The accepted narrative of "The Great 2004 Republican Voting Fraud" Fraud runs something like this.
On the eve of the 2004 Election in Milwaukee, Republicans called for the purging of thousands of names from the voter rolls on the flimsiest of grounds. Republican howls grew louder after the election as they demanded a voter ID to prevent potential fraud. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on cases of human error and bureaucratic breakdowns that suggested our system was susceptible to abuse (though the never spelled out how such an organized conspiracy could take place). St. Steven Biskupic proceeded to investigate, and after nearly a year declared he found no evidence of a conspiracy to tilt the election -- as any child could have predicted. Republicans were mad, some complained to Karl Rove, which only caused the Journal Sentinel to exalt him more.
Well, now there's a new wrinkle to add to the story. Based on documents DoJ turned over to the Senate two weeks ago (and recently perused by the Brawler here), it's clear that the Republicans were urging St. Steven Biskupic to launch a voter registration fraud investigation more than a month before the election. Now, generally the feds don't do those sorts of things (unless you're a voter fraud freak in Missouri) because the public brouhaha -- over potentially groundless charges -- could affect the outcome of the election.
The Brawler doesn't hold the RPW in high regard, but he suspects they are smart enough to know that news stories saying "Biskupic investigating voter fraud accusations" would have helped them in the 2004 election.
And who was the point man on this effort? None other than State Representative Jeff "Stache" Stone. Stache asked, early and at least twice, what it would take for the feds to investigate voter fraud allegations. It's almost as if he were trying to game the system!
The Brawler has a few questions:
- Was Stache freelancing or was he acting on someone's direction? Who ultimately set in motion Stache's contacting Bisk?
- When was the decision made for the RPW to challenge the validity of Milwaukee's voter rolls and who made it? Was this PR stunt done in consultation with the national GOP or the White House?
- Given the wide variety of lame reasons state Republicans gave Bisk to investigate alleged voter fraud (Some of the documents (p. 38-42) include RNC chief Ed Gillespie asking Bisk to investigate a letter ostensibly from him urging a Fox River Valley guy to vote for Kerry. It was obviously a prank as it got Gillespie's name wrong.), Bisk clearly knew he was playing into the GOP's narrative by launching a massive voter fraud investigation. Did he take into consideration he was doing what the state GOP wanted?
Anyway, on to the documents.
From a letter Stone sent to Biskupic, dated September 29, 2004 (page 59 in the docs):
I am writing to you today looking for some assistance with concerns my constituents and I have regarding the potential for voter fraud here in Southeastern Wisconsin. The question that has arisen is when the line is crossed from being a local or State issue to being a Federal concern. (Brawler: Aren't the Republicans all about the primacy of local governments over federal? And how many "constituents" asked this legalistic question?)
With the potential for this fraud to affect a Federal election would this cross the line to allow the DOJ and your office to investigate the irregularities with the registration of voters?
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story detailing issues with a group named 'project vote.' I believe that some of the funds for this groups (sic) activities originate from out of state. Would this or the use of people not from Wisconsin make it an interstate issue (Brawler: Sweet Jesus, doesn't Stache Stone have staff who could figure this out instead of bothering a USA?).
What would need to occur for your office to take an active role in the investigation of the possible fraud? (Brawler's bold.)
"What would need to occur for your office to take an active role in the investigation of the possible fraud?" Again, Is it the Brawler or does it sound like the RPW, through Stone (a leading voice in the voter fraud conspiracy hysteria), wanted to know how to game the system?
Assistant US Attorney Richard Frohling responded to 'Stache Stone in an Oct. 1 letter (pp. 56-57). In it he said the office asked three main questions when "assessing whether a 'voting fraud' matter should be pursued federall.'" They were (and he expounded on each):
- "Is criminal prosecution appropriate?" (Noting: "A key factor is whether the conduct was part of an organized effort to corrupt the voting process. Organized efforts are far more likely to be pursued federally than isolated acts of individual wrong. ... Our office and the FBI will assess whether the complaints we have received regarding organized wrongdoing are sufficiently credible and specific to generate solid, investigative leads. ... it is often easier to follow-up on first-hand information than it is to assess referrals based on second-hand accounts or media reports.");
- "Is there federal jurisdiction?"
- "Is there a need to "federalize" the investigation or prosecution?" (Noting: "...federal agencies typically defer to state and local law enforcement in election matters" but there were four situations in which "such deference might not be appropriate" including "federal affect." "civil rights," "prosecutor of last resort," and "links to ther crime.")
The Stache from the south burbs responded on Oct. 11 (pp. 54-55). And whaddya know? He said "I believe there exists sufficient concerns to justify asking for assistance from the United Sates Attorneys Office and the DOJ. The integrity of our Presidential election is at risk if no further actions are taken."
My office is formally seeking consideration that the United States Attorney and the FBI investigate possible wrong doing in the registration of certain voters in Southeastern Wisconsin. We ask this with the hope that any activity worthy of prosecution be followed to the full extent of the law. The request for your offices is based on the following reasons:
1. Organized efforts being made.
There exist sufficient examples of groups from inside and outside the state of Wisconsin that are organizing voter registration efforts with questionable practices and result. Local news reports have shown multiple examples of questionable practices including but not limited to: forged signatures, fake addresses, payments for signatures returned and signatures collected by unauthorized agents. (Brawler: Note none of these are "first hand" or "specific.")
2. Violation of federal statutes (Stuff about signature bounties. Weak. -- Brawler.)
3. Need for federal involvement.
We feel justified asking for federal assistance with the voter registration issue.State or local authorities should properly handle some areas, however, there are certain areas that would be best handled by Federal authorities. With the involvement of groups from outside of Wisconsin, the ability of the DOJ to investigate ·and possibly prosecute is greater than that of the State. The ability for a local or state agency to link the activities of groups acting in multiple states is certainly less than the abiliry of the FBI. There seems to exist credible evidence that the same groups active in Wisconsin are involved in registration irregularities in other states. Additionally these groups have targeted only states with the presidential election being considered 'close'. Due to this fact, it is abundantly clear these groups are looking to affect a federal election. My office also has very real concerns that the information being collected could be used for the purpose of identity theft. This type of crime would be most easily investigated and prosecuted by a federal as opposed to a local authority.
My office would like to thank you in advance for any consideration of assistance with this matter. We feel that the credibility of the United States Attorneys office and that of the FBI would help to protect the integrity of the election process. A person considering fraudulent voting would have to think twice before acting knowing your office is working to protect the election process.
Stache forgot to add that a fed investigation into voter fraud before the election -- apart from being highly irregular for good reason -- also would have fed into the right wing spin machine, unusually strong in Milwaukee.
It's always been clear that the Repubs' accusations of a vast voting fraud conspiracy were hype. These documents make clear that the Repubs had been trying for months to get Bisk to launch a dubious investigation. Maybe the JS would think there's a story in here. Thing is, the only story they got out of this document dump was the fact that Bisk got solid performance ratings even though he was put on the firing list.
Again, the the RPW's shameful behavior during the 2004 Election is a story that will be told by someone, some time. It would be nice if the JS, which has reporters with decades of collective political reporting experience, would be the one to break that story.