By Hannah Strange
from Times Online
October 22, 2008
John McCain paid $175,000 of campaign money to a Republican operative accused
of massive voter registration fraud in several states, it has emerged.
As the McCain camp attempts to tie Barack Obama to claims of registration
irregularities by the activist group ACORN, campaign finance records
detailing the payment to the firm of Nathan Sproul, investigated several
times for fraud, threatens to derail that argument.
The documents show that a joint committee of the McCain-Palin campaign, the
Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party, made the
payment to Lincoln Strategy, of which Mr Sproul is the managing partner, for
the purposes of “voter registration”.
Mr Sproul has been investigated on numerous occasions for preventing Democrats
from voting, destroying registration forms and leading efforts to get Ralph
Nader on ballots to leach the Democratic vote.
In October last year, the House Judiciary Committee wrote to the Attorney
General requesting answers regarding a number of allegations against Mr
Sproul’s firm, then known as Sproul and Associates. It referred to evidence
that ahead of the 2004 national elections, the firm trained staff only to
register Republican voters and destroyed any other registration cards,
citing affidavits from former staff members and investigations by television
One former worker testified that “fooling people was key to the job” and that
“canvassers were told to act as if they were non-partisan, to hide that they
were working for the RNC, especially if approached by the media,” according
to the committee’s letter. It also cited reports from public libraries
across the country that the firm had asked to set up voter registration
tables claiming it was working on behalf of the non-partisan group America
Votes, though in fact no such link existed.
Such activities "clearly suppress votes and violate the law”, wrote John
Conyers, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The letter suggested
that the Judiciary Department had failed to take sufficient action on the
allegations because of the politicisation of the department under the
then-attorney general, John Ashcroft.
The career of Mr Sproul, a former leader of the Arizona Republican Party, is
littered with accusations of foul play. In Minnesota in 2004, his firm was
accused of sacking workers who submitted Democratic registration forms,
while other canvassers were allegedly paid bonuses for registering Bush
voters. There were similar charges in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oregon
That year, Mr Sproul’s firm was paid $8,359,161 by the Republican Party,
according to a 2005 article in the Baltimore Chronicle, which claimed that
this was far more than what had been reported to the Federal Elections
Mr McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin have been linking allegations of
registration fraud by ACORN, the community group, to the Obama campaign.
ACORN has been accused of registering non-existent voters during its
nationwide drive, with reports of cartoon characters such as Donald Duck and
Mickey Mouse being signed up.
The organisation insisted that these are isolated incidents carried out by a
handful of workers who have since been dismissed.
However, the Republican nominee insists that the group is involved in
fraudulent activities, noting that Mr Obama, before leaving the legal
profession to enter politics, was once part of a team which defended the
organisation. At last week’s debate, he said that ACORN was “perpetrating
one of the greatest frauds in voter history”, a claim which the Obama
campaign says represents political smear.
The revelation of Mr Sproul’s involvement with the McCain campaign—he has
also donated $30,000 to the ticket and received at least another $37,000
directly from the RNC—could undermine his case.
"It should certainly take away from McCain's argument," Bob
Grossfeld, an Arizona political consultant who has watched Mr Sproul's
career closely, told the Huffington Post. "Without knowing
anything of what is going on with ACORN, there is a clear history with Mr
Sproul either going over the line or sure as hell kicking dirt on it, and
doing it for profit and usually fairly substantive profit."
In May this year, both ACORN and Mr Sproul were discussed at a hearing of the
House subcommittee on commercial and administrative law. One Republican
member, Congressman Chris Cannon, concluded: "The difference between
ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration
documents after they have been filled out."