Who are the billionaire bandits responsible for turning democracy in the United States into a joke? In this new documentary, dogged sleuth Greg Palast investigates the GOP's vote-purging and other dirty tricks that helped put Donald Trump in the White House. Click here to order The Best Democracy Money Can Buy on DVD by making a donation to Truthout today!
From busted voting machines intentionally placed in precincts where people of color vote to fraudulent interstate purging of likely non-Republican voters through a process called "caging," Greg Palast has been sleuthing down the details of GOP voter suppression for more than 15 years. He's an investigative reporter who is not easily deterred, because it's often a lonely beat -- given that the mainstream corporate media is more interested in the final vote count, not who was intentionally not allowed to vote due to discrimination. Truthout recently interviewed Palast about this expanding scam that often has more impact on electoral outcomes than the actual vote tabulation margin of victory.
Mark Karlin: I've known you professionally since the theft of the election in 2000. You were the only journalist who nailed Katherine Harris (Jeb Bush's secretary of state in 2000, who oversaw voting in the state) when she used a voter-suppression "purge" list through a firm then called Choicepoint to prohibit people with names sounding like felons -- who happened to primarily be people of color -- from registering to vote. It was in the tens of thousands -- far, far more than enough people that if they hypothetically were to have voted would have made Al Gore the president. I asked you then, and I'll ask you now. Why were your findings -- and you have superb statistical proof -- not picked up by the mainstream corporate media?
Greg Palast: In 2000, while working in London for The Guardian and BBC Television, I discovered that GOP voting chief Katherine Harris and Governor Bush purged from the voter rolls 94,000 citizens whom they tagged as felons not allowed to vote. Every single one was innocent; their only crime: Voting While Black. Harris's and Bush's real crime stole the election for Jeb's brother Dubya. It's in my new film ... as an animated cartoon drawn by Keith Tucker (the guy who drew Who Framed Roger Rabbit).
I did get this story into the mainstream media -- the world's two most prestigious news outlets -- BBC and The Guardian. You ask me, Why the silence of the American media lambs? Where were my US colleagues? Many Black journalists ran the report (including Bob Herbert in his column in The New York Times). Whatever you think of mainstream corporate media reporters, their producers and editors are...
2. Lazy Bastards.
4. Toadies to the powerful.
Or all four or more.
Racist: The white press is, at a minimum, unconsciously racist; it knows their readers and viewers are more interested in Trump's tweets than voter purges of Black people.
Cheap Lazy Bastards: Investigative reporting can be really, really expensive, so in the US, I have to work with Rolling Stone, because Jann Wenner will spend a lot of money for the truth. And, in addition, I beg for money from readers who are as pissed off with the system as I am. It's simply too much work and time and expense and effort for the lazy bastards who rely on press conferences and he-said-she-said reports. The LA Times did cover the story, claiming "Democrats accused Republicans" of purging Black voters. It wasn't true: Democrats were silent -- and it wasn't an "accusation," it was the stone-cold truth. Oh, let me add another reason for not reporting the story: cowardice, endemic in US editors.
And US reporters toady to the powerful. Dan Rather wanted to run the story of the Bush faux felon purge. But his flunkies told me, that my story "didn't stand up." How did they conclude that? "We called Jeb Bush's office and he said it's not true." Well, that's enough, innit?
Also, statistical info, crucial to my stories, is hard to understand, and most US editors and producers are criminally inane.
Tales from the crypt of democracy. (Excerpt from Greg Palast's documentary: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.)
Now, it's 2016 and Trump transition insider and likely administration appointee Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach created Interstate Crosscheck that could have potentially kept more than a million people of color and other non-Republicans from voting in 29 states. Explain how this process of "purging" grew from helping George W. Bush steal the election to Kris Kobach's Godzilla version of "purging" in 2016 -- and once again, nary a word in the mainstream media, right?
Let's unpack this. Trump hit-man Kobach got just about all the GOP Secretaries of State (28 of them) to hand them their entire lists of voters. Kobach's Crosscheck computer program then tagged voters who voted in the same election in two states -- a federal crime that will put you in prison for five years. So how many suspects did he find? Ready? 7.2 million potential double voters.
He kept the lists hidden, "confidential." But that's what we do as investigative reporters: we uncover what they hide. Zach Roberts, a photojournalist on our team, got the first "confidential" list. Can't tell you how. Here's a sample, from the film: Billy Ray Jackson Sr. is supposed to be the same voter as Billy Manuel Jackson Jr.
Take one typical example from the list: Maria Hernandez. Maria Cristina Hernandez votes in one state, and Maria Isabel Hernandez in another. (Rosario Dawson plays the two Marias in the film.) They say it's the same voter. Both can lose their vote. About 1.1 million did. And that's how Trump won Michigan and Pennsylvania. Because, as I say in the film, "There aren't enough white guys to elect Donald Trump, so he has to eliminate the non-whites."
There are statistically an infinitesimal number of people who fraudulently vote, including almost nobody who votes twice in the same election. How do the Republicans get away with charges that they are trying to prevent massive voter fraud, when the real voter fraud is disenfranchising people? Do the Democrats bear some responsibility for, as Garrison Keillor wrote the other day, walking around in the woods and bumping into trees?
How do Republicans get away with it? They shout "Voter Fraud!" We have a section of my movie called, "The Hysteria Factory" where you go to a virtual drive-in theater to watch the scary Dead Voters and Alien Voters and other fraudsters in this GOP fantasy world. Where are the Democrats? They're learning how to purge voters from the Republicans. The mass rejection of nearly one million "provisional" ballots in the California primary gave that state to Hillary. Remember, Democrats invented Jim Crow.
Why is the provisional ballot such a farce?
I call them "placebo" ballots because they let you feel like you voted, but you didn't. Officially in the 2012 [election], 2.7 million provisional ballots were cast -- and a million thrown in the garbage (technically, "not tallied"). Usually, these placebo ballots are given to Black folk, but in California, in the June 2016 primary, one million independents were forced to cast their votes on provisional ballots, tons tossed in the electoral dumpster. Notably, three out of four independent voters preferred Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. So, Sanders voters got a taste of the punishment meted out to those "Voting While Black."
What are a few of the other ways besides "Crosscheck" and fake felon purges that you have documented as voter-suppression techniques in states run by Republicans? They seem to be inexhaustible.
The movie has a cartoon segment on "10 ways to spoil your vote." "Spoilage" is the technical term for votes cast but never actually counted. In the last official reckoning by the Election Assistance Commission, their data showed that 2,706,275 ballots were spoiled and never counted. One technique won Michigan for Trump (even if we ignore the Crosscheck voter purges). It's about filling in bubbles on ballots. See my Truthout article. It's also explained in my documentary.
Truthout Progressive Pick
The irrepressible Greg Palast investigates and exposes the vote-suppression methods employed by the GOP and its cronies.
What is the role of the Kochs and other billionaires and millionaires in financing voter suppression?
You want an answer in a paragraph? No way. The subtitle of the film (and allied book) is "A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits." I have this killer cartoon about the Kochs, including a tape by Billie Koch ratting out his brothers Charles and David for felony crimes, including illegal campaign contributions. (Koch called me a few times when I was a Guardian reporter in London, not realizing my tape recorder was on.)
And there are many other millionaires and billionaires. To name a few, I go undercover with my sidekick Leni Badpenny (yes, that's her name) to confront Trump's sugar daddy, JP the Foreclosure King. And I also jump "The Vulture," Paul Singer, top donor to the GOP and the puppeteer who moves the strings of that puppet pinhead, Paul Ryan.
So, if you want to meet the billionaires who now own your government, you'll have to see the movie -- which you can get, in a DVD, by making a ridiculously small tax-deductible contribution to Truthout. (Notice: I don't get a dime from these contributions.) I do get the satisfaction of knowing you'll keep open the one media eye that doesn't blink in the face of threatening power. Donate now.