Photo: Greg Palast with ECM editor Miriam Raftery
By Miriam Raftery
January 24, 2016 (San Diego) - “I want to report on the theft of the 2016 election before it happens,” famed investigative reporter Greg Palast said at a benefit event for KNSJ radio in La Jolla on January 10th. He then proceeded to detail the shocking findings of his latest investigation, which will be the subject of an upcoming film, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits.”
The heist involves a conspiracy in red states to toss out millions of minority voters by falsely claiming they voted twice. How? By eliminating voters with the same or similar names in different states – even if they have different middle names or different Social Security numbers, or tossing out their votes if cast. Voters are never informed that they’ve been disqualified, or given any chance to correct errors. The effort, according to Palast’s investigation, is funded by billionaire backers of the Republican party.
The scam targets African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and other likely Democratic voters with common names such as “Jose Rodriguez” and “Mohammed Mohammed” said Palast, who brought copies of purged voter lists he obtained. Despite accusations against millions Americans of alleged double voting, not a single one has been arrested or prosecuted, Palast says.
“I was just down in Selma,” he added, noting that the Supreme Court recently eliminated protections under the Voting Rights Act. “I went with a Senator from Alabama…They took him off the rolls. Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act, he can’t vote—again.” Alluding to the Jim Crow actions that barred blacks from voting in the past, Palast adds, “This is Dr. James Crow with spreadsheets….lynching by laptops.”
Palast has been unearthing vote-stealing scams since 2000 that the corporate-owned media in the U.S. refused to cover, so he broke those stories on the BBC (Britain’s mainstream network) and in the Guardian newspaper there.
“I’m often called a conspiracy nut--by the conspirators,” says Palast, adding wryly, “I used to be a conspiracy expert for the Justice Department.”
His efforts began with the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which hinged on the count in Florida. Where Bush’s brother, Jeb, was Governor. Palast suspected a computer program to eliminate black votes. He obtained proof of caging lists labeled “BLA” that removed 56,000 black voters in Florida – where Bush won by 537 votes.
Of those, 50,000 were listed as felons and thus banned from voting, but many were common names that were similar but far from identical. For example, Palast said, “James W. Brown lost his vote because John Brown committed a crime.” Working with the BBC, he proved that there was “not one” illegal voter on the entire list.
“That game hasn’t stopped,” Palast told KNSJ supporters.
In 2004, he obtained emails from Bush advisor Karl Rove indicating the caging was still going on, with some new twists. To disenfranchise voters, mailers with “do not forward” instructions were sent to black and Jewish students who were away from school over the summer, as well as to minority soldiers who were deployed. “We actually called. They were overseas,” Palast said of the soldiers. He called the practice “ballot box bingo” adding th
at soldiers who mailed in their votes didn’t know their votes were never counted. “Go to Iraq, lose your vote.”
In 2008, another scam involved not enough polling stations in black neighborhoods, Ohio law professor Robert Fitrakis revealed. Palast would later reveal similar tactics elsewhere.
There were other issues. Elderly nuns in Ohio, in their 80s and 90s, were denied the right to vote because their driver’s licenses were expired. In Indiana, 80,000 black people were barred from voting even though in the last century, not a single case of anyone actually using another ID to vote was ever documented. Palast went to the Supreme Court, but Justice Scalia insisted voters should simply get another ID if they can no longer drive.”That’s hard to get to the DMV if you can’t drive,” Palast observed.
He adds that that the GOP “creates hysteria of the illegal fraudulent voter that doesn’t exist, and they scream `Crime’” when in fact the real crime is the theft of minorities' votes.
In 2012, Ohio and North Carolina were big swing states and a massive drop in black voters occurred in North Carolina. Palast confronted an election official to demand how many alleged double voters had been arrested, but officials would not divulge a single name. “Ohio, same thing,” he said. “So I put my team on it.”
Palast’s team learned that 7 million people had been tagged as voting twice in Republican states that shared a software program aimed at finding similar names on the voting rolls. His researchers manager to get hold of 2 million of those names of disqualified voters and found “nothing matched” – names had different middle names and Social Security numbers.
“Over one million names were removed in 2016,” Palast warns. He faults NBC and the Washington Post for reporting that double voters are being removed by election officials, while ignoring or failing to investigate evidence of caging and the curious fact that “not one person has been arrested” for voting twice, according to Palast, though that would be a felony crime if true.
In 2012, Palast set out on the trail of Paul Singer, a billionaire who was the Republican Party’s top donor, dubbed “The Vulture” by Palast. “He feasts when things die.” Singer wanted to control the White House after the auto industry was bailed out, but laid off workers could still vote.
Palast said he chased Singer around the world, including to the Congo during a cholera epidemic when “down swoops the vulture and grabs up money that would have gone to cholera medicine.” Singer also secretly gained control of Delphi, a parts company supplying General Motors, fired the workers and moved the plant to China, said Palast, who pursued Singer and John Paulson, a partner who he contends made a fortune off crashing the U.S. mortgage market by “betting on the horse he shot.” At a posh dinner in the Hamptons with Paulson and billionaire conservative donor David Kochs, Palast boated out to the event and gained access by asking for an autograph. He cheekily suggested Paulson could let those laid-off Detroit auto parts workers stay at his mansion. Later Palast flew to Detroit, where he found the fired Delphi workers, many homeless over Thanksgiving, their former plant now just an empty field.
“We have apartheid in the U.S.,” Palast said, then described early voting in Ohio, where white people vote on Tuesday but 70% of blacks vote on Sunday, or “Souls to the Polls” day. There were 176 polling stations for white voters on Tuesday. But on Sunday, only one polling station was provided for 80,000 voters who stood in line for five hours.
“No one got out of the line,” said Palast. Yet even after five hours in line, black voters were given a paper that Palast held up. It’s not a ballot – but instead, an application for an absent voter’s ballot that voters had to fill out and hand back. The Republican Secretary of State had declared that no one voting early (all those black people) would be given a ballot. “I called Fitrakis. He said that’s illegal.” If the voter made even a small mistake, such as filling out a ballot without their m idle name when they registered with it, their vote could be disqualified. “We busted that,” said Palast who added that injunction was granted.
Palast can now be heard on the Democracy Now! show nationwide and locally on KNSJ 89.1 FM radio—the only station in San Diego that carries the program. He urged all Americans to listen and take action “if you want to protect your vote, if you want to protect your nation.” Holding up a donor card for KNSJ, he added, “This is your weapon of mass instruction.”
Greg Palast has been called the "most important investigative reporter of our time – up there with Woodward and Bernstein" (The Guardian). Palast has broken front-page stories for BBC Television Newsnight, The Guardian, Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone and Harper's Magazine. He is also the winner of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Award.
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse , The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.His books have been translated into two dozen languages. His brand new film of his documentary reports for BBC Newsnight and Democracy Now! is called Vultures and Vote Rustlers.
Palast is known for complex undercover investigations, spanning five continents, from the Arctic to the Amazon, from Caracas to California, using the skills he learned over two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud. His reporting has exposed scandals involving Enron, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, vote theft, and financial frauds on multiple continents. His writings have won him the Financial Times David Thomas Prize. He’s been called “an American hero” by Martin Luther King III.
You can read more about Palast, his books, films and latest investigations at www.GregPalast.com.