Texas Caucus Fraud (Updated)
by Pacific John, Fri May 02, 2008 at 06:08:18 PM EDT
Following my friend Lois Capps' endorsement of Barack Obama, it became clear that I had done her and other delegates a disservice by not disclosing information I witnessed at the Texas caucuses, and that endorsements should be made with the benefit of this information. After her endorsement, I wrote to Rep. Capps so that she can be fully informed in the event that delegates are forced to shift from one candidate to the other as the party forms a consensus behind the stronger of the two candidates.
I need to point out that I am not on the Hillary for President campaign staff, and that the campaign has gone to significant lengths to keep this dirty laundry out of the press. However, it is my strong feeling that we should not withhold evidence of crime, particularly since it is inconsistent with the public Obama image of being above "anything it takes to win," and it sheds significant light onto the otherwise puzzling difference between the popular vote and caucus results. Here are excerpts from my letter to Rep. Capps.
I was a volunteer field organizer in El Paso, Texas and investigated irregularities for three weeks after the election.
As a Democratic Coordinated Campaign Regional Director in 1996 and as a volunteer on campaigns in the 1990s, I have the ethical obligation to report what I saw in Texas.
When California 22nd CD Republican candidate Tom Bordonaro famously tried to suppress the vote by phone banking under a false name, many of us in the Capps campaign immediately said that we would walk away from a campaign if our side were similarly unethical. That moment kept replaying through my head election night in El Paso. Simply put, the Obama campaign made Tom Bordonaro look ethical.
Lois Capps is correct when she wrote that Sen. Obama is inspiring. However, many of the actions of his campaign that I witnessed and investigated are criminal.
I know this information is jarring, and puts DNC delegates in an uncomfortable situation, but if the time comes for delegates to endorse or get behind a consensus candidate, this information should be available. As I wrote to Rep. Capps, I apologize for not illuminating this earlier.
My observations in Texas were that caucuses were broadly illegitimate. In a few well-run counties, Hillary's caucus vote was the same or better than the popular vote, but in chaotic counties, she fell behind by double digits. While Texas is the only state to have both a binding popular vote and a caucus vote, we saw similar results in Washington State, where Obama's numbers plunged in the unofficial primary compared to the caucuses .
This stands out: only four major Texas counties were orderly enough to report most of their caucus results election night, and in three of these, caucus preference mirrored the popular vote (HRC popular/caucus): El Paso (69/75), Austin/Travis (37/34), San Antonio/Bexar (56/57). In the case of Austin, I have read reports that that both sides ran their caucuses well.
These counties had exceptional organizations, but it should not take heroics to run a fair election.
On election night in El Paso, it became obvious that the Obama field campaign was designed to steal caucuses. Prior to that, it was impossible for me to imagine the level of attempted fraud and disruption we would see. It was far worse than any GOP campaign I have organized against on the Central Coast, worse than Tom Bordonaro's, worse than Andrea Seastrand's, worse than the Dole campaign whose supporters vandalized our headquarters.
We saw stolen precincts where Obama organizers fabricated counts, made false entries on sign-in sheets, suppressed delegate counts, and suppressed caucus voters. We saw patterns such as missing electronic access code sheets and precinct packets taken before the legal time, like elsewhere in the state. Obama volunteers illegally took convention materials state-wide, with attempts as early as 6:30 am. Some of this was presented in a press release from Clinton Campaign Counsel Lyn Utrecht, but I witnessed worse than what she disclosed.
In one example of fraud that I witnessed, one of my precinct captains, an elderly Hispanic woman, called me to report that BHO supporters had illegally seized control of the convention. During our series of phone calls, Mrs. "A." reported that the Obama people took the convention materials and did not have a legal election of officers. Like nearly all of El Paso, BHO people would have lost such an election in this majority-Hillary, Hispanic, mostly elderly precinct convention.
The Obama people ordered Mrs. A. to sit across the room during the delegate calculation, and excluded Hillary supporters from the process. Mrs. A. overheard an Obama supporter call in a false delegate count to Austin. In a 13 delegate precinct where Obama should have won approximately 4 delegates, the Obama supporters attempted to award 19 delegates to Obama. This was not innocent. During my attempts at cell phone diplomacy, the Obama "chair" hung up on me, and refused to talk to the ethical Obama organizer I was paired with at another precinct convention. As with all major attempts at fraud that we identified, this delegate count was rectified in private at the county TDP headquarters, according to TDP rules, but there were no public charges or sanctions. It is my opinion that people should be in jail, but there is not a mechanism for this sort of prosecution, certainly not within TDP rules.
Although I have only volunteered in one state, virtually every Clinton staffer I have talked to has similar stories from other caucus states. While the Hillary field campaign operates and feels very much like typical Democratic campaigns, the Obama campaign is something new to Democratic politics. From my perspective, it looks like it has copied the worst attributes of Republican campaigns, but with unprecedented zeal.
Ironically, only in very well-organized areas like El Paso were we able to even identify the scale of the attempted irregularities. In these areas, we were also able to rebuff most attempts at fraud, correct fraudulent delegate counts, and protect our voters. In less well-organized areas, we did not have enough eyes and ears to identify or stop fraud, and our numbers plunged.
Although affidavits have not been made public, I have copies and records of the voter complaints for which I did interviews. Although the Hillary campaign has not gone public with evidence of fraud, the national legal team has approximately 200 such affidavits and 2000 voter complaints. The campaign intends to win the popular vote without airing these charges in public, but I suspect the campaign will provide authorities with this evidence upon request.
My own sense is that this information should not be withheld from delegates, since it both casts the Obama campaign as stunningly unethical, and it severely undermines the general credibility of caucuses. It also points out that perception and reality are upside down. The campaign that will "do anything to win," including the illegal acts documented in affidavits, is not Hillary's.
In fact, I was as proud of the integrity and transparency of the Hillary campaign in Texas as I was of the Capps and Clinton/Gore campaigns of the 1990s.
I would be happy to share records in my position with appropriate authorities.
It is true that elements of the Obama campaign appeal to our better angels, but, in the moment of truth when the Obama campaign echoed Republican Tom Bordonaro's, I made the personal decision that Sen. Obama cannot be our nominee.
I am positive that any Democrat who witnessed what I did would stand against Sen. Obama now, and I have faith that some endorsements like Rep. Capps's are temporary. This is wrenching for a Democratic activist like me who has served on county and Assembly District committees, but I cannot support a candidate with a criminal campaign.
Here at MyDD, I'll try to make time to answer factual questions
There have been some good question in the comments.
In this one, there is the question about a challenge by Obama supporters, lawyer/judge Don Williams. My position is that the rules should be followed, and the process be as transparent as possible. I understand that 77% of UTEP sign in sheet preference was for Hillary, after there were a few correction related to fraud from Mr Williams' side. I understand this challenge should be resolved by the state credentials committee, along with a large number of other challenges, prior to the Austin convention. As I understand it, the challenge states that the rules in the nominations committee at UTEP were misinterpreted. But what I saw was fraud, not a difference of opinion about convention rules. I would support any legitimate adjustment to delegate counts, be it from a correction of fraudulent sign-in sheets, or a correction of a faulty ruling.
This post raises a lot of good questions, too many to handle adequately without a new diary:
I've yet to hear any verified account of fraud. Two months, but nothign. Why after going for a month and half now on Wright do think the media would just shut out any attempt to challenge the legitimacy of the caucuses? Where is the reporting?! Why is it that you saw this, but no reporters, police officers, judges, lawyers or others who would be compelled to speak up about it and document it?First, why did I keep quiet? I followed the campaign's guidance to resolve these issues behind closed doors. There were a few elements of this: the campaign's first concern was make as many corrections to the delegate count as possible within TDP rules, in TDP offices. Once the deed was done, an orderly audit benefited our side, and pushing these charges in the press would have created a circus (a la Florida) that would have shut down the process of verifying sign in sheets and delegate calculations.
If there is evidence of this I want to hear it. This would be criminal and I'm not.
Finally, Hillary won El Paso by 75%. How with that overwhelming majority did you allow a minority to override the will of the majority? Even in the example of Mrs. A (you told us you witnessed this personally, but the only evidence you give is a person not named and the precinct not given), there was a majority of Hillary supporters. How did they let a minority overrule a majority? That doesn't make sense. Please explain it to me.
Second, why no reporting? Because the press did not seek to investigate this, even though the Clinton campaign published the linked press release that we had evidence of widespread illegalities. I called a reporter from the El Paso Times who did not return my call. Also, this did not get pushed in the press after the initial press release because the TX Hillary campaign chose to trust the process and grind out the delegate count. Since the TDP is run by people who support both campaigns, there would have been a serious lose of face to air these charges, and would have strained the professional relationships between all in the campaigns and in the party. In the specific case of El Paso, I am told Chair Danny Anchondo did not want to humiliate leading Obama-supporting Democrats who he will have to live with for years to come.
Third, how did a minority faction override the majority? In the end, they did not. We had the best field operation I have ever seen, and in most cases, had a few trained people in each precinct. I should add, our organization was so overwhelming, the Obama campaign abandoned their precinct captain program about a week before the election, placing their bets on an election-day blitz by out of state organizers. We were also transparent, and included people with ties to the Obama campaign in our caucus training program. We knew that an orderly process favored Hillary. We would not have known about Mrs. A's precinct if we did not have trained people in the room. So, we were able to over-turn problems like Mrs A's precinct after the fact. How did the Obama organizers seize the convention in the first place? By intimidation, by physically controlling the legal documents, and by ignoring the legal process that called for an election of officers. They took the convention package and never let go of it.