Sunday, January 27, 2013

GOP Vote-Rigging And The Big Coal Connection

(Today's post is guest-written by Steve, a rat who was partially eaten by Republican operative G. Gordon Liddy many years ago. He hobbled up from my crawlspace on his crutches with a message. I didn't argue.)

You thought I was dead, didn't you? Yeah, well... let's just say that Liddy isn't the toughest bastard who ever worked for Nixon. I'll settle things with him soon enough. But as you can probably guess I'm not a fan of the GOP. I came out of the shadows - literally, the shadows - to help you people see the bigger picture about their vote-rigging plan, and maybe stop it. As you remember, Sen. Charles Carrico sponsored a bill that would change how Virginia awarded its electoral votes - it would suppress the power of people in urban areas. The guy who writes this blog pointed out that it would have counted each Obama voter as 3/5 of a person, which sounds pretty ugly. Anyway, the bill's dying: Gov. McDonnell came out against it, because he's such a wonderful moderate, and other Republicans are scampering away like, well... I'm looking for a simile here. So it was just a fluke, right? Not on your life.

Here's what you need to know:

Carrico's top donor since 2009 has been Bob McDonnell's PAC, Opportunity Virginia. McDonnell can distance himself in public, but the money tells the real story.
Two more donors in Carrico's top five are major coal companies: Alpha Natural Resources and Consol Energy.
Consol Energy is also Opportunity Virginia PAC's top donor. It gave McDonnell's group $332,000 (and Alpha paid $50,000 to his 2010 inaugural committee).
Consol Energy is a link between Carrico and McDonnell, but it's also a link to the Pennsylvania vote-rigging scheme.

Gov. Tom Corbett backed a plan to change the electoral rules in Pennsylvania in 2011, remember? Consol donated more than $40,000 to Corbett, according to this site by Common Cause Pennsylvania. And the numbers get bigger and harder to trace.

"Corbett collected almost $1.3 million from donors with oil and gas interests, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics." This was reported in an eye-opening article by the Center for Public Integrity. The article says some of the money came directly. But the companies funneled much more into the Republican Governors Association, which was Corbett's top donor. Consol gave the RGA more than $338,000.

Consol has other connections to rightwing causes. Back in 2008, it allowed the NRA to use one of its mines to film an anti-Obama commercial, which caused a union uproar.

But the plot thickens. Mother Jones had an article in 2011 that talked about how a secretive nonprofit group called All Votes Matter was pushing the Pennsylvania vote-rigging plan. The article cited a newswire called Capitolwire that said they'd spent more than $77,000 to lobby on the issue. Mother Jones reported that All Votes Matter raised hundreds of thousands more, from undisclosed donors. But All Votes Matter is another connection back to Virginia. The lobbying firms on record for the group are all from Pennsylvania, but the preparer and contact person is Michael Bayes of Holtzman Vogel, a law firm in Virginia. Bayes is listed as a senior associate of the firm "with a primary focus on campaign finance and election law, lobbying and ethics compliance, and tax-exempt organizations." Naturally. But the managing partner of the firm, Jill Holtzman Vogel, sat on the subcommittee that hatched Carrico's bill. Vogel abstained from voting on it, and told a Washington Post reporter that the timing of the bill, just after Obama's victory, made "an awful impression." So, let's be fair. Of course, to be really fair, we'd have to point out that this article appeared recently, after the bill got a pile of bad publicity.

But this is continuing far beyond two states. The Atlantic reports that a DC strategist named Jordan Gehrke has teamed up with former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (yeah, him) to bring this plan across the country. Here's the important quote: "Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week."

Who are they talking to? Where are they getting the money?

I don't know yet, but I have a couple guesses. I'll scratch around and get back to you.

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