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Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: Karl Rove and the Republican Dark Art of Election Theft

An excerpt from Greg Palast's new book runs through the electoral dirty tricks we've endured at Rove's hands since the Bush years.

Photo Credit: by Ted Rall


The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast’s new book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, including a comic book by Ted Rall and an introduction by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (7 Stories Press, 2012).  

Congressman Tim Griffin is a big, BIG supporter of the XL Pipeline. And the Kochs are big, BIG supporters of Congressman Griffin. Koch interests lined up $167,183 for Griffin’s run in 2010. Let me put that in perspective: for $167,183, the average member of Congress would be willing to wash your car—with his tongue.

That kind of money doesn’t come into a GOP candidate’s hands without the helpful hand of Karl Rove.

If you remember, voting-rights attorney Kennedy said Griffin “should be in jail.” A federal prosecutor expressed the same sentiment to me. How Griffin ended up in Congress, not in prison, is the more intriguing story.

It was well after midnight, in the first week of October before the 2004 election, when the e-mails started pouring in.

The chieftains of the George W. Bush reelection campaign were copying me on their most intimate and confidential messages—and Ollie, my research director, pissed me off by waking me in my cheap motel room to tell me this whacky-ass news. I was in the middle of nowhere USA with my election investigation for BBC going nowhere, so I wasn’t in the mood for this bullshit.

But it wasn’t bullshit. It was a miracle. Karl Rove’s right-hand man, Tim Griffin, Bush’s research director (read, smear director), had sent the data for some sick scheme to the chairman of the Bush reelection campaign in Florida, Brett Doster. Griffin, instead of sending copies to  GeorgeWBush.com, their internal e-mail domain, sent copies to  GeorgeWBush.ORG, to my friend John Wooden’s joke site. Wooden passed them on to us for forensic analysis.

Here was the GOP leadership with their pants around their ankles, exposing their cheat sheets.

Holy Mama! Do I have to believe in God, now?

What we’d been handed proved to be an electronic back door into the darkest corners of a criminal vote-suppression machine.

By the morning, we had booked flights to Washington, DC, and Tallahassee, Florida, while Ms. Badpenny, in charge of our investigations, began the decoding work. We knew there was a scheme afoot, but what exactly was it?

Smoking-gun memos rarely read, “Louie, this is how we cheat the public,” or “Brett, here’s the plan to steal Florida.” If they do say that, they’re fake.

These e-mails’ clues were a bit tougher than most to crack. That pudgy little wad Griffin had written to Doster several e-mails with the cryptic subject line "Caging.xls," with Excel files attached, and terse messages like “Here’s another list.”

Each was a very selective list of voters, names and addresses. What struck me right off were names like Rodriguez, Washington and Goldberg—typically Hispanic, black and Jewish. Badpenny and the crew mapped the addresses, and sure enough, it was a perfect scattergram of poor, minority neighborhoods and townships with Gone With the Wind names like “Plantation, Florida.” There was also that list of Yiddish names from retirement homes: the GOP was certainly targeting the Elderly of Zion.

But for what?

At the Bush headquarters in Florida’s capital, campaign director Doster agreed to an interview. But when BBC required me to disclose we had his “caging” e-mails, Doster fled like a bunny into his Tallahassee offices and sent out his mouthpiece, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, clutching a supersized cup of Coca-Cola as big as a mortar shell. She brought a flunky to nod at whatever she said, and a sneering list of explanations, beginning with a corker: the “caging” lists, she said, were a compilation of Republican donors.