The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky has been on the media circuit this week in a desperate effort to convince the American people that expensive and unnecessary voter ID laws are necessary to prevent widespread voter fraud from corrupting our democracy. After appearing on CNN Saturday morning, von Spakovsky was hosted on C-SPAN Tuesday morning to debate the matter with Jon Greenbaum of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. His misrepresentations about the prevalence of voter fraud in America began almost immediately.
When pressed about the claim that there is very little evidence of voter fraud in America, von Spakovsky cited as the perfect example of why Mississippi and other states need to pass voter ID laws the case of U.S. v. Brown, a lawsuit prosecuted by the Justice Department against Ike Brown, the Democratic leader in Noxubee County, MS. But it's hard to see how the voter ID laws could have prevented Brown's crimes.
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, let's talk about Mississippi where they're voting today in a referendum about voter ID. Anyone who has any doubts about this can pull up a case called U.S. v. Brown, it's a lawsuit that was won under the Voting Rights Act in 2007 by the Justice Department, and the defendant in that case was convicted of all kinds of violations of the Voting Rights Act, discrimination, also he was engaging in voter fraud. And there was testimony in that case, cited in the court decision, by a former deputy sheriff, an African American, about how he witnessed the defendant in that case outside a polling place, telling a young black woman that she should go into the polling place and vote, that she could use any name, no one would question her about it. And how could she do that? Because Mississippi doesn't have a voter ID law.
One woman trying to vote under another name (and there's no evidence in the judgment against Brown that she either attempted this or was successful at it) is the least of their problems in Noxubee County. The complaint against Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee accused the parties of, among other things, recruiting unqualified African American candidates from outside the district to run against white candidates, excluding white people from participation in Democratic Executive Committee activities/decisions, manipulating voter rolls, prohibiting white people from voting, and rejecting valid absentee ballots.
The Mississippi law being supported by von Spakovsky would require voters at the polls to present a government issued photo ID before being permitted to vote. The former DOJ attorney suggests that a voter ID requirement would prevent Brown's crimes. But how? Brown was running the polling operations in the voting district - he seemed to have no trouble picking and choosing which laws to follow, so why would von Spakovsky expect him to honor the voter ID restrictions? In fact, it stretches the boundaries of reason to believe that any laws on the books would have prevented Brown from committing the crimes of which he was found guilty.
Based on the attention paid to the over-hyped threat of voter fraud in the 2012 election cycle, observers of Fox News, the right-wing blogosphere, and Republican state legislatures might believe that double-voting, fraudulent absentee ballots and undocumented aliens casting votes on Election Day is such a frequent phenomenon that the very foundation of our democracy is being pulled out from underneath us. As many states look to pass controversial voter ID laws that make it more difficult to vote, right-wing commentators like the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky and The American Spectator's John Fund are pushing the voter fraud agenda to the public. When questioned about the vote-suppressing effects of these laws and the absence of any evidence of widespread voter fraud in America, however, voter ID proponents slip on their dancing shoes.
Von Spakovsky, in a November 5 segment on CNN Saturday Morning, was pushed by host T.J. Holmes to explain the justification for these laws, given the lack of evidence that any widespread voter fraud exists. Spakovsky, who last month admitted that there is no massive voter fraud problem in America, dodges answering twice and argues that whether voter fraud is widespread or not isn't important.
HOLMES: What evidence do you have that that's happening on a widespread level?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, you don't need it on a widespread level. As the U.S. Supreme Court said when it upheld Indiana's voter ID law, that kind of fraud can make the difference in close elections. And you know, in Missouri, where Ms. Lieberman is from, we had an election just two years ago that was decided by one vote. And if I may say, what's said is Ms. Lieberman has been misled by her attorneys. She is exempt from the voter ID law that Missouri is going to have go in place if it is approved in a referendum. That law, which was passed a couple of years ago, specifically says anyone born before 1941, and that includes her, is exempt, as are people with physical and mental disabilities.
HOLMES: Well sir, a lot of people don't feel that way. And they feel like a lot of people just throw up their hands and say, 'ok, I can't deal with this and can't do this.' And you talked about the Supreme Court case with Indiana - yes, they ruled for Indiana, but also Indiana couldn't come up with a single case of voter fraud there, so I guess where do you see the voter fraud taking place that justifies states changing laws like this?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well look, I can't give you an inventory here today. I've written about a lot of case studies on various kinds of voter fraud.
John Fund, editor of The American Spectator, was questioned by Media Matters at the Americans for Prosperity's "Defending the American Dream Summit" in Washington, DC where he defended von Spakovsky and struggled to rationalize the voter suppression laws he supports.
MEDIA MATTERS: Hans von Spakovsky was quoted in The New York Times saying that there isn't massive fraud in American elections. Do you agree with him?
FUND: Well, depends on how you define "massive." In some places, it's enormous. In some places, it's not a problem. In some places, it's minor. So it depends. Is there massive fraud throughout all 50 states? No. Is there massive fraud in many states where the elections are close and can decide the presidency? The answer is yes.
MMFA: So you sort of agree with him, sort of don't?
FUND: Well, you know, I think - remember, I talked to him. He was quoted out of context. Now, he did say that, and I would agree with that, but I think the context is important.
While Fund claims that "enormous" fraud is taking place in some states, the record suggests. The Justice Department, for example, prosecuted only 17 individuals for casting fraudulent ballots from October 2002 through September 2005. During that period, DOJ charged a total of 95 individuals with "election fraud," convicting 55. Even Fox News, who has consistently over-hyped the menace of voter fraud, suffered a blow on the issue when America Live host Megyn Kelly was forced to admit that the problem of voter fraud is "not overwhelming."
Right-wing media, and Fox News in particular, love embellishing the terrifying specter of voter fraud as a way to support and justify restrictive voter identification and registration laws. It's hardly surprising -- the more restrictive the law, the fewer people vote; and when fewer people vote, more Republicans win elections. Unfortunately for the fear-mongers, study after study shows that cases of voter fraud are few and far between and fears of a massive-scale voter fraud effort are unfounded.
Surprisingly, Fox News' Megyn Kelly now agrees. In a segment on voter fraud on the November 4 edition of America Live, Kelly admitted that the problem is "not overwhelming."
KELLY: Well that's the classic debate. Because Democrats always say it's about disenfranchising, the Republicans always say it's about voter fraud. And you guys are never going to see eye to eye.
ALAN COLMES: We don't have enough cases of fraud to make this a real issue. It's an invented issue.
KELLY: Well, but there have been some instances, but you're right it's not overwhelming.
Kelly's reality-based opinion about the state of voter fraud in the country is entirely inconsistent with her network's feverish, obsessive coverage of the issue. Before practically every election, Fox breathlessly warns of potential fraud; every vote is constantly in peril of being stolen. The network has even gone so far as to establish a voter fraud hotline:
Why would Fox News devote such resources to a problem that is "not overwhelming"? Because Fox is a GOP mouthpiece and the party benefits from driving their voters into a frenzy about supposed fraud and passing laws to suppress the vote.
J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department Civil Rights Division attorney and New Black Panthers fabulist who has accused the Obama DOJ of setting policies based on race, has finally received his conservative wings. After months of sporadic contributions and a recent tediously-stubborn non-story about DOJ hiring practices, Pajamas Media (now PJMedia) has officially made Adams a regular columnist in the conservative blogosphere.
Adams completed his transformation from wannabe whistleblower to right-wing pontificator by using his first official PJM column to cry "Soros," utilizing the well-worn right-wing shtick of connecting every liberal group or activity they despise back to the alleged manipulations of billionaire philanthropist/super-villain George Soros, as if Soros' involvement was, ipso facto, evidence of the groups' sinister intentions.
In addition to invoking Soros, Adams used his first column to attack a number of voting rights groups, inflate the threat of voter fraud, and promote his new book. Adams writes:
Last month, a collection of groups funded by George Soros held a conference on election law and the upcoming 2012 election. PJ Media has obtained details of the event from an attendee. Our eyes and ears are extensive. [...]
These types of groups exist primarily to attack any effort to combat voter fraud or ensure the integrity of elections. As I write in my book Injustice, there is "an enormous and well-funded industry of voter fraud deniers that provides an intellectual smokescreen for this lawlessness."
Deven Andersen [conference speaker], obviously a top-shelf racialist, casts all Tea Partiers and election integrity proponents as racists: "The Tea Party is a reincarnation of the White Southern Democrats. They want to turn the clock back to 1866 and make blacks second rate citizens again," he told the crowd. "Conservatives don't like people of color. They are stuck in 1866." Specifically, the nut Andersen named the King Street Patriots, a voter integrity effort in Houston, Texas. [...]
While this meeting of nuts might sound fanciful to most Americans, it is indicative of the lengths the voter fraud deniers go to stoke up their base, and scare law enforcement officials from enforcing laws to ensure electoral integrity next year. But now, people are paying attention to their efforts to incite lawlessness.
While "efforts to incite lawlessness" seems a little over-the-top as far as rhetoric goes, what's more important are the factual inaccuracies of Adams' contentions. Adams describes the conference attendees' concerns about new voting laws as nutty, but the serious truth is that a wave of new state voting laws amending identification, proof of citizenship, and registration requirements could disenfranchise millions of legal voters, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice.
And while Adams bandies about the term "voter fraud deniers," the fact of the matter is that voter fraud is one of isolated anecdote, not widespread conspiracy-laden epidemic. A mere 17 people between 2002 and 2005 were convicted by the Justice Department of casting fraudulent ballots, according to a report by the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department. And the Brennan Center study notes that allegations of voter fraud "simply do not pan out." Even Adams compatriot Hans von Spakovsky has acknowledged that there is no "massive fraud in American elections."
Adams will be PJ Media's go-to voice on election law going into the 2012 presidential election year. If these kind of fear-mongering inaccuracies are going to be the bread and butter of Adams' work, then - as with the rest of the posts at PJ Media - let the reader beware.
In its latest assault on green technology loans that have been supported by the Obama administration, Fox News is now targeting a loan to the Michigan-based steel company Severstal North America. According to the company and the Department of Energy, respectively, the loan will allow Severstal North America to create hundreds of jobs and help cut thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
In their frenzy to take down Attorney General Eric Holder, right wing media pundits have started comparing the brewing Fast and Furious scandal, in which a failed ATF operation allowed guns to "walk" to Mexico in order to track their delivery into the hands of drug cartels, to Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.
Naturally, the conservatives making this comparison believe Fast and Furious is much worse than Reagan's scandal, in which the Republican hero trafficked arms into the hands of a tyrannical Iranian government, negotiated with Hezbollah terrorists and funneled money and military equipment into the hands of violent revolutionaries in America's own backyard.
Specifically, Fox News hosts are pushing the unlikely argument that Fast and Furious is worse than Iran-Contra because, as they put it, "nobody died" as a result of the latter scandal. The assertion -- that the Reagan administration's felonious dealings with terrorists and terror-sponsoring nations didn't lead to a single casualty -- is absurd to anyone with even the most elementary understanding of what Iran-Contra was or to anyone with access to the internet.
Attorney General Eric Holder hadn't even stepped away from the podium of his press conference about an alleged Iranian terror plot before right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, CNN contributor Dana Loesch, and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin began politicizing the announcement.
Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller took to the microphone this afternoon to deliver details about an alleged terror plot in which, according to a Justice Department press release, two individuals were "directed by elements of the Iranian government to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the United States with explosives while the Ambassador was in the United States." One of the plotters allegedly attempted to hire what he thought were members of a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the murder.
Limbaugh started smearing the event before the conference even began, telling his audience that Holder's announcement was "a great way to sidestep the fact that he's being delivered a subpoena on Fast and Furious," the failed ATF operation that is currently under DOJ and congressional investigation. Limbaugh added that the announcement was "all about" trying to give Holder "something to distract everybody away from Fast and Furious."
The press conference ended at 2:29 p.m. EST, but by 2:22 p.m., Loesch, too, was already politicizing Holder's comments on Twitter, trying to tie the alleged terrorists to Fast and Furious.
Sadly, this kind of rapid-reaction politicization of grave, apolitical events is well-worn territory for commenters on the right. Right-wing media rushed to attack the Obama administration in 2010 after an attempted New York City car bombing and reports of an attempted shoe bombing on a domestic flight over Denver. And in January 2010, Limbaugh said that President Obama wanted to use the devastating Haiti earthquake to boost credibility with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."
Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted the network's favorite disgruntled storyteller, J. Christian Adams, to complain about his former employer, the U.S. Department of Justice, and hawk his new book, "Injustice," which is out today. While on the curvy couch, interviewer Gretchen Carlson gave Adams the green light to talk at length about phony allegations that President Obama's DOJ dismissed their case against the New Black Panthers and enforces the law with an anti-white agenda.
It's no surprise that Adams' book tour would find a home on Fox News. After Adams pushed his claims in a two-part interview on Fox News' America Live last summer, Fox devoted hours of coverage to hyping the myths about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case.
Unsurprisingly, Adams' interview this morning did not delve into the results of the DOJ's extensive investigation into these allegations. In a March letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Robin Ashton of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility wrote that their investigation found that "department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct," and that there was "no evidence" that their decisions were improperly affected by political considerations or by the race of the defendants.
During their interview, Adams repeatedly pushed the falsehood that the DOJ dismissed the case against the New Black Panthers.
CARLSON: So let's go back to the Black Panther situation. You decide to come out and tell your side of the story, which was what?
ADAMS: Well, that they dismissed the case because there's a hostility to enforcing the law in a race neutral fashion. In the Black Panther case, the victims were white. The defendants were black and those were the sorts of things many people in the department don't want to enforce.
Adams failed to mention that it was the Bush DOJ who decided not to pursue criminal charges against the New Black Panther Party and that the Obama DOJ obtained a judgment against one of the defendants in the case.
In his forthcoming book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department, former Department Of Justice attorney and Republican activist J. Christian Adams desperately tries to maintain his credibility by doubling down on accusations of racially charged corruption in the Civil Rights Division. The book is filled with falsehoods, misrepresentations, and baseless allegations.
New Black Panthers Party fabulist J. Christian Adams is a long-time right-wing activist who began working for the U.S. Department of Justice during its notorious era of politicized hiring and now blogs for the right-wing media site Pajamas Media, often issuing false attacks on the Obama DOJ for its supposed politicization and "racial agenda." His forthcoming book, Injustice: Exposing The Racial Agenda Of The Obama Justice Department, promises to cover similar territory.