Election 2004  
comments_image Comments

Republican Dirty Tricks

Republican operative Nathan Sproul's company is under investigation for allegedly destroying voter registration forms signed by Democrats. Now comes new evidence about Sproul's connections to the Bush-Cheney campaign.
 
 
Share
 

Just how close is dirty trickster Nathan Sproul to the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign?

AlterNet has learned that Sproul, the former Arizona Republican Party and Christian Coalition director, has cozy ties to a group of consultants working on the Bush/Cheney campaign. According to a Democratic source well-placed in Arizona political circles, Sproul's firm, Sproul and Associates, operates next door to the office of Gordon C. James Public Relations (GCJPR) in Phoenix, a Republican PR company which is coordinating various Bush/Cheney campaign events nationwide and has provided PR services for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Last spring, one of GCJPR's executives, who is an advisory board member of Bush's re-election campaign, served as the chair of a ballot campaign Sproul was quarterbacking, while, according to the source, Sproul collaborated with a GCJPR employee who is a White House consultant on a scheme to get independent candidate Ralph Nader on the Arizona ballot. In both instances, Sproul's company, Voter Outreach of America, was involved in gathering signatures.

In Nevada, Voter Outreach of America is accused by former employees of shredding the registration forms of thousands of Democrats; in West Virginia, Voter Outreach of America employees say they were instructed to mislead voters into registering Republican and voting for Bush; in Oregon, yet another swing state, the state attorney general has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that Sproul's firm, which is Voter Outreach of America's parent company, was involved in intentionally destroying or discarding voter registration forms signed by Democrats. According to OpenSecrets.org, Sproul's firm received $125,000 this year from the Republican National Committee for voter registration and another $500,000 for "political consulting."

The cozy ties between Sproul and Bush operatives should raise a serious question: Is Sproul simply an overzealous lone wolf, or are his activities part of a concerted effort by the Bush/Cheney campaign to subvert the democratic process?

Gordon C. James, the founder and director of GCJPR, is a longtime Bush apparatchik. According to his bio on GCJPR's website, James helped handle media relations for President George H.W. Bush as the White House "lead advance representative." During George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, James' firm handled PR and event management for Bush's Iowa Caucus campaign, all three debates against Al Gore, two campaign train trips and his election night festivities in Austin, Texas. Recently, GCJPR organized a Bush mega-rally in Phoenix and an appearance by Laura Bush at another campaign rally in Minneapolis. James also worked for five months as L. Paul Bremer's spinmeister in Baghdad.

James said all of his firm's activities on behalf of the Bush/Cheney campaign were performed "on a volunteer basis," though GCJPR has received funding this year from the Republican National Committee. And James maintained that though he knows Sproul, they don't work together. "Nathan works more on the political side," James stated. "We're a PR firm."

Sproul did not respond to requests for an interview.

James did not mention that one of GCJPR's executives, George W. Bush for President advisory board member Lisa James, served as chairwoman of an Arizona ballot initiative that Sproul spearheaded last spring called " No Taxpayer Money For Politicians." The ballot measure, which was soundly defeated, was a right-wing, corporate-funded effort to ban candidates for state office from receiving public money for their campaigns. Sproul's Voter Outreach of America spearheaded the measure's petition drive. In her capacity as chairwoman, Lisa James operated directly out of Sproul's office.

What's more, according to a well-placed source who spoke on condition of anonymity, a GCJPR employee, Meghan Rose, worked with Sproul on a clandestine campaign to get Nader on the Arizona ballot last spring. Last June, Derek Lee of Lee Petitions told me that while his company was handling various signature drives in Arizona, Sproul's Voter Outreach of America was paying petitioners to collect as many signatures as they could for Nader's ballot qualification campaign. Once rumors began emerging about covert Republican assistance to Nader, Sproul "put the hush-hush on it real quick," Lee said.

In order to cover his tracks, Sproul devised a clever scheme. According to the source, Sproul tasked GCJPR's Rose to drive the Nader petitions to a "low-end" motel in Scottsdale where Jenny Breslyn, the person officially contracted by the Nader campaign to oversee its signature drive, was staying. There, Breslyn and her employees mixed the petitions in with their own, in effect, brushing them clean of Sproul's fingerprints.

Rose has worked as a consultant for the Bush White House Easter Egg Roll, the State Department and the Republican National Committee. She is currently working out of James' RNC-funded shop and as a volunteer on Bush's re-election campaign. Confronted with the accusation that she served as the baglady for Sproul's Nader ballot scheme, Rose would not issue an outright denial.

"I do not work for Nathan Sproul," she stated repeatedly. "I don't even know how you got my name."

Asked again to confirm or deny the accusation, Rose became testy. "I didn't do anything. I've shaken Nathan Sproul's hand once," she said.

Reached by cellphone, Jenny Breslyn refused to speak directly to the accusation that Rose delivered Sproul's Nader petitions to her, referring the question to Sproul, who could not be reached. However, she did volunteer that in her dealings with Sproul, "I do know a Meghan."

Sproul's dirty tricks may have finally caught up with him, though far from his stomping grounds in Arizona. In Oregon, Sproul's firm is being investigated by the state attorney general and could face a class-C felony, punishable by five years in jail, for allegedly altering and destroying voter registration forms. And in Nevada, state election officials have just launched an investigation into whether Sproul's Voters Outreach of America destroyed the registration forms of exclusively Democratic voters.

On Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart, Ed Gillespie, demanding that the Republican National Committee detail its involvement with Sproul's alleged voter fraud. "We are deeply concerned these reports of Republican National Committee funded felonious activities in these states could serve to discourage all voters from voting because of concerns of problems with their ballot," McAuliffe wrote. "Regardless of party or candidate, it is the civic and moral duty of both parties to encourage complete and full participation in the democratic process."

Max Blumenthal is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. Read his blog at maxblumenthal.blogspot.com.