Top level Republican operatives with ties to the White House, Senate Majority Leader William Frist and the Republican National Committee (RNC) not only engaged in the suppression of poor and minority voters in the 2004 Ohio presidential election' but they spun the election irregularities into a story linking blacks to cocaine and voter fraud. Bush allies in Ohio are now using this myth of voter fraud to pass a repressive "election reform" bill.

In the month prior to and immediately after the 2004 presidential election' the Republican Party engaged in an orchestrated campaign to divert the mainstream media focus away from election fraud and irregularities in Ohio and manufactured the myth of "voter fraud."

According to a former Columbus Dispatch reporter' Ohio Senator Mike Dewine sent his spokesperson' Mike Dawson' to meet with the editorial board of the Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers. The primary talking point for the GOP was that there was no evidence of irregularities in Ohio.

The Republican state legislature used the "voter fraud" spin to introduce the draconian Ohio House Bill 3. The "election reform" bill has passed both Republican-dominated houses and is awaiting a conference committee at the start of the new year.

HB 3's most publicized provision will require voters to show their ID before casting a ballot. But it also opens voter registration activists to criminal prosecution' exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny' quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or' indeed' any federal election result in Ohio. HB 3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered' the voter must rely on a provisional ballot.

As the League of Women Voters put it in a letter to Republican legislative leaders' "Its [HB 3's] purported purpose of preventing voting fraud is based on the fallacy that there was widespread fraud perpetrated by voters in Ohio. In fact' the fraud was committed against Ohio voters by inadequate preparation that suppressed the votes of those whose registrations were not recorded correctly' those who could not wait for hours to vote' or those whose votes were not counted because of misdirection or mishandling."

The Senate sponsor of HB 3' Kevin Coughlin' could only cite the names of a few cartoon characters and celebrities on voting registration forms' that were easily weeded out by county election boards' as the reason for his repressive legislation.

Fake voting rights groups tied to the White House

In March 2005' Congressman Bob Ney held a U.S. House Administrative hearing at the Ohio Statehouse where a general counsel for the brand new voting rights group' the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR)' told the Congressional committee that the voting problems in Ohio were the result of the NAACP paying people with crack in order to entice them to register to vote. ACVR's general counsel' Mark F. "Thor" Hearne' turned out to be the former national general counsel for Bush-Cheney '04' Inc.' with no history of working in a voting rights organization. Hearne relied on a lawsuit filed against the NAACP in Wood County' Ohio "alleging fraudulent voter registration under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act."

Hearne wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2005 claiming there was "substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing by organizations such as Americans Coming Together ("ACT")' ACORN and the NAACP – Project Vote."

"We understand that local Ohio law enforcement authorities are pursuing criminal prosecution against some of the individuals involved in this activity' which activities include paying crack cocaine for fraudulent voter registration forms'" Hearne wrote.

Cliff Arnebeck' the attorney representing the NAACP' denounces this as a deliberate racist disinformation campaign to divert attention from Ohio's election theft. "crack cocaine' the NAACP – Hearne and the Republicans are using racist code words'" Arnebeck said. The Wood County case was withdrawn in June 2005' but not before it was revealed that the plaintiff' Mark Rubick' had been "indemnified" and held "harmless" by an obscure group' the Free Enterprise Coalition' with ties to the Republican Party. Signing as the "Authorized representative" for the Coalition was one Alex Vogel.

Who is Alex Vogel?

This is the same Alex Vogel who is now identified as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's attorney. Vogel was busy in December explaining why Frist's so-called AIDs charity' World of Hope' Inc.' paid nearly a half million dollars in consulting fees to his "political inner circle'" according to the Washington Times.

While Vogel fights to keep secret the amount of money that Frist's 96 World of Hope donors gave to the "charity'" his top level political connections are emerging in the media. Vogel co-founded a lobbying firm with Bruce Mehlman' the brother of Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman. Vogel and Mehlman's lobbying firm has close ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Arnebeck recently won a ruling against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce' which he claims gave $14 million secretly to Ohio Republican candidates in the 2002 and 2004 election cycle' allowing the GOP to dominate Ohio's Supreme Court.

Vogel also served as a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and as parliamentarian at the 2004 Republican Party platform hearings.

Other players tied to Bush-Cheney

While Vogel helped create the voter fraud myth and Hearne acted as the group's general counsel' a man named Jim Dyke acted as spokesperson for the dubious ACVR. Dyke served for many years as Republican National Committee Communications Director. In October' Dyke emerged as a White House spokesperson on National Public Radio pushing the ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.

Dyke and Hearne incorporated their "nonpartisan" tax exempt voting rights organization in Dallas' Texas only three business days prior to the Ney hearings in Ohio's capitol. Despite its lack of history' the ACVR was the only "voting rights group" called to testify on election irregularities in Ohio. With few exceptions, like Raw Story and Bradblog, news organizations have ignored these obvious political connections.

Other interesting individuals involved in so-called "election reform" activities in Ohio are William E. Franke of Gannon Technologies Group and Steve Hertzberg of the Election Science Institute.

Franke' a close friend of former Attorney General John Ashcroft' installed a computer operating system for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Gannon Technologies website bragged that the Ohio Secretary of State joins the FBI and a host of other government agencies as clients of "an innovative system that compiles records in different formats via an imaging program with 100% accuracy." One worker who helped install the technology warned the Free Press that there were possible back doors into the system and it may have "points of vulnerability."

Franke came to national attention during the 2004 election as the man heading the operations of the Swift Boat Veterans and Vietnam POWs for Truth. Their nasty attack ads against John Kerry became legendary.

Hertzberg' the project director of Election Science Institute (ESI)' received a contract in 2005 from the Franklin County Commissioners to monitor and certify new voting machines. Hertzberg's website is dedicated to disputing any scientific claims of election fraud in Ohio. Oddly' Hertzberg's biography posted at the ESI website shows he has no advanced degrees in political science' only a Bachelor's of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. As Hertzberg explains it' he "spent the first several years of his career as a civilian within the U.S. Department of Defense" also ". . .serving as a Project Manager and Test Director for highly visible military development programs . . . ."

Hertzberg launched an organization called Vote Watch in 2002 before renaming it Election Science Institute in 2005. Recent ESI publications seek to discredit real social scientists with Ph.D.'s who claim there was election fraud.

The ability of the Bush-Cheney White House to both blatantly repress poor and minority voters in the 2004 election and divert attention from these activities to spin this political operation into a bogus election reform bill bodes well for their ability to win the 2006 mid-term elections' despite a majority of the voters disapproving of the president's performance.

Bob Fitrakis is the co-editor of Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? with Harvey Wasserman ( and co-counsel with Cliff Arnebeck in the Alliance for Democracy suit against the Hocking County Board of Elections.