From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Network Hosting Attorney Scandal E-Mails Also Hosted Ohio’s 2004 Election Results


Low-key office launches high-profile inquiry

The Office of Special Counsel will investigate U.S. attorney firings
and other political activities led by Karl Rove.

By Tom Hamburger, Times Staff Writer / April 24, 2007

WASHINGTON – Most of the time, an obscure federal investigative unit
known as the Office of Special Counsel confines itself to monitoring
the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping
in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such
offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in
prohibited political activities.

But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the
most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington,
launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House
political operations that for more than six years have been headed by
chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one
U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to
keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political
priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White

First, the inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from
Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the splintered inquiries being
pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation
covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a
leading part.

“We will take the evidence where it leads us,” Scott J. Bloch, head of
the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an
interview Monday. “We will not leave any stone unturned.”

Bloch declined to comment on who his investigators would interview,
but he said the probe would be independent and uncoordinated with any
other agency or government entity.

The decision by Bloch’s office is the latest evidence that Rove’s
once- vaunted operations inside the government, which helped the GOP
hold the White House and Congress for six years, now threaten to mire
the administration in investigations.

The question of improper political influence over government decision-
making is at the heart of the controversy over the firing of U.S.
attorneys and the ongoing congressional investigation of the special
e- mail system installed in the White House and other government
offices by the Republican National Committee.

All administrations are political, but this White House has
systematically brought electoral concerns to Cabinet agencies in a way
unseen previously.

For example, Rove and his top aides met each year with presidential
appointees throughout the government, using PowerPoint presentations
to review polling data and describe high-priority congressional and
other campaigns around the country.

Some officials have said they understood that they were expected to
seek opportunities to help Republicans in these races, through federal
grants, policy decisions or in other ways.

A former Interior Department official, Wayne R. Smith, who sat through
briefings from Rove and his then-deputy Ken Mehlman, said that during
President Bush’s first term, he and other appointees were frequently
briefed on political priorities.

“We were constantly being reminded about how our decisions could
affect electoral results,” Smith said.

“This is a big deal,” Paul C. Light, a New York University expert on
the executive branch, said of Bloch’s plan. “It is a significant
moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing
sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what’s
going on in these disparate investigations.”

The 106-person Office of Special Counsel has never conducted such a
broad and high-profile inquiry in its history. One of its primary
missions has been to enforce the Hatch Act, a law enacted in 1939 to
preserve the integrity of the civil service.

Bloch said the new investigation grew from two narrower inquiries his
staff had begun in recent weeks.

One involved the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David C.

The other centered on a PowerPoint presentation that a Rove aide, J.
Scott Jennings, made at the General Services Administration this year.

That presentation listed recent polls and the outlook for battleground
House and Senate races in 2008. After the presentation, GSA
Administrator Lorita Doan encouraged agency managers to “support our
candidates,” according to half a dozen witnesses. Doan said she could
not recall making such comments.

The Los Angeles Times has learned that similar presentations were made
by other White House staff members, including Rove, to other Cabinet
agencies. During such presentations, employees said they got a not-so-
subtle message about helping endangered Republicans.

White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel said the Hatch Act did not
prohibit providing informational briefings to government employees.

Responding to a letter of complaint to the White House from 25
Democratic senators, Stanzel said: “It is entirely appropriate for the
president’s staff to provide informational briefings to appointees
throughout the federal government about the political landscape in
which they implement the president’s policies and priorities.”

However, questions have emerged about the PowerPoint presentations,
including whether Doan’s comments crossed the line and whether the
presentations violated rules limiting political activity on federal

Whether legal or not, the multiple presentations revealed how widely
and systematically the White House sought to deliver its list of
electoral priorities.

In the course of investigating the U.S. attorney matter and the
PowerPoint presentations, Democratic congressional investigators
discovered e-mails written by White House personnel using accounts
maintained by the Republican National Committee.

For example, they discovered that Jennings, a special assistant to the
president and deputy director of political affairs in the White House,
was using an e-mail with the domain name of “gwb43.com” that the RNC

That domain name showed up in e-mail communications from Jennings
about how to replace U.S. Atty. H.E. “Bud” Cummins III of Arkansas to
make room for Timothy Griffin, a Rove protege, in such a way as to
“alleviate pressure/implication that Tim forced Bud out.”

Another Jennings e-mail using the RNC account requested that
department officials meet with a former New Mexico campaign advisor
who wanted to “discuss the U.S. Atty situation there.”

The growing controversy inspired him to act, Bloch said.

“We are acting with dispatch and trying to deal with this because
people are concerned about it … and it is not a subject that should
be left to endless speculation,” he said.


tom [dot] hamburger [at] latimes [dot] com



Network Hosting Attorney Scandal E-Mails Also Hosted Ohio’s 2004
Election Results

By Steven Rosenfeld and Bob Fitrakis / Free Press /  April 23, 2007

Did the most powerful Republicans in America have the computer
capacity, software skills and electronic infrastructure in place on
Election Night 2004 to tamper with the Ohio results to ensure George
W. Bush’s re-election?

The answer appears to be yes. There is more than ample documentation
to show that on Election Night 2004, Ohio’s “official” Secretary of
State website — which gave the world the presidential election
results — was redirected from an Ohio government server to a group of
servers that contain scores of Republican web sites, including the
secret White House e-mail accounts that have emerged in the scandal
surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s firing of eight
federal prosecutors.

Recent revelations have documented that the Republican National
Committee (RNC) ran a secret White House e-mail system for Karl Rove
and dozens of White House staffers. This high-tech system used to
count and report the 2004 presidential vote- from server-hosting
contracts, to software-writing services, to remote-access capability,
to the actual server usage logs themselves — must be added to the
growing congressional investigations.

Numerous tech-savvy bloggers, starting with the online investigative
consortium epluribusmedia.org and their November 2006 article cross-
posted by contributor luaptifer to Dailykos, and Joseph Cannon’s blog
at Cannonfire.blogspot.com, outed the RNC tech network. That web-
hosting firm is SMARTech Corp. of Chattanooga, TN, operating out of
the basement in the old Pioneer Bank building. The firm hosts scores
of Republican websites, including georgewbush.com, gop.com and

The software created for the Ohio secretary of state’s Election Night
2004 website was created by GovTech Solutions, a firm co-founded by
longtime GOP computing guru Mike Connell. He also redesigned the Bush
campaign’s website in 2000 and told “Inside Business” magazine in
1999, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Bush campaign and
the Bush family because the Bushes truly are about family and I’m
loyal to my network.”

Ohio’s Cedarville University, a Christian school with 3,100 students,
issued a press release on January 13, 2005 describing how faculty
member Dr. Alan Dillman’s computing company Government Consulting
Resources, Ltd, worked with these Republican-connected companies to
tally the vote on Election Night 2004.

“Dillman personally led the effort from the GCR side, teaming with key
members of Blackwell’s staff,” the release said. “GCR teamed with
several other firms — including key players such as GovTech
Solutions, which performed the software development — to deliver the
end result. SMARTech provided the backup and additional system
capacity, and Mercury Interactive performed the stress testing.”

On Election Night 2004, the Republican Party not only controlled the
vote-counting process in Ohio, the final presidential swing state,
through a secretary of state who was a co-chair of the Bush campaign,
but it also controlled the technology that allowed the tally of the
vote in Ohio’s 88 counties to be reported to the media and voters.

Privatizing elections and allowing known partisans to run a key
presidential vote count is troubling enough. But the reason Congress
must investigate these high-tech ties is there is abundant evidence
that Republicans could have used this computing network to delay
announcing the winner of Ohio’s 2004 election while tinkering with the

Did Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell or other
GOP operatives inflate the president’s vote totals to secure George W.
Bush’s margin of victory? On Election Night 2004, many of the totals
reported by the Secretary of State were based on local precinct
results that were impossible. In Clyde, Ohio, a Republican haven, Bush
won big after 131 percent voter turnout. In Republican Perry County,
two precincts came in at 124 percent and 120 percent respectively. In
Gahanna Ward 1, precinct B, Bush received 4,258 votes despite the fact
that only 638 people voted for president. In Concord Southwest in
Miami County, the certified election results proudly proclaimed at 679
out of 689 registered voters cast ballots, a 98.55 percent turnout.
FreePress.org later found that only 547 voters had signed in.

These strange election results were routed by county election
officials through Ohio’s Secretary of State’s office, through partisan
IT providers and software, and the final results were hosted out of a
computer based in Tennessee announcing the winner. The Cedarville
University releases boasted the system “was running like a champ.” It
said, “The system kept running through the early morning hours as
users from around the world looked to Ohio for their election

All the facts are not in, but enough is known to warrant a serious
congressional inquiry. Beginning with a timeline on Election Night
after a national media consortium exit poll predicted Democrat John
Kerry would win Ohio, the first Ohio returns were from the state’s
Democratic urban strongholds, showing Kerry in the lead.

This was the case until shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 3,
when for roughly 90 minutes the Ohio election results reported on the
Secretary of State’s website were frozen. Shortly before 2am EST
election returns came in from a handful of the state’s rural
Republican enclaves, bumping Bush’s numbers over the top.

It was known Bush would carry rural Ohio. But the vote totals from
these last-to-report counties, where Karl Rove said there was an
unprecedented late-hour evangelical vote giving the White House a
moral mandate, were highly improbable and suggested vote count fraud
to pad Bush’s numbers. Just how flimsy the reported GOP totals were
was not known on Election Night and has not been examined by the
national media. But an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee
Democratic staff begun after Election Day 2004 and completed before
the Electoral College met on Jan. 6, 2005, was first to publicly point
to vote count fraud in rural Ohio.

That report, “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio,” cited
near-impossible vote totals, including 19,000 votes that were
mysteriously added at the close of tallying the vote in Miami County.
The report cited more than 3,000 apparently fraudulent voter
registrations — all dating back to the same day in 1977 in Perry
County. The report noted a homeland security emergency was declared in
Warren County, prompting its ballots to be taken to a police-guarded
unauthorized warehouse and counted away from public scrutiny, despite
local media protests.

In our book, “What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and
Fraud in the 2004 Election” (The New Press, 2006), we go beyond the
House Judiciary Democratic report to analyze precinct-by-precinct
returns and we print copies of the documents upon which we base our
findings. We found many vote-count irregularities based on examining
the certified results, precinct-level records and the actual ballots.

The most eyebrow-raising example to emerge from parsing precinct
results was finding 10,500 people in three Ohio’s ‘Bible Belt’
counties who voted to re-elect Bush and voted in favor of gay
marriage, if the official results are true. That was in Warren, Butler
and Clermont Counties. The most plausible explanation for this
anomaly, which defies logic and was not seen anywhere else in the
country, was Kerry votes were flipped to Bush while the rest of the
ballot was left alone. While we have some theories about how that
might have been done by hand in a police-guarded warehouse, could full
Republican control of the vote-counting software and servers also have
played a role?

The early returns on the Secretary of State’s website suggest
Blackwell’s vote-tallying and reporting system could manipulate large
blocks of votes. Screenshots taken during the early returns in
Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, gave Green Party
presidential candidate David Cobb 39,541 votes, which was clearly
incorrect. Similarly, early return screenshots in Lucas County, where
Toledo is located, gave Cobb 4,685 votes, another clear error. (The
screenshots are in our book). Were these innocent computer glitches or
was a GOP vote-counting and reporting system moving and dumping Kerry

There’s more evidence the late returns from Ohio’s Republican-majority
countryside were not accurate. During the spring and summer of 2006,
several teams of investigators associated with Freepress.org, notably
one team led by Ron Baiman, a Ph.D. statistician and researcher at
Chicago’s Loyola University, examined the actual election records from
precincts in Miami and Clermont Counties. These records — from poll
books where voters sign in, to examining the actual ballots themselves
— were not publicly accessible until last year, under orders from
Ohio’s former Republican Secretary of State. Baiman compared the
number of voters who signed in with the total number of votes
attributed to precincts. He found hundreds of “phantom” votes, where
the number of voter signatures was less than the reported vote total.
That discrepancy also suggests vote count fraud.

There was other evidence in the observable paper trail of padding the
vote, including instances in Delaware County where in one precinct,
359 of the final punch-card ballots cast on Election Day contained no
Kerry votes, which means the day’s last voters all were Bush
supporters, which also is improbable. In another Delaware County
precinct, Bush allegedly received the last 210 votes of the day. Were
partisan local election workers trying to mask what was happening
electronically to tilt the vote count?

Ohio’s 2004 ballots were to be destroyed last September. However that
fate was blocked by a federal judge, who ruled in the early phase of
trying a Voting Rights Act lawsuit that accused Ohio officials of
suppressing the minority vote in Ohio’s cities. The state’s new
Secretary of State and Attorney General, both Democrats, are now
holding settlement talks for that suit, suggesting its claims have
merit. However, unlike Florida after the 2000 election, there still
has yet to be a full accounting of Ohio’s presidential vote.

What’s clear, however, is the highest ranks of the Republican Party’s
political wing, including White House counselor Karl Rove, a handful
of the party’s most tech-savvy computer gurus and the former
Republican Ohio Secretary of State, created, owned and operated the
vote-counting system that reported George W. Bush’s re-election to the
presidency. Moreover, it appears the votes that gave Bush his 118,775-
vote margin of victory — the boost from Ohio’s countryside — have
yet to be confirmed as accurate. Instead, the reporting to date
suggests that what happened on the ground and across Ohio’s rural
precincts is at odds with the vote tally released on Election Night.

As numerous congressional committees attempt to retrieve and examine
the secret White House e-mails surrounding Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales’ firing of eight federal prosecutors, those panels must also
probe the privatization and partisan manipulation of the 2004
presidential vote count in Ohio. The lessons from 2004 have yet to be
fully understood or learned.

Similarly, the House Administration Committee, which is expected to
soon mark up H.R. 811, a bill by Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, to regulate
electronic voting technology, also must take heed. The vote count and
outcome of American elections cannot be left in the hands of known
partisans, who can control and manipulate how the votes are counted
and what is reported to the media and American people.

Public vote counts on private, partisan servers and secret proprietary
software have no place in a democracy.

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