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Thursday, August 24, 2006

GOP Fraud Campaign for '06 Elections Underway

A dirty tricks campaign is playing out nationwide. The pro-gay marriage website, KnowThyNeighbor,org of Massachusetts tells us of a campaign of petition fraud aimed at getting a referendum banning gay marriage on the ballot.

The following scenarios have been reported:

Scenario 1 - Citizens were told they were signing [a petition to sell wine at grocery stores] when the anti-gay marriage petition was actually presented.

Scenario 2 - Citizens were first asked to sign the wine petition and then asked to sign again on a second page. The second page was actually the anti-gay marriage petition.

Scenario 3 - Citizens were told they were signing a petition to protect gay marriage when it was actually the anti-gay marriage petition.


According to the website, the firm Arno Political Consultants was hired by the anti-same sex marriage group, VoteOnMarriage.org. According to VOM's website, this campaign of fraud has been extremely successful:

[T]he campaign to allow voters to decide on the definition of marriage in Massachusetts -- collected a record-breaking 170,000 signatures, the greatest number ever in Massachusetts history. This remarkable and historic response clearly shouted, "Let the People Vote!" Our volunteer grassroots army includes more than 1,200 diverse houses of worship and thousands of volunteers in virtually every city and town in the Commonwealth.


Not surprisingly, the work of Arno Political Consultants isn't mentioned on the site. Reading it, you'd believe it was an all volunteer effort.

A local TV station did a piece on the fraud campaign. In it, one of the paid petitioners explains how easy it is to trick people into signing.



Arno has had a history of petition fraud. In fact, anyone researching the firm would be aware of it. It's difficult to believe that anyone hiring them wouldn't be expecting them to commit fraud. For example, in Florida, the firm was hired to register republican voters. The result was predictable, according to St. Petersburg Times:

As a first-time voter, Brittany Goodwin was excited when her voter registration card arrived in August.

Then her father told her that she had registered Republican.

""Nooooo," she groaned.

Goodwin, a University of South Florida freshman and Democrat, was among dozens of college students who say they were tricked into registering as Republicans at USF's Tampa campus.

It happened to hundreds of other students at college campuses in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Orlando.

[...]

Young Political Majors LLC, or YPM, [the company doing the registration drive] is a company registered by Mark Jacoby at a Town 'N Country residence.

[...]

Jacoby could not be reached for comment. His company worked for a company called JSM Inc., which in turn worked for Arno Political Consultants, a Sacramento, Calif., firm that qualified 300 ballot initiatives in 20 states.

The firm's largely conservative clients include the Bush/Quayle campaign, the National Rifle Association and RJ Reynolds. The company has also worked for Florida's class size amendment.

The Republican National Committee hired Arno for a voter registration drive, said Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a senior adviser to the Florida GOP. Campaign finance reports show the RNC paid Arno $450,000 in one reporting period in September.


Whether using Arno or other firms, petition fraud seems to be a largely republican phenomenon. Katherine Harris's fourth campaign manager, Bryan Rudnick, was accused of petition fraud in Massachusetts in '01. People signing another anti-gay marriage petition were told they were signing a petition to ban the slaughter of horses for food. 'Sign here (flip the page), and here', was the method.

Petition fraud is being investigated in Michigan and members of the Christian Coalition were arrested for fraud in connection to a petition opposing the expansion of gay rights in Florida.

To return to the video from Massachusetts, the petitioner says that Arno trained her to misrepresent the petition.

Heads up, people. Read what you sign. The right has no respect for democracy at all.

--Wisco


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