction of Democratic voter registrations, and all kinds of other things that result in people not having their votes counted, or not being able to vote. Is there any possibility of a class action lawsuit down the line for the American people because they had their election stolen?
MP: I donâ€™t really see that. I understand class action suits very, very well, and I donâ€™t really see that as a possibility. Itâ€™s not likely that youâ€™re going to have a case where you say the same offense that prevented person A from voting also prevented person B and person C, where you can show those three events are exactly the same. And unfortunately in a class action suit there are certain hoops that you have to jump through, like similarity in action, numerosity, all of these things that you really have to be specific about to get to the class action threshold. There may be some small cases, for example, where the Indians are disenfranchised, in a particular area â€” yes, that has a ring to it. Or where the Hispanics in a certain state are disenfranchised â€” that has some appeal to it. I donâ€™t think that we are ready to get there yet with these. The trick to any particular litigation is to lay out the best strategy you can with what you have.
When I look at this, the best strategy that Iâ€™m able to come up with, and Bobbyâ€™s able to come up with, is a strategy that forces us into a room with the people who are making these decisions â€” so Iâ€™m able to sit across the table from those people and ask them some tough questions. That: a.) forces them into committing perjury; and b.) exposes them as being the criminals that they are. I think that the best way to get there, is to do it by way of qui tam lawsuits and I may be wrong, but sometimes you have to stick with your strategy and thatâ€™s where weâ€™re headed with it.
BB: Bobby was talking about how widespread this machine tampering is getting. It suggested to me that since these machines donâ€™t tamper themselves, and since the Republicans donâ€™t do things ad hoc, there may be a room filled with high level people who are sitting around analyzing data, plotting strategies, coming up with numbers and giving instructions, and if you could find out who those are wouldnâ€™t you have a massive conspiracy case?
MP: Yes, you would. Tom, I keep hearing of people afraid to say that thereâ€™s any design, that everything that happened in Ohio must have just happened to be coincidental, disjointed events. Iâ€™m not afraid to say I think there is something that has more of a design to it.
For example, there is no question Feeney, down in Florida, met with people who were trying to put together a system to game voting. Here you have a Republican Congressman, this guy who represents Floridians, who represents Americans, and heâ€™s sitting down trying to figure out how he can defraud Americans of their right to vote. Now, youâ€™ve got to find that here too. Does it all fit together? It might.
[Ed Note: We have been reporting on Florida vote-rigging whistleblower Clint Curtis for the past year and a half. He is the programmer who has alleged Republican Congressman Tom Feeney asked him to create a software prototype to flip votes on electronic voting machines. A summary of our coverage is posted here. Curtis is now running for Congress in Florida's 24th district in hopes of unseating Feeney this fall. The Clint Curtis for Congress website is here.]
I think for something as critical as this is, you have to have a very methodical approach, just the same kind of an approach I would use if I were going to sue Merck for a defective product for 10,000 people. But thatâ€™s not new stuff. If you were to follow me around in a given month, you would see that I use the same methodology almost all the time, because itâ€™s proven methodology, and thatâ€™s the way this has to be approached. Itâ€™s easy to get your attention pulled in so many directions that you forget that you still have a methodology that you need to follow. So all of these things are issues. You say to yourself, â€œMy God, I know this is happening,â€ but you have to be patient. You have to say to yourself, â€œI gotta get there.”
BB: Thatâ€™s not to say in following your planned strategy you might not turn up a lot of things in the woodwork during the process.
MP: Yes, I think you will. I think weâ€™ll turn up exactly what youâ€™re talking about in the process. And then at some point, thatâ€™s something that will become useable. Right now with the way that politics are situated in Washington, if you were to turn up the fact that Dick Cheney, for an example â€“ just for an example â€“ if Dick Cheney and Karl Rove had sat down and said, here is the master strategy thatâ€™s even better than Lee Atwaterâ€™s Southern Strategy, and hereâ€™s how we are going to create this Republican machine thatâ€™s never going to go away â€” if they were to have said that, and I actually had documents to show that they said it, that ordinarily would workâ€¦. But with the present environment, with the media that we are confronted with, and with the Justice Department, (not so much the Justice Department, but the people who are running the Justice Department, because we have very good U.S. Attorneys who are career people and they donâ€™t like this anymore than we do) â€” unfortunately, until we take back Congress and then take back the White House, we could have all the smoking guns you want, but the infrastructure to do anything with it is not there.
Every time I talk about this Democrats get mad, but itâ€™s just absolutely the truth: Had Bill Clinton gone after and really sustained his investigation into the Iran-Contra affair for the full two years that he was there with a Democratic Congress, had he aggressively gone after the people he needed to, we wouldnâ€™t have had Wolfowitz, we wouldnâ€™t have had Rumsfeld, we wouldnâ€™t have had Richard Perle, we wouldnâ€™t have most of the Neocons that are running things right now. They would be in jail. But he didnâ€™t do it. So the question is, if we can get Congress back one more time, and we can gain control of the infrastructure that puts thugs in jail, then we can have some change, but it has to begin in November, it has to happen.
This is it â€” 2006 is the test.
But until we have either the House or the Senate, we donâ€™t even have a bully pulpit. We have a press that is a completely dismal failure. And thereâ€™s a clear reason why theyâ€™re a dismal failure. Want to hear it?
BB: Of course!
MP: In the next 900 days, they have the last opportunity to enhance the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Michael Powell, if you will remember, took a shot at it last year, and he was very close, a lot closer than anybody thought. If they can get there, then what you are going to have is that Viacom, or NBC, or Rupert Murdoch is going come to your home town, and own your newspaper, own your radios, own your televisions, own everything, so that the one message that, say, Rupert Murdoch wants to deliver is delivered on virtually every venue available to you.
BB: Thatâ€™s so dangerous.
MP: Itâ€™s awful. But the corporate media understands that this is it.
THIS IS IT!
Really, theyâ€™ll never again have this opportunity to have such a bumpkin President, such a lapdog bunch of Congressmen, and such a bottom-feeding kind of Administration. Theyâ€™ll never have this again. They are afraid they will lose this opportunity by actually telling the stories, that people like you are telling. They are afraid to tell the story about the fact that 80,000 votes were shifted from John Kerryâ€™s name to George Bushâ€™s name in Ohio; or, that in the same state of Ohio, in one district, there were only 800 people who were registered, but 4000 votes showed up on the ledger.
BB: About qui tam: I understand that when you file, the government has the option of taking the case, instead of the citizen who files. Is that true?
BB: Is there any chance that the government might take the case and then go ahead and spike it?
MP: You mean sit on it?
MP: Yes, thatâ€™s exactly everybodyâ€™s fear, and thatâ€™s what we are trying to work around right now. The answer is, yes, that could very well happen, and weâ€™re doing the best we can to not allow it to happen. Interestingly enough, within 60 days they have to make a decision, the decision if they are going to take the case, and they have a right to have one extension, they can get one continuance for that decision, so thatâ€™s one thing we have to be very conscious of.
BB: That can leave the disclosure until after the election then.
MP: Oh, absolutely. Weâ€™re trying to do what we can in that regard too.
BB: Itâ€™s too bad it couldnâ€™t have been filed a little bit earlier.
MP: We had to have the facts. You have to have the relator, you have to have the whistleblowers, without those you canâ€™t really do anything.
BB: I want to thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.
MP: Well thank you, and I appreciate what youâ€™re doing. Iâ€™m very optimistic about what youâ€™re doing, because I think thereâ€™s a real rise in the citizen media. Citizen media is replacing mainstream media, and I think itâ€™s doing it a lot more aggressively, and a lot more successfully than anybody dreamed. If you look at the numbers right now, 60% of Americans donâ€™t trust the news. 60% say that they donâ€™t even believe that the news can be adequately reported because government or corporations donâ€™t allow it to happen. So what happens out there, is that the market always takes care of itself. There is some truth to that. And the market right now is moving rapidly towards the same kind of citizen media that youâ€™re involved with. Itâ€™s one of those events that I talked about earlier, which coalesces with other things that are happening, so citizen media does get a story like this out, and itâ€™s very effective. Itâ€™s amazing.
So when you run this story, somebody somewhere might read it and they might say, â€œWell I have information,â€ and they call someone or they call us, and you have a whole new dimension to the case that develops. Every day, somebody inside one of these voter corporations is mistreated, becomes disgruntled, finds their conscience, gets fearful that they are going to be arrested â€” because all those things do happen â€” and every time another of these key people decides to do the right thing, we have a better chance of getting to the whole story, so what youâ€™re doing has a dramatic effect.
BB: Well I hope so, I just want to save this country.
MP: [Laughing] Well, I thank you for that. I will keep you posted as this story develops. Itâ€™s not something that happens right away. I think people may believe things are going to happen so rapidly that itâ€™s going to be a huge flash, itâ€™s more like a smoldering fire. And thatâ€™s not such a bad thing.
BB: No, because sometimes a smoldering fire will do a lot more damage in the long run than a flash. Iâ€™m hoping that this will actually change the consciousness in America so that when everybody goes to vote they look carefully at whatâ€™s going on around them. If we can at least get it out there that these voting machine companies are being sued, then maybe there will be more attention paid during the 2006 election, even if the case hasnâ€™t been concluded.
MP: Joy, let me ask you something. Just put yourself in the position of an insider. The number ten guy with a huge voting machine company. All of a sudden, you understand that weâ€™re already going fairly aggressively against one of your competitors. And you as number ten person in that company have firsthand knowledge that the company is committing fraud, and that the fraud is resulting in people being disenfranchised â€” just totally being disenfranchised from the right to vote. If you are that number ten guy, and as you listen to the story unfold, there ought to be a certain pucker factor. That fear factor is what you should react to, rather than being somebody that is brought into a lawsuit or a criminal case. The thing to do is to come forward now, and let people know up front that, yes, you know about it, and, yes, you’re willing to help correct it.
BB: And thatâ€™s part of the message we need to get outâ€¦.
MP: Thatâ€™s it!
BB: You were saying the other day itâ€™s â€œlike the civil rights issueâ€ I think this is the civil rights issue.
MP: Oh yes, it is the civil rights issue; itâ€™s the heart of the civil rights issue. Itâ€™s what people were murdered for, why they had to march in lines where they had dogs sicâ€™d on them, and tear gas thrown at them, and bullets shot over their heads, or sometimes into their bodies. Thereâ€™s no difference from whatâ€™s happening here, itâ€™s just that people donâ€™t understand or react to the racial aspect of it. Because itâ€™s not simply a racial issue, itâ€™s a class issue.
BB: Exactly, itâ€™s the poor, as well as minority groups, as well as anyone who might commit the crime of voting while Democrat.
MP: If you think that this is happening in upper middle class neighborhoods, where white people drive 15 minutes to vote, youâ€™re wrong. The problem was in the places where people had to take buses, and walk and take taxicabs to go vote, and then they would have to stand in line for four hours.
BB: And they might not even be in the â€œrightâ€ line in the same polling precinct. In Ohio there were frequently two polling precincts in one place, like a high school gym, and people would get in the wrong line, wait four hours, and then have to go to the end of the other line.
MP: Yesâ€¦ and, then when they get there, their name isnâ€™t even on the voting roll. So those are the nuances. We have to handle the direct issue right now. The direct issue is, even when they got there, the voting was probably gamed after they voted.
BB: Do you think that ChoicePoint is pulling peopleâ€™s names off the rolls in 2006 as they did in 2000 in Florida?
MP: Oh, I just donâ€™t know that yet. Thereâ€™s no way to tell yet.
BB: This whole story is so intricate and so complicated, if they game the system again in 2006, itâ€™s going to be a lot harder to tell because there are so many small races compared to the big major races for Presidentâ€¦.
MP: You hit a very good point. The point is: What about the developer who wants to have two of his friends put on the county commission so he can build a new high-rise? Nobody wants the high-rise, but, if he can get his friends put on there, my God, he might stand to make $15 million. Isnâ€™t that just as much of a threat? The local issue is not quite as important as the national, but itâ€™s pretty damned important.
BB: And, if the poll workers can take these machines home and have a sleepover with them, you can have one person put in a nasty chip, and change the whole outcome of the race!
MP: And without any evidence at all, so there would be no way to tell.
“The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections.”
â€“ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., (bio) , wrote the article: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen” where he examined the election fraud in Ohio that took place during the last Presidential Election. He also has written a book “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy“. Mr. Kennedy, along with Mike Papantonio have filed a “qui tam” lawsuit against some of the voting machines companies, in an effort to save our Democracy.
I’ve long had a deep respect for Robert F. Kennedy for his dedicated work as an environmental advocate. Tom and I enjoyed interviewing him and were moved by his passion and dedication to our country and our Democracy. We spoke to him via phone at his office at Pace University’s Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York, which he founded, about the election of 2004. This was an experience to rememberâ€¦
BRAD BLOG: In your book, “Crimes Against Nature,” you said that Bush won the 2004 election because of an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media. You go on to say that “Bush was re-elected because of the negligence of-and deliberate deception by-the American press.” Your recent article in “Rolling Stone” seems to suggest that your opinion has changed, focusing more on the fraud and deception in Ohio with the computerized voting machines. What was the most important thing that made you suspect fraud and decide to investigate the 2004 election?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, my opinion hasn’t changed, that the press has been negligent, and that the large amount of support for the President, and for the people that did vote for the President, that large numbers of them would not have done so, had they known the truth about his policies, and his record. You say my opinion changed, but it hasn’t changed.
You know I’ve known this for many years, because of my anecdotal experience. I give about 40 speeches a year, in red states to Republican audiences, and I get the same enthusiastic responses from those audiences as I get from Liberal college audiences. The only difference is, is that the Republicans often say to me, “How come we’ve never heard this before?” I made the conclusion many years ago that there’s not a huge values difference between Red State Republicans and Blue State Democrats. The distinction is really informational. 80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don’t know what’s going on. And my anecdotal conclusion was confirmed by a survey done immediately after the 2004 election called the PIPA report, which tested Bush supporters and Kerry supporters based upon their knowledge of current events. It found that among Bush supporters, they were widespread in its interpretations, or there were factual errors in the way that they viewed Bush’s major public policy initiatives.
For example, 75% of the Republican respondents believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, and 72% believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. And most of them believed that the war in Iraq had strong support among Iraq’s Muslim neighbors and our traditional allies in Europe, which of course is wrong. The Democrats as a whole had a much more accurate view of those events. And then PIPA went back twice to these same people. The first time it went back to the people that had these misinterpretations, and asked them where they were getting their news, and invariably they said talk radio and FOX news. And PIPA went back a third time, and made inquiries about their fundamental values, and it did start with a string of hypotheticals:
“What if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bombing the World Trade Center? What if the U.S. Invasion of Iraq had little support among Iraq’s Muslim neighbors and was largely opposed by Iraq’s Muslim neighbors, and by our troops and allies in Europe? Should we have still gone in?” And roughly 80% of Dem and 80% of Rep said the same thing, “We should not.” And so the values were the same. It was the facts, the information, it was the access to information that was different.
BB: Are you then adding a layer of suspicion about the direct manipulation and fraudulent counting through computerized voting?
RFK JR.: That also happened, that was another factor. Our democracy is broken. Our democracy is broken because of our campaign finance system, which is just a system of legalized bribery, which has allowed corporations and the very wealthy to control the electoral results. Let me go back and say our electoral system is broken for three reasons, in three large respects: The first is our campaign finance system, which is a system of legalized bribery, and which has allowed corporations and the very rich to control the results of our electoral process. Number two is the failure of the American press and that is also a function and result of corporate control, as I showed in my book. Number three is the election system itself, which is broken. We’ve privatized it and allowed four large corporations to count our votes on machines that don’t work.
But also the Republican party has inculcated a culture of corruption. The Republican party has adopted a strategy of denying votes to blacks and other minorities, and to other people more traditionally Democratic, suppressing Democratic vote and fraudulently expanding Republican vote. And this is happening all over the country. I would urge you to read Greg Palast’s latest book, Armed Madhouse. He does for the national elections what I did for the Ohio election, which is to synthesize the information that’s out there into a readable document, in which he shows exactly how this election was stolen-not just in Ohio but in many other states as well.
BB: Have any of your expert witnesses or anyone referred to some of the stringent requirements in the gaming industry which uses computerized slot machines, poker machines and so forth involving the levels of certification and disclosure of the security requirements of its vendors?
RFK JR.: Well, you see this was just another corporate boondoggle that gave the most venal mendacious corporations charge of our most sacred public trust, which is the right to vote. These corporations were making hundreds of millions of dollars. The machines, as it turns out, were manufactured by wireless companies and were just a cheap piece of junk that cost less than $100 to manufacture, and they were selling them for $2400 apiece. And they were using Jack Abramoff and other corrupt lobbyists to persuade federal officials to pass the federal act to appropriate the money and then to persuade state and local officials to purchase the defective machines.
BB: Jack Abramoff was involved in this?
RFK JR.: Oh yes. Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney (R-Oh), the principle figure in the Abramoff scandal and he’s the author of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). And Diebold contributed millions of dollars to these guys, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Abramoff to lobby on behalf of HAVA, and to lobby states like New York and the other states, to adopt the Diebold machines.
BB: So HAVA was “created specifically to disenfranchise voters and verfication”?
RFK JR.: HAVA was written specifically to require the states to buy Diebold machines. I mean one company basically had control of the whole legislative process. That’s why HAVA has a provision in it that discourages vote verification by paper ballots. Both Republicans and Democrats tried to reform the HAVA, saying of course we should have paper verification of the vote. Paper verification would allow you to go in, make your vote on the electronic machine, and you get a receipt that is a copy of who you voted for and you are allowed to examine that receipt. You deposit it in a locked box in the voting area. That way, if there’s ever any question, if you need to count, you can count the papers, and see if it compares to what the machine says.
But Bob Ney fought tooth and nail against that provision because Diebold made a machine that does not provide a paper ballot. And he went so far, because Diebold contributed a million dollars to an organization that purportedly protects the rights of blind people. And in exchange for that, that organization got one of its officers to testify on Capitol Hill at the HAVA hearings, that blind people in America did not want paper ballots – voter verified ballots – because it would deprive someone of the right to vote secretly. Now the other organizations that support handicapped rights and rights of the blind, do not take that position. This was a position that that organization adopted after accepting a million dollars from Diebold. The whole operation was corrupt and now Bob Ney is going to jail for it.
BB: Also, speaking of those guys, election officials in several states, most notably Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Bruce McPherson here in the state of California, appear to be be deliberately flouting established law and procedures as well as direct court orders, and they seem to be just “getting away with it”. How can that be?
RFK JR.: Well, again, it’s because of the failure of the American press. This is the most important issue in American Democracy and the press isn’t covering it. So the politicians who want to fix the elections, and who want these fraudulent machines, can get away with it, don’t take a position because it gets no traction in the press.
BB:: But then why didn’t people like Kerry want to contest the results?
RFK JR.: You’d have to ask Kerry.
BB: Why hasn’t the DNC done anything about this?
RFK JR.: You’d have to ask the DNC.
BB: We watched Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris, and he doesn’t seem to say anythingâ€¦ I guess we’ll have to ask them! But there seems to have been a pattern here in the leadership of the Democratic Partyâ€¦.What I was getting to in those questions was not for you to interpret the actions of the those in the DNC and so forth, but there seems to be a pattern in the leadership of the Dem Party that shies away from direct conflict in thisâ€¦.
RFK JR.: The Democratic leadership on this issue has been abysmal. And particularly since this is a civil rights issue and it’s a racial issue. The machines themselves are kind of a distraction because the machines are recent innovations. The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using, old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections.
BB: Like in Georgia, who were trying to establish the Poll Tax againâ€¦
RFK JR.: And this has been happening all over the country. If you look at who’s being denied the right to vote, on absentee ballots, on provisional ballots, it’s Hispanics, it’s Blacks and it’s Native Americans, and the Democratic Party ought to be touting this as the biggest civil rights issue of our time. But they are ignoring it, and that really is shocking. It’s shocking that the Republicans are not up in arms about this too, because this should not be a partisan issue. This is a fundamental basis of our American value system, which is representative Democracy. For a party that claims to speak for “American Values” to ignore the fact that other members of the party, that the leadership of the party is involved in an active national campaign to stop black people from voting, and to steal elections, shows the moral bankruptcy of everybody in that party!
Why aren’t Republicans standing up and speaking on this issue? Why isn’t Republican leadership standing up and speaking on this issue?
BB: California [state recently re-certified] Diebold machines, all over the state. If California “goes” Republican, do you think we will be able to say, ok, there’s no doubt anymore?
RFK JR.: Listen: all I can say is that the Diebold machines are among the worst. They break down, they are easily hacked, Diebold uses fraudulent misrepresentations to sell the machines, and they should not be part of our voting system.
BB: Are there any plans on a national or state level to contest suspicious results this time around?
RFK JR.: They make it very difficult to contest crooked elections. Nebraska is one of several states that have now passed laws, and I believe Florida is one of those states, that prohibit counting paper ballots in votes that were originally counted by machines. The only way that you can count votes is the original way in which they were counted. And so, of course, that makes it easy to fix any election and make sure that nobody has the right to challenge it.
Many other states, including Ohio, have made it impossible for anybody to challenge an election, even if it was obviously fixed. And these kinds of initiatives are happening all over the country. Why would any state legislature vote for such a rule unless they were Republicans who felt that elections would be fixed in their favor? Why would any American vote for such a rule? It is completely anti-American and un-American. We should be encouraging Americans to vote and encouraging EVERY American to cast a vote and to make sure that every vote is counted. And both parties should be working toward that.
But instead you have a Republican party that is trying to suppress votes and trying to defraud the public. And you have a Democratic party that is like the deer in headlights. And the Democrats are never going to win another election if they don’t fix this issue because they are starting out every election with a 3 million vote deficit, and those are mainly the black voters in this country and who no longer have their votes counted.
And you know, this may sound shrill, but look at the facts. And I challenge anyone who says that this is shrill and inaccurate to read Greg Palast’s book, to read my article, to look at the facts, because the facts are infallible.
BB: Do you think we are going to need a reaction like they are having currently in Mexico?
RFK JR.: Well, I wish the Democratic Party had the cojones that the Mexican opposition party has! They’re saying “We’re not gonna stand for our elections being stolen anymore!” It’s great for these (our) political leaders to stand up and say “I will gracefully concede” but what does that mean for the rest of us? We are getting stuck with these governments that are absolutely running our country into the ground.
BB: You said in your recent interview with Charlie Rose, that this is the worst Presidency we’ve ever had, and they’ve ruined our reputation in the world. So if you had your ideal President, what kind of things would he or she need to do to restore our credibility?
RFK JR.: Well the first thing we need to do is to restore American Democracy.
Number One: Fix the campaign finance system to get corporate money out of the electoral process. Corporations are a great thing for our country. They drive our economy but they should NOT be running our government because they don’t want the same thing for America that Americans want. Corporations don’t want democracy, they want free markets, they want profits, and oftentimes the easiest path to profits is to use the campaign finance system to get their hooks into a public official and to use that public official to dismantle the marketplace to give them monopoly control and a competitive edge and to privatize the commons-to steal our air, our water, or our public treasury, and liquidate it for private profits.
Number Two: We have to fix the press: restore journalistic ethics in this country, and that is by bringing back the fairness doctrine and strengthening the FCC. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan in 1988, and it recognized that the airwaves belong to the public; that the broadcasters can be licensed to use them to make a profit, but they use them with the proviso that their primary obligation is to advance democracy and promote the public interest. They have to inform the public because a democracy cannot survive an uninformed public. As Thomas Jefferson said, “An uninformed public will trade a hundred years of hard-fought civil rights for a half an hour of welfare.” And they will follow the first demagogue or religious fanatic that comes along and offers them a $300 tax break.
Number Three: We have to fix our electoral system so that every vote is counted. Those are the first three things that any President should do, Republican or Democrat, to restore American Democracy.
BB: Now all these state laws that are being put in place could be trumped by Congressâ€¦
RFK JR.: Of course, we should have a federal law that creates federal standards for elections. All federal elections have to be verified by paper ballots. Election officials, whose job is to ensure the integrity of federal elections, cannot simultaneously serve as campaign managers or candidates who are participating in that contest. Many states already have that rule, but Florida and Ohio do not. It’s a formula for corruption!
BB: In summary, how optimistic or pessimistic are you about our ability to get our country back?
RFK JR.: Well, you know, my attitude is that I don’t try to predict the future, I can only say that those of us who care about this country have to keep fighting, and whether you think you’re gonna win or lose, you gotta just keep slugging and you gotta be ready to die with your boots on, because that’s what our forefathers did, they started a revolution, and they put their fortunes and their lives at stake. And we need to summon the same kind of courage from our generation, and demand that kind of courage from our leadership.
BB: And we have to get that message out to the Democratic leadership as well.
RFK JR.: And that’s what you guys are doingâ€¦.