A Virginia official is busted for tossing voter forms. Turns out he works for the national party, too.
A man originally reported to have been working for the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested by the Rockingham County, Va., Sheriff’s Office on Thursday and charged with attempting to destroy voter registration forms by tossing them into a dumpster behind a shopping center in Harrisonburg, Va.
“Prosecutors charged him with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice,” according to a report late Thursday afternoon from TPM’s Ryan Reilly. More charges could be forthcoming, according to officials.
But there is more to the story, as evidence emerges to document that it ties into a still-expanding nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal that the BRAD BLOG first began reporting in late September, after we’d learned that the Republican Party of Florida had turned in more than 100 allegedly fraudulent and otherwise suspect voter registration forms in Palm Beach County. The story has continued to widen ever since, to a dozen Florida counties and several other states, now including Virginia, and even to the upper-echelons of the Republican Party itself.
The man arrested today was 23-year-old Colin Small of Phoenixville, Pa. As it turns out, he does not only work for the Virginia Republican Party. According to an online profile, he appears to be working for the Republican National Committee and, prior to that, served as an Intern for Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Joseph Tanfani at the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Small was “working as a supervisor as part of a registration operation in eight swing states financed by the Republican National Committee.”
He was first hired, says Tanfani, by Strategic Allied Consulting, the firm owned by the disgraced GOP operative and paid Mitt Romney political consultant Nathan Sproul. Even before this year’s registration fraud scandal, which began with Strategic in Florida, Sproul’s companies have long been accused of, though never charged with, destroying Democratic voter registrations in election after election and state after state, going back to at least 2004. Despite that, Sproul was hired by the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004, by the McCain/Palin Campaign in 2008, and by Romney during the Republican Primary cycle.
Sproul’s company, Strategic Allied Consulting, was hired by the RNC in August for more than $3 million, reportedly as its sole voter registration company this cycle. His company was said to have been fired by the RNC and five different battleground state Republican parties several weeks ago, after fraudulent voter registrations began to emerge across Florida.
Some of those questionable applications included address changes for existing voters, such that Florida election officials told the BRAD BLOGthey worry voters could find themselves disenfranchised come Election Day. In Florida, as in many states, provisional ballots cast at precincts other than where voters are officially registered will not be counted. So changing the addresses on voter registrations without voters’ knowledge is a serious crime with potentially very serious consequences.
Reilly’s report at TPM says that Small “worked for PinPoint, a company hired to register voters on behalf of the Republican Party of Virginia.” In fact, PinPoint Staffing placed ads to hire workers for Strategic Allied Consulting in FL, VA and a number of other states, though the BRAD BLOG has learned that the company removed many of those ads once the scandal began to break in Florida. They have since modified some of their newer ads to hide their ties to the Republican Party.
In response to queries we sent to Sproul late Thursday, his crisis spokesperson, David Leibowitz, attempted to distance his client from the arrest of the Republican Party worker in Virginia, claiming that “the only connection between Sproul and Pinpoint is that Nathan has, on occasion, used Pinpoint to hire some workers.”
It was PinPoint Staffing, in fact, which reportedly hired the man Strategic blamed for the fraudulent registration forms turned in originally in Palm Beach. But while PinPoint continues to seek workers for GOP-related efforts around the country, and as Sproul’s operations continue in “as many as 30 states”, it is the Republican National Committee’s response to the entire affair, including to the arrest today, that may be the most troubling…
The RNC ‘firing’ deception
Colin Small, according to his LinkedIn profile, as captured by the NotLarrySaboto blog (which was the first to highlight the initial report of a man with PA license plates tossing a bag of Virginia Voter Registration Forms into a Harrisonburg dumpster), wasn’t only working for the state GOP or for Strategic Allied Consulting or for PinPoint. He was working as a “Grassroots Field Director at the Republican National Committee,” according to LinkedIn.
[Update: NBC News is reporting this morning that RNC Communications Director denies Small was "directly employed by the RNC" and that he will be "told to take down that." Small is currently in jail and unable to respond to clear up the question, however.]
Last month, several days after fraudulent voter registration forms collected by Strategic Allied Consulting and turned in by the Florida GOP began to be discovered by County election officials in Florida, the RNC claimed to have fired Strategic.
Sean Spicer, the RNC’s Communications Director, boasted that the party took “swift and bold action” after learning of the fraud, claiming they have “zero tolerance” for it or for those who commit it. However, as we summarized in our very first report on this scandal, Sproul’s companies have a long history of workers being paid per Republican registration form and for being accused of destroying Democratic ones.
Despite that, they were hired once again this year by the RNC who, Sproul says, asked them to create the new company in June without his name on it to avoid it being tied to him. Not very bold or zero tolerancy of them. Though Spicer said he had no knowledge of that arrangement, Sproul told the BRAD BLOG he stands by his assertion.
Beyond that, last Thursday we reported that Sproul’s firms, including what appeared to be a “clone” operation of Strategic Allied Consulting, calling itself Issue Advocacy Partners, were still found working for Republicans and right-wing ballot initiatives in at least 10 states. Subsequently, on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that, in fact, Sproul was still “hiring workers for a voter canvassing operation this fall in as many as 30 states.”
On Thursday, following Small’s arrest, Sproul’s spokesman Leibowitz hedged that number by telling us via email: “What we said on the record to various media outlets is that his companies are working in ‘as many as 30 states.’ That could mean 1 state. Or 2. Or 30. You get the idea, I’m sure.”
We do. The idea is Sproul does not want to come clean about his ongoing operations and who it is that he continues to work for, preferring instead to live up to the “shady” adjective that’s often applied to him in the media. Despite our follow-up request, Leibowitz did not identify the exact number of states that Sproul was still working in, or who was paying him to do so.
Strategic was said to have been hired by state Republican Parties, at the request of the RNC, for voter registration drives in five states (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado) and for “Get Out the Vote” campaigns in Ohio and Wisconsin. When both RNC and state GOP officials claimed to have fired them, it seems they didn’t really mean it.
In Tanfani’s report at LA Times late Thursday, Spicer confirms that, really, it may have only been Sproul who the party claimed to be “boldly” cutting ties with. The operations Sproul created for the Party beginning in August, the ones that led to fraudulent voter registrations in Florida and destroyed applications reported in Colorado and Nevada as well, are still in place.
“After Sproul was dumped,” Tanfani reports, “the registration operation that he assembled continued working under the supervision of party officials, Spicer said. He said the workers will continue to do get-out-the-vote work until the election.”
The firing of Sproul and Strategic Allied Consulting was a deception.