The new video from James O’Keefe (see below) has gone viral in the last 72 hours. It was the first big “get” for Breitbart Texas, and for good reason: it shows an operative from the Obama-affiliated Battleground Texas PAC apparently violating Texas law on voter registration.
In the video, Jennifer Longoria instructs fellow registration-drive workers to record the phone numbers of newly registered voters in the database being maintained for Battleground Texas. Also described in the video: obtaining a complete list of registered voters from the Texas secretary of state, and entering their information in the database. The purpose of the database is for Battleground Texas (BGTX) to be able to call the voters before elections and get out the vote.
It’s illegal in Texas for an organization to save voter phone numbers for its own use. Officials in Bexar County, where Ms. Longoria was videorecorded seemingly breaking the law, have already referred the evidence to the district attorney and the state attorney general’s office for investigation.
There’s backstory on this – and it’s what matters. To begin with, Voting for America, another Obama-connected left-wing group, filed suit against the state over the voting law in question back in October. The second Breitbart link has the text of the complaint: it requested relief from several provisions of the law, including the stipulation that “volunteer deputy registrars” (VDRs) – the capacity in which groups like BGTX are acting – may not photocopy registrations, as part of the general prohibition on retaining protected information from them. (The information in the voter rolls that is not protected under Texas law is the voter’s name and address.) The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held for Texas in the most recent ruling. But BGTX is simply ignoring the law.
That’s a measure of BGTX’s determination. But it’s not a surprise. Battleground Texas was launched in January 2013 by some of the big players in Obama’s 2012 campaign, principally Jeremy Bird, who founded the political consulting group 270 Strategies in the aftermath of the 2012 season, and Jenn Brown, who was the field director in Ohio for Obama for America in 2012. The PAC’s objective: to “turn Texas blue.”
The Ohio saga
Presumably, BGTX’s modus operandi will be like that adopted by the Obama-connected organizations in Ohio prior to the 2012 election. The methods are identical: challenging the voting laws, pushing the, er, envelope on legality, and aggressively building the voter rolls – through VDRs. And the methods’ first principle is blanketing the state with operatives pushing to elect hard-left Democrats.
The official outcome in Ohio in 2012 was a very narrow victory for Obama: by 166,214 votes out of 5,489,028 cast. The investigations and convictions for voting fraud after the 2012 election dragged on through the middle of 2103 – and were probably only the tip of the iceberg. As Bryan Preston pointed out at PJ Media in 2013, it was known in September 2012 that the Ohio voter rolls were suspiciously bloated.
But the scope of the activists’ approach can only be appreciated from the more comprehensive perspective of time. It actually took a number of years to get Ohio to the condition of 2012, with those bloated voter rolls and open-season early voting opportunities, which are so hard to keep fraud out of. It took years, intensive off-year organizing, and a particular Ohio secretary of state: Jennifer Brunner, who was elected to that office in 2006 with backing from the “Secretary of State Project,” a Soros-funded effort to elect Democrats as secretaries of state in key swing states.
(Note: although the Secretary of State Project appears defunct, as a Soros-backed 527 organization, Jeremy Bird has launched his own effort in 2014 to elect fraud-friendly secretaries in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada – and Ohio, where Brunner left office in 2011, and where the tide is now turning against fraud-friendly voting practices.)
- She ruled that Ohio residents should be permitted, during the designated early-voting period extending from late September to early October, to register and vote on the very same day.
- In a separate matter, Brunner sought to effectively invalidate many of the approximately one million absentee-ballot applications that Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign had issued. Each of those forms had been printed with a checkbox next to a statement affirming that the voter was a qualified elector; Brunner maintained that if an applicant failed to check the box—even if he or she signed the form—the application could be rejected. But Republicans noted that state law did not require the box to be checked as long as the voter signed the ballot. The Ohio Supreme Court subsequently overturned Brunner’s directive on grounds that it served “no vital purpose or public interest.”
- In October 2008, Brunner refused to comply with county election-board requests that she turn over approximately 200,000 voter-registration forms in which the name did not match the driver’s license or Social Security number.
Soren Dayton, writing at PJ Media in 2008, adds this (emphasis added):
The second thing [Brunner] did was to issue an advisory opinion advising county election officials that Ohio law does not require that partisan election observers be allowed to observe registration and voting. This is contrary to the practice on election day and a reversal of the 2006 precedent. Two of the largest counties, Montgomery (containing Dayton) and Franklin (containing Columbus), did not allow Republican election observers to enter the polling place.
Among other allegations of Ohio voting fraud in 2008, Wikileaks turned up a McCain campaign email in which documented observations of ballot-stuffing were discussed. McCain himself, recalling the painful interlude after the disputed election in 2000, decided not to pursue the issue. (A side note that would bear investigating, in any ethically honest approach to this matter, is that by 2009, and possibly before, Brunner’s son Jonathon Brunner was an employee of the Franklin County Clerk of Court.)
Brunner’s term as secretary of state – which saw other prejudicial actions against Republicans – continued through early 2011. That was long enough to cultivate the unhealthy bloat in voter registration rolls that preceded the 2012 election.
Trying to true the vote
It is extremely interesting, in light of Ohio’s clear importance as a swing state and battleground for guerrilla vote tactics by the Democrats, that the evidence of IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, starting in 2010, was focused initially in Ohio. The 2010 election, of course, was a key test for the Tea Parties around America, as well as in Ohio.
Houston-based True the Vote was launched in 2010, and became an early and repeated target of IRS bias against Tea Party-linked organizations. In 2011, True the Vote incorporated an Ohio branch, the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, to monitor elections in the state. OVIP’s IRS recognition as a 501(c)(4) is still pending.
OVIP labored in 2012 to set up poll watchers around the state. In a two-fer perfectly emblematic of the activist-left’s operating profile, Obama supporters simultaneously got OVIP monitors excluded from polling places in heavily populated Franklin County (where Columbus is), and presented that to the media – falsely – as evidence that OVIP itself had committed fraud.
In fact, two local candidates who had agreed to sponsor OVIP as poll-watchers withdrew their sponsorship under the threat of lawsuit. This lawsuit tactic would have been launched by activist groups against the candidates and/or their political party backers, who could hardly afford to defend suits in court.
True the Vote had itself been the target of lawsuits in Texas, shortly after it formed in 2010, by the Texas Democratic Party and an ACORN front group called Houston Votes. (Not coincidentally, the founder of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, had been instrumental in 2008 in discovering thousands of fraudulent voter registrations filed by Houston Votes.) As the Breitbart link suggests, this lawsuit campaign was launched in conjunction with the lengthy campaign of harassment waged against Ms. Engelbrecht and her husband’s business by the IRS and other agencies of the federal government (see the NRO link above, and here).
The likelihood is high that the pressure put on OVIP’s candidate-sponsors in Franklin County, Ohio came from similar sources. This is what happens when Obama-connected activists decide to target a state and “turn it blue.”
Texas is in for a siege, and clearly , 270 Strategies and BGTX plan to pull out all the stops. As of this writing, Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has sent a letter to the secretary of state, urging her to refer the allegations against BGTX to the attorney general immediately. This is the right thing to do. The Texas authorities can’t let BGTX or anyone connected with it get away with breaking the law.
Ken Klukowski, also at Breitbart Texas, mulls the point that Greg Abbott, the attorney general, is Wendy Davis’s opponent in the gubernatorial campaign. Davis supporters, including BGTX, could allege that he is acting out of bias in going after the BGTX operatives. But Klukowski gets it right too, quoting former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell:
Texans elected General Abbott to investigate law-breaking, and it looks like the law was broken here. Only a partisan hack would criticize Abbott for doing the job he’s already been elected to do.
Rethinking Texas strategy
We can trust BGTX and its associates to accuse Abbott, and by implication all Texas Republicans, of trying to suppress the “minority vote.” That’s the tack they’ll take. Everything they say will be couched in those terms, and the mainstream media, at the state and national level, will obediently repeat this activist narrative. That’s what they did to Ohio from 2008 to 2012.
From a larger perspective, however, it’s important for Texans to recognize that this is a guerrilla war for Texas that will not be won with passive, defensive measures. Consider, for example, the difficulty of making it mean anything to investigate or even prosecute BGTX for illegally putting voters’ phone numbers in its database. That kind of misconduct simply won’t prompt the only “punishment” that would be meaningful to BGTX: that is, invalidating the actual voter registrations, so that BGTX’s carefully-tended voter clientele can’t vote. That’s the only measure that would deny BGTX its prize – and it would clearly be unjust to the voters. They’re not at fault for BGTX’s misconduct.
Texas could prohibit BGTX from operating in the state. But Texas can hardly seize all the data collected by BGTX and prevent 270 Strategies from making it available to someone else, who could incorporate the next day to continue the fight. It’s a good bet BGTX – or any successor – will just keep doing what it’s doing, knowing that nothing the state authorities can do will ultimately prevent the organization from obtaining what it wants: a database full of BGTX-assisted voters and their phone numbers.
This low-level form of civil disobedience will probably even be compared to things like the refusal of gun owners in Connecticut to register their weapons as required by the new state law. It’s a melancholy reflection on man and the state in 21st century America, but set that aside for a moment, because it has implications for the immediate problem too. There’s an important sense in which this fight can’t be waged to victory through the vehicle of law enforcement.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be won. What it means is that Texans have to do more than play defense against hydra-headed guerrilla tactics. The most important thing Texans can do is decide what they want, and then go on the offensive to get it. A winning strategy is never defined for you by the opponent’s maneuvers. It’s defined by what your own ultimate goals are.
What do Texans want? I imagine they want a clean vote in 2014, to start with. My recommendation to Texans is this: get smart yourselves on how voting works, and have your own vision for managing a clean vote. BGTX and its cohort are already envisioning the vote they want. Their vision isn’t a fair one for everyone. But Texans don’t have to wait uneasily for BGTX to start pushing for things. Get out in front of them: envision the fair vote yourselves, and start the ball rolling for it now, in your precincts and counties, and at the secretary of state level.
Make sure there are poll-watchers to satisfy the major stakeholders, and don’t take no for an answer. No passivity: no local officials getting off the hook with silent denials or vague promises. Go over their heads. Make them sweat. Make state authorities explain why your proposal is unnecessary, and then tell them they’re wrong. BGTX will declare that your proposal is discriminatory and unfair; they’ll be wrong too. Don’t back down. Get your way, and for the 20% you don’t get, be ready to sue, and wait out the consequences, if your worst predictions are right.
Make it cost BGTX to gain every inch. Make them sue you, or the public office, if they want to overturn the arrangement. Be there before BGTX is, with local officials persuaded and your plan in place. And have a network in place to act on irregularities at any polling station, as soon as they are reported. This can’t be delegated to True the Vote, although True the Vote can assuredly provide organizational expertise. It has to be a fully-court press.
An enterprise like this will require a “truth hotline,” of course, because the BGTX side will engage in lies, slander, libel, and whatever else it has to, to put the fair-vote effort in a bad light. The mainstream media will play along. Breitbart Texas is an obvious vehicle for getting the truth out. The Blaze would be another one. I suspect there will have to be a lot of word-of-mouth between friends and acquaintances too. This one can’t be won on a business-as-usual basis.
That’s a sample first-order vision. How close Texans could get to it in the next 9 months is another question, of course. And it’s not the only thing Texas, or America, needs.
But of this we can be sure: nothing short of having our own strategic vision, and taking it to the house, will be sufficient to defeat the vision or tactics of the activist left. They’re waging a concerted campaign, against a status quo whose defense we have long delegated to institutions we pay little attention to. Either we decide what we’re going to defend, and go out and man the ramparts, or there will be no effective defense.
The good news is that the flip side of this could be a signal defeat for radical-left activism. It’s quite possible for Texas to be “hardened” against their tactics to the extent that they have to drop their effort. Ohio wasn’t prepared for the onslaught, but with Ohio’s history in mind, Texas could be. This one isn’t up to the elected officials, however. They can’t just wave the magic wand of law and knock the challenge back. Nor is it enough to send PACs off over the hill to get the job done. This one’s on the doorstep of every Texan who wants a fair vote, and won’t accept anything else.
Keep us out here in non-Texas America updated. And tell us where to send donations.
J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,” Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.
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