Maryland 4th: Fighting An Illegitimate Election

Let's start with what we know.  This primary isn't over.  And if Al Wynn hadn't cheated, he would be giving a concession speech right now.  For instance, how much of his money that came in was misreported or downright illegal?  We just don't know at this point.  How many people were intimidated from volunteering with Donna Edwards because Wynn supporters were beating people up?  We don't know.

And now we come to the reported results.  First of all, there's a lot to be counted, and there are possible legal challenges depending on what happens.

Second of all, don't trust the numbers that are out.  They aren't real.  According to the Maryland Board of Elections, without the provisional or absentee ballots, Wynn is leading by around 3000 votes or so.  Putting these numbers out numbers that might be false is inappropriate, but it's in keeping with the utter and shameful incompetence that the Maryland Board of Elections has shown this entire process.  

Machines in Montgomery County broke instantly, meaning that polling places were turning people away in the morning, and that they had to turn to provisional ballots.  Some people were writing their votes on scraps of paper because the polling places  then ran out of provisional ballots.  The voting machines kept breaking, hours were extended, and precincts from Prince George's County - where Wynn has his base - were apparently among the last to be counted.  A rule of thumb for stealing elections is to make sure that your precincts are the last ones to be counted.  This is just brazenly atrocious, and emails are coming in about peoples' bad voting experiences.  

The Maryland Elections Board has been disgraceful this whole time, amazingly incompetent.  Equipment was completely disfunctional, staffers weren't trained, and there was little preparation for obvious contingencies.  Read this first hand account of how messed up this election was by an experienced and tech-savvy election worker.

Throughout the early part of the day, there was a Diebold representative at our precinct. When I was setting up the poll books, he came over to "help", and I ended up explaining to him why I had to hook the ethernet cables into a hub instead of directly into all the machines (not to mention the fact that there were not enough ports on the machines to do it that way). The next few times we had problems, the judges would call him over, and then he called me over to help. After a while, I asked him how long he had been working for Diebold because he didn't seem to know anything about the equipment, and he said, "one day." I said, "You mean they hired you yesterday?" And he replied, "yes, I had 6 hours of training yesterday. It was 80 people and 2 instructors, and none of us really knew what was going on." I asked him how this was possible, and he replied, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but it's all money. They are too cheap to do this right. They should have a real tech person in each precinct, but that costs too much, so they go out and hire a bunch of contractors the day before the election, and they think that they can train us, but it's too compressed." Around 4 pm, he came and told me that he wasn't doing any good there, and that he was too frustrated, and that he was going home. We didn't see him again.

In such an environment, corruption flourishes, and we know Wynn has little respect for election laws.  Except for provisional (and possibly absentte) ballots, there are no paper trails, and the Board of Elections is generally not transparent about their work.  This is a disgrace on the part of Maryland, which is run by a Republican Governor whose Chief of Staff is a big dollar Wynn contributor.

Donna is fighting this, like she has fought for everything else.  The provisional ballots are going to be counted on Monday, and there will be lots of observers there.  

If you voted in this election, send me your story, good or bad.

There's more...

On Not Forgetting Our Opponents, and Net Neutrality

In April, I wrote a letter to the 'Verizon Five', the Democrats who sold out our interests.  One of these candidates was Al Wynn.  At the time, Wynn had no opponent, and this was a choice which had no perceived downside for him.  Today, Al Wynn is hoping that the vote count goes his way in the primary against Donna Edwards, which was bitterly fought.  Wynn's corrupt machine has been exposed, and he is an object of ridicule.

A few days ago, Senator Ted Stevens admitted that his bill might be derailed.

The less-than-sunny prognosis from senator Ted Stevens at a committee event in Washington indicates a departure from the position he held before Congress left town for its August recess.

At that time, the Alaska Republican suggested he was confident he would be able to drum up the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster on the sweeping proposal, which includes everything from changes to the way the government subsidises rural telecommunications to a revival of the controversial "broadcast flag" copy protection.

Is this connected?  You bet.  Politicians don't want to touch net neutrality.

By the way, Disney is the main force behind the 'Broadcast Flag'.  It's the circle of corporate logrolling.  Hakuna Mattata.

There's more...

Voting Problems in Maryland

Like this should surprise anyone.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections said the voting cards for electronic voting machines have not arrived yet.

Officials said it's a countywide problem.

At some places voters are receiving paper ballots and at other places voters are getting turned away, News4 reported.

And problems have been reported at individual polling places in Prince George's County, Md.

Um, political machines kind of suck, now don't they?

If you live in Florida, you can sign up to be a pollworker and prevent this kind of bullshit from going on.  That's pollworker, not pollworker.  You'll be the person with the clipboards making sure the machines work.  That's how to make a difference.

There's more...

Al Wynn Lies About Union Endorsements

This is literature from the Al Wynn campaign bragging about more than 40 endorsements from Democratic-allied groups.  The list includes the Teamsters, UNITE-HERE, and SEIU.

Here is a letter from the Teamsters demanding that Wynn retract his literature, as the Teamsters have endorsed Donna Edwards.

In addition, someone from the Donna Edwards campaign told me that UNITE-HERE just made a $5000 PAC donation to Edwards. I'm trying to track down a contact at SEIU, as I don't think they've endorsed Wynn either.

In addition to consistent violations of FEC laws which could be masking corporate contributions, two staffers who beat up a Donna Edwards supporter, and votes for the Energy Bill, the war, and a repeal of the estate teax, Wynn is now in trouble for lying about union support.  Oh, and the supporter that Wynn's people beat up is a Teamsters local officer, which makes it particularly unwise to be lying about their endorsement.

So far, Wynn has succssfully lied to the press about having monolithic support in the district from Democratic groups.  Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post reports on Wynn's support base, noting that Wynn's "campaign literature touts the backing of about 40 left-leaning groups, including the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood, as evidence that he remains a true Democrat." 

Wiggins didn't think to check the veracity of the literature, but she should have.  It's interesting that Wynn's behavior pattern is consistent across the board - he lies in the heat of a fight, both to the FEC, to voters, and to reports.  His staffers have violently attacked one of his opponent's volunteers.  Wynn is banking that he'll only have to face minor consequences for these actions, and that he'll be a sitting Congressman so he can use corporate money to pay any fines.  

Go Donna.

Update: I spoke to Tom Snyder of UNITE-HERE. That union has not made an endorsement in the race, and says that Wynn's literature is in error. I also found out that UNITE-HERE didn't in fact give money to Donna's campaign. I then spoke to Ellen Golombek of SEIU, who doesn't have her records in front of her either. Both of them have gotten calls from reporters on this matter.

My sense here is that the unions are trying to stay out of the race because Wynn's an incumbent, though it's clear that Wynn lied about getting support from UNITE-HERE and the Teamsters.

There's more...

Al Wynn and His Hidden Political Cash Register

I promised you some dirt on Al Wynn, and so here goes.  It's not sex, but it is a process story that explains a bit how Wynn's political machine is structured and guarded from view.  This Congressman has a strange and disturbing pattern of breaking campaign finance laws to hide the identities of the people funneling money into his campaigns.  It's not that he makes mistakes, or misreports a donor here or there.  Al Wynn simply choose not to follow campaign finance laws.  There's obviously sloppiness here, but the pattern of flouting the rules goes so far back and is so extensive that it's hard to conclude that it isn't intentionally done to hide his funding sources.

There are the cosmetic problems, where Wynn flouts the law to hide at least part of the identify of his donors.  I'm looking through his filings, and I see some big donations from Harold Ford Sr, Donnie Fowler Sr, and the chief of staff of the Governor of Maryland.  Not so strange.  What's weird is that Wynn is getting $2000 donation after $2000 donation from people whose employers and job titles are listed only as 'information requested'.  I haven't counted how many donors he didn't collect information from, but this is not a new pattern; in 2003, the FEC fined Wynn for not listing the occupation or employer of over 51% of his donors.  That's a big deal, because it means that it's very difficult to trace or report on conflicts of interest.  Given the amount of developer, energy PAC, and telecom PAC money he's already getting, it's nearly impossible to tell if someone at a company is making all their employees give to Wynn by looking through public filings.  Wynn simply doesn't list the employers or jobs for many of his big donors.

And then there's the campaign problem, where Wynn radically underreports the amount of money he's taking in.  On his original July 15th Quarterly Report, Wynn reported receiving $61,582.69 in contributions between April 1, 2006 and June 30, 2006.  Two days later, he filed an amended report saying he actually received $107,132.69 - almost double what he originally reported.  Two weeks later he filed yet another version of his July 15th Quarterly Report saying he actually raised $157,275.69. Last week the FEC sent a letter asking him to explain these discrepancies and threatening an audit of his political committee.

What you have to understand here is that this is a political game.  Wynn has until September 29, 2006 to provide the FEC with an explanation, which is after the primary date.  In other words, Wynn is betting that hiding his donor identities and breaking the law will net him a fine, but he'll be able to pay that fine after the primary election with money he can raise as a sitting Congressman.  If he actually complied with the law, he'd have to answer to voters about who's giving him money.  This way, he can face the FEC rather than the voters, and he knows how to handle the FEC.

His willingness to tangle with the FEC and flout campaign finance laws is not new.  In 2000, Wynn was forced to return contributions from MSFBDA Management Group, a company that laundered money through its employees to Wynn.  Corporate contributions to Federal candidates are illegal, so what this company did is pay three of its officers and then those officers turned around and gave the money to Wynn.  That's a no-no for obvious reasons.    This history is particularly disturbing given that Wynn is continuing to not report the employers and jobs of many of his large donors.  Is there another corporate contribution scandal here?  Perhaps, but it's almost impossible to figure it out because he's just not reporting the information like he's legally required to.

There's more.  That year, Wynn's campaign was one of 45 campaigns that failed to file a pre-General election report.  In 2001, he was fined for filing his report late.  This might be sloppiness, but it's the kind of sloppiness that comes from having contempt for Federal agencies in general.

As far as I can tell, here's what this means.  Al Wynn is a central figure in the Maryland political machine.  One of his key advisors, Julius Henson, dominates the political environment in the district, scaring politicians with his tactics, his willingness to break the law, and his vindictive reputation.  It's not a surprise that two of Wynn's staffers beat up a Donna Edwards volunteer at an event, since rumors of thuggery are coming in from all over, and this jibes with Henson's MO.  The FEC lawbreaking bit fills in an important piece of the puzzle, since it shows how Wynn finances Henson's tactics.  It's not just that Wynn is awash in contributions from Walmart, right-wing corporate sources, and developers, it's that he systematically hides the workings of his cash machine from the public, violating campaign finance laws consistently over a pattern of many years.

This is fascinating and disturbing stuff, and it's a good argument for why we need lots more primaries.  Had Donna Edwards not challenged Al Wynn, we would never know the workings of Wynn's machine.  We wouldn't be able to connect Wynn's legislative support of the telecom companies to his contempt for disclosure laws meant to serve the public to his support for Bush's energy policies to his support for local developpers.  But because Donna stepped up to the plate, now we know what we're up against.  

There's a machine out there, a whole network of bad people serving themselves by serving members of Congress like Wynn who are openly flouting both the law and the public.  We've got to bring them down.  And that's not a conservative or liberal point, it's just the right thing to do.  

There's more...


Advertise Blogads