Friday, January 19, 2018
Opinion

Why did Republican Party hire voter registration firm with dubious ties?

They were right, I was wrong.

They knew better, I knew nothing.

When I recently criticized the state's Republican leaders for chasing nonexistent voter fraud, I should have bowed to their insider knowledge.

After all, they were the ones paying $1.33 million to a company that has apparently turned in phony voter registration forms across Florida.

And to think I doubted their sincerity.

In case you missed it, the Republican Party of Florida fired a vendor last week after it was discovered that potentially hundreds of incorrect registration forms had been submitted in at least 10 counties around the state.

To be fair, no one has accused the Republican Party of trying to tilt election results with these phantom voters. The suspicion is that workers for Strategic Allied Consulting were more interested in their employee evaluations than the presidential election.

"I am assuming these were turned in by an employee trying to justify his $12 an hour," said Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections who first alerted state officials to suspicious-looking applications.

The problem is being blamed on a handful of rogue Strategic employees, although that doesn't quite explain why such a large number of counties were involved.

Which brings us to the larger question:

Why was the Republican Party paying gobs of money to a startup company linked to a somewhat colorful history of voter fraud accusations?

Formed just a few months ago, Strategic Allied Consulting has already earned millions for voter registration drives around the country.

Nice work if you can get it, right?

Well, it turns out Strategic is the brainchild of famed Republican consultant Nathan Sproul. And Sproul explained to the Los Angeles Times last week that the RNC requested he create a new company because Republicans did not want the baggage of Sproul's previous voter registration companies.

Back in 2004, a Sproul company earned a reported $8 million for voter registration drives before George W. Bush's re-election.

The company was also accused of misleading potential voters and of destroying applications from Democrats in several states. During a congressional hearing years later, it was pointed out that not only did Bush's Department of Justice fail to thoroughly investigate those accusations, but that Sproul was a guest at the White House at Christmastime.

It's important to point out that Sproul has adamantly denied wrongdoing. But it's interesting to note that he happily acknowledges his companies are hired to attract Republican voters.

And that's perfectly legal. Democrats also cater their voter registration drives to their likely constituents. Or have you forgotten the ACORN scandal?

But here's the difference:

This is not simply an issue of partisan voter drives. Rather, it's the wisdom of Republicans hiring a firm with a checkered past and hiding behind a new name.

For a party that has passed laws making it more difficult to vote, that seems disingenuous. For a party that sued the federal government over access to potential voter rolls, that seems two-faced.

For a party that has been shouting about voter fraud, that seems hypocritical.

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