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GOP Fires Controversial Voter Suppression Operative, but Is He Still Playing Dirty Tricks In California? | The Nation

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Lee Fang

Lee Fang

Investigating the intersection of politics, lobbying and public policy at RepublicReport.org.

GOP Fires Controversial Voter Suppression Operative, but Is He Still Playing Dirty Tricks In California?

On Wednesday, I reported a story by connecting some of the dots between the growing voter registration form scandal in Florida to some great blogging by Greg Flynn of BlueNC.

It turns out we were right. Nathan Sproul, the infamous voter suppression operative from 2004, accused of running an operation in several states that destroyed voter registration forms signed by Democrats, had been secretly paid by Republicans this year on another multimillion-dollar contract for voter registration in swing states.

Sproul—who managed an $8 million voter outreach program for Republicans in 2004—is accused of having his workers destroy voter registration forms turned in by Democrats in Nevada and Oregon that year. Similar tactics were reported in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and West Virginia. They’re also accused of other hijinx, from gathering signatures to place Ralph Nader on the ballot to deceiving people in voter registration drives at Walmart. CBS News has reported on faxes they received showing Sproul’s firm misrepresenting themselves as the left-leaning America Votes! group.

He’s now in hot water because his firm was caught turning in faked voter registration forms in Palm Beach County and nine other counties in Florida.

Within a day of The Nation’s reporting the story, officials with the national Republican Party cut ties with Sproul, whose firm has already received $3.1 million for work in Virginia, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Colorado. Although the payments were made by state party committees, its now clear that the Romney campaign and the national GOP coordinated the effort.

But here’s confirmation of another wrinkle in the story—the Los Angeles Times reports that Republicans were so concerned with the many scandals surrounding Sproul and his previous work, they indeed asked him to set up a shell corporation to hide the payments. Here’s what Matea Gold and her colleagues reported today: “But his reputation is such that when Sproul was tapped by the RNC to do field work this year, officials requested that he set up a new firm to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations.” The shell is called “Strategic Allied Consulting,” but Sproul’s real firm carries the name “Sproul and Associates” and “Lincoln Strategy Group.”

It appears that the Republican Party of California might have its own deal with Sproul, and is also attempting to hide it from the public.

As I noted in an update to my post on Wednesday, the California Republican Party has made $430,840 in payments to “Grassroots Outreach, LLC” this cycle for voter registration and petition gathering.

Is this another Sproul shell group? And are they up to the same tactics as before? Lance Williams at California Watch reports that a recent complaint in Riverside County details a number of allegations that someone affiliated with the GOP is deceiving voters to re-register them as Republicans and offering free cigarettes for signatures. They’re reportedly targeting minorities:

One voter complained that his registration was changed to Republican after he signed what he thought was a petition to legalize marijuana. Another said he was told he was signing a petition to lower the price of gasoline, according to the affidavits.

Others said they were offered free cigarettes or a “job at the polls” if they signed some paperwork. Also among the Democrats who said they were involuntarily re-registered as Republicans: two aides to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Roth, a Democrat locked in a tight race with Republican Assemblyman Jeff Miller for a state Senate seat.

Many of the complainants were Latino or African American. [Emphasis added.]

According to this disclosure, Grassroots Outreach shares the same address as Sproul’s office in Tempe, Arizona. Craigslist job postings in California use identical language as Sproul’s shell company, Strategic Allied Consulting.

I’ve left another message with Sproul’s consulting firm in Tempe, Arizona, and will post an update.

UPDATE: A representative for Sproul writes in to clarify that his payments were for both signature gathering and voter registration. This post has been updated to reflect that. He also adds that Sproul is not active in Riverside County: "Mr. Sproul and [sic] has companies have not worked in Riverside County for sometimes, and certainly not this election cycle."

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