Election officials in battleground states probed charges that a consulting firm funded by the Republican National Committee deceived would-be voters and destroyed Democratic voter registration cards. Arizona-based Sproul & Associates was investigated in Oregon and Nevada over claims that canvassers hired by the company were instructed to register only Republicans and to trash registration forms completed by Democrats instead of turning them in to election officials, as required by law.

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (D) told the Associated Press (10/22/04) three complaints were filed with election officials throughout the state. In Minnesota, Adam Banse, in search of a summer job with flexible hours, signed up to knock on doors in suburban Minneapolis and register people to vote, but quit after two hours. "They said if you bring back a bunch of Democratic cards, you'll be fired," Banse contends. Other former canvassers have come forward in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Oregon alleging they were told to register only Republicans. Eric Russell of Las Vegas told AP he watched a Sproul supervisor tear up eight to 10 registration forms completed by Dems before he managed to grab some of the shredded documents as evidence. State officials are investigating his claim.

Nathan Sproul, former head of Arizona's Republican Party, denies any wrongdoing and accuses Democrats of making things up. His political consulting firm was founded last year and has received nearly $500,000 from the RNC since July, according to federal election records.

Sproul also reportedly claimed that his group was part of America Votes, a non-partisan liberal voter education and registration coalition, in an attempt to gain access to public libraries to register voters. When a librarian in Medford, Ore., checked on the request by Sproul & Associates to set up a voter registration booth in the library, it was discovered the company had not been hired by America Votes, as the company stated in a letter to the library in September, according to the Medford, Ore., Mail Tribune (9/21/04).

Sproul told the Mail Tribune it was an innocent mistake and claimed he had never heard of America Votes. "You telling me that they even exist was really the first time I'd heard it," Sproul told the newspaper. He said his company was hired by clients to register voters and came up with what he believed was a generic name.

In Florida, where state officials improperly excluded thousands of voters in 2000 because their names were similar to those of convicted felons, the state was forced to withdraw a new list that Gov. Jeb Bush tried to keep secret after a judge ordered it to be made public. More than 2,500 people were discovered to be inappropriately on the list. Also, the Florida secretary of state ruled that voter registrations could be rejected if registrants forgot to check a box affirming their citizenship, even though they affirm their citizenship elsewhere on the form. The ruling excluded three times as many Democrats as Republicans, Markos Moulitsas noted at the London Guardian's website (guardian.co.uk).

In New Hampshire, John Tobin quit as New England regional director of the Bush-Cheney campaign after being implicated in a 2002 phone-jamming scandal. Also, the Department of Justice Oct. 20 urged a state judge to block efforts by Democrats to disclose evidence on the case, which involved Democratic phone banks that were flooded with calls, believed to be computer-generated, which prevented people without transportation from calling for rides to the polls. Raymond and another GOP operative pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges this past summer, which led to Democrats' lawsuit against the GOP.

In Ohio, Republican officials planned to place 3,600 paid recruits inside polling places on election day to challenge the qualifications of suspected Democratic voters. Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, told the New York Times (10/23/04) they were bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000. Also, the Republican secretary of state tried to destroy thousands of new voter registrations because he claimed they were not printed on the right card stock.

In South Dakota, five Republicans face charges in connection with absentee ballot applications that allegedly were illegally notarized. The five staffers and Larry Russell, who had directed the GOP's get-out-the-vote program, quit the South Dakota effort but the Ohio Republican Party hired Russell and two of the others charged with the South Dakota misdemeanors, AP reported. Former Republican governor and congressman Bill Janklow told the Associated Press the GOP Victory program was rife with electoral fraud: "These people are cheating. When you tamper with it, you cheat the system. And cheating in elections is the worst form of cancer because it's uncontrollable."

In Wisconsin, the Republican executive in charge of printing ballots in Milwaukee County ordered the printing of 250,000 fewer ballots than city election officials requested. The 679,000 ballots County Executive Scott Walker agreed to print was less than the total prepared for 2000 and 2002 elections despite the high interest in this year's presidential race in Democratic central-city Milwaukee. Walker is state co-chair of the Bush campaign, by the way.

GOP: CIVIL LIBERTIES 'OBSCENE.' Three Medford, Ore., schoolteachers were threatened with arrest and thrown out of a Bush rally at Central Point, Ore., Oct. 14 after they showed up wearing T-shirts that said "Protect our civil liberties." All three women had valid tickets for the event and said they didn't plan to protest, but they were escorted from the fairgrounds by campaign officials who allegedly told them their T-shirts were "obscene," Portland's KGW-TV reported.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a Republican soldier who was scheduled to leave for Iraq in two weeks was forced to leave a Bush rally for befriending with a known Democrat. The Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice reported Oct. 23 that the GI noticed a stranger standing alone in the line and invited the stranger to stand with him. When Bush campaign officials identified the stranger as a Democrat, they brought in police who searched the individual, who had a ticket but reportedly was not on a "master list." After speaking up for the Democrat, the soldier, who was not named but whose service status was verified by the newspaper, was also turned away, told he also was not on the "master list." "I thought seeing Bush would be enough to sway my opinion one way or the other," the GI told the newspaper. "After today, it definitely has swayed," he said. Wilkes-Barre Township Police Chief Robert Brozowski said some people were asked to leave, but he was not sure of the specifics. "What you have to understand," Brozowksi said. "The Republican National Convention had control over the whole arena. They were calling the shots."

PARTY TIME FOR CONDI. Traditionally, national security advisers stay out of politics, particularly in times of war, but the Bush-Cheney campaign has put Condi Rice to use to make nine political speeches in two months, all in battleground states, DailyKos.com notes. Kos noes: "In the past, national security advisers have not given more than a couple speeches during presidential election season, and none have traveled into the field to make their boss's case as Condi has done. This gang can't protect Americans from the flu, and while Condi should be protecting us from our enemies, she's actually busy playing politics."

VETS LOSE HEALTH CARE. Nearly 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance or access to government hospitals and clinics for veterans, according to a report Oct. 19 from Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors federally-financed health care. The number of uninsured veterans jumped by 235,000 since 2000, meaning they are losing health insurance at a faster rate than the general population. About 45 million Americans have no health insurance, including 5 million who lost coverage during the past four years, according to the Census Bureau. Like other Americans who are uninsured, most veterans have jobs. More than 85 worked within the past year, the report said. See pnhp.org.

DEMS SUPPORT 'CARD-CHECK.' Virtually all Democratic candidates have pledged to co-sponsor "card-check" bills (S. 1925, H.R. 3619) that would expedite union organizing. Out of 30 close races for the House and Senate that the AFL-CIO labor federation is tracking, "all but one or two" Democratic candidates have said they would sign on as co-sponsors to the Employee Free Choice Act, according to Andy Levin, director of the AFL-CIO's Voice at Work Campaign, BNA's Daily Labor Report noted Oct. 22. The bill, introduced last year by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would require the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union when a majority of workers have signed authorization cards designating the union as their bargaining representative. Correspondent Nathan Newman notes that the pledges are more evidence that the Democratic Party is more pro-labor than it was a generation ago. "Where significant numbers of Dems once sided against labor in many votes, virtually every single Democrat is supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, the 'card check' bill being pushed by the AFL-CIO. Notably, even the Democratic candidates in Oklahoma, Georgia and South Carolina are supporting the bill," Newman writes.

CAFTA VOTE SEEN. The election recess may be the last chance to persuade Congress members to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an expansion of "free trade" that threatens workers, farmers, small businesses, the environment and democratic institutions, Global Trade Watch said. CAFTA was signed by trade ministers of the US and Central America on May 28 and the Bush administration plans to get the agreement through Congress as soon after the election as possible &emdash; most likely in a "lame duck" session beginning Nov. 15. Let your rep know before the election that fair trade is a key concern. Call the Capitol switchboard toll-free 1-800-839-5276 or 202-224-3121, ask for your rep, then ask to speak to the trade staffer, chief of staff or legislative director and tell them you are a constituent and want to know your rep's position on CAFTA. Let them know you oppose CAFTA because it would accelerate US job losses and it would encourage more sweatshops in Central America. The US already has lost more than 1 million jobs due to NAFTA-related factory closures. See www.tradewatch.org or call 202-454-5111.

HMO EXECS' PAY COULD EXPAND COVERAGE. Bush has been warning about government take-over of health insurance, as if it's a bad thing. But correspondent Sam Uretsky notes that the average HMO CEO makes $21 million a year. There are 716 HMOs currently operating in the US. "Right there you have the chance to save enough money to buy health insurance for almost half a million people, and I'm reasonably sure that the 716 people who might suffer can afford a comfortable retirement right now. It sure seems like a fair trade."

GOP CIA HEAD PLANS PURGE. Former Republican congressman Porter Goss apparently plans a post-election purge as the new CIA director, Knight Ridder reported Oct. 22. Goss has put at least four former Capitol Hill Republican staffers into top positions in his CIA office and has given them broad authority to make personnel and restructuring decisions, current and former intelligence officials told Knight Ridder reporters. Goss, sworn in Sept. 24 to replace George Tenet, pledged during his confirmation hearings he would be a nonpartisan CIA director. But the officials said they were concerned by the partisan affiliation of Goss' team. And another top official who has left the CIA said, "If he has brought strongly partisan staff with him &emdash; and he has - that seems to call (Goss's pledge) into question."

9/11 SECRET IN CIA's BACK POCKET. Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer reported Oct. 19 that the Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 that names high-level people who were not doing their jobs leading up to the terrorist attack. Although the report by the CIA's inspector general's office was completed in June, it has not been made available to congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago, Scheer reported. "By law, the only legitimate reason the CIA director has for holding back such a report is national security. Yet neither Goss nor [former acting CIA director John McLaughlin] has invoked national security as an explanation for not delivering the report to Congress," Scheer wrote. "It surely does not involve issues of national security," he quoted an intelligence official who has read the report.

BIG LIES WORK. Bush supporters apparently live in a world of their own. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (pipa.org) found in surveys done in September and October that, contrary to established and well-publicized facts:

• 75% believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

• 74% believe Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in agreements on trade.

• 72% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them.

• 72% believe Bush supports the treaty banning land mines.

• 69% believe Bush supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

• 61% believe if Bush had known there were no WMD he would not have gone to war.

• 58% believe the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them.

• 57% believe that the majority of people in the world want Bush reelected.

• 55% believe the 9/11 report concluded Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

• 51% believe Bush supports the Kyoto treaty to control global warming.

• 20% believe Iraq was directly involved in 9/11.

Why would Bush supporters believe this misinformation? Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them." At least they're right about that.

TELEMARKETERS SURVIVE. The telemarketing industry estimated that the federal "Do Not Call" list would cost 2 million jobs, but the Los Angeles Times Oct. 18 noted that a market analysis predicts that only 7,500 to 15,000 jobs out of 6.5 million in the industry would be lost by 2008. Datamonitor, a London-based market analysis firm, suggested that the do-not-call list plays a small role in layoffs compared with technology advances and outsourcing of jobs to countries such as India with lower labor costs. More than 63 million Americans have signed up for the list (see www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to join that list). Kevin Drum commented at WashingtonMonthly.com, "Virtually every business regulation ever proposed, from gas mileage standards to workplace safety guidelines to clean air rules, has prompted cries from industry that they'll be crippled. And while there are a few horror story exceptions here and there, in virtually every case the industries in question have not only done fine, they've prospered."

US INVESTORS FUND CHINESE VENTURES. As much as $15 billion in venture capital could pour into the Chinese mainland in the next five years as investors seek higher returns compared with other markets, the South China Morning Post reported Oct. 11, quoting Patrick McGovern, chairman and founder of Boston-based International Data Group as saying that the returns on mainland Chinese investments were about double similar investments in Europe and the US. Over the past 12 months alone, venture capitalists have invested about $400 million in the mainland, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

WEAKNESS SEEN IN FOOD RECALLS. The Bush administration has made little progress in improving the nation's ability to track down and remove contaminated food from store shelves, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded. The report, requested by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), raises serious doubts about the administration's homeland security performance in protecting consumers and the US food supply against threats, including terrorism, Harkin and Kaptur said in a joint press release. Recalls depend entirely on the voluntary cooperation of food production and distribution companies, the GAO found, as the Bush administration has opposed giving the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to order safety recalls. However, in its study of 10 USDA and 10 FDA recall efforts, GAO found that the agencies are unable to track how promptly and completely companies are carrying out recalls, or how much food is recovered. In fact, in 2003, less than 40% of recalled USDA and FDA products were recovered. See the report at www.gao.gov.

BUSH IGNORES CIVIL RIGHTS. It took the London Guardian to report that the US Commission On Civil Rights' found George W. Bush has neither exhibited leadership on pressing civil rights issues, nor taken actions that matched his words. Bob Harris of bobharris.com noted that "Redefining Rights in America: The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004" (available at usccr.gov) includes heading after heading with names like "The Bush Agenda And America's Entrenched Discrimination Problems," "Voter Intimidation," "Bush Administration Housing Actions: Limiting The Dream," and so on. "There's also a fine list of Bush nominees to the federal bench who are at least as comfortable in white hoods as black robes &emdash; a spectacularly clear hint of what's coming for the Supreme Court if Bush isn't sent away," Harris notes. He adds that the USCCR is an independent, bipartisan agency established by Congress in 1957. "This is from inside Bush's own government. Naturally, the GOP commissioners did exactly what you'd expect: they tried to suppress the report."

TUITION JUMPS UNDER BUSH. Tuition at the nation's public universities rose an average of 10.5% this year, the second-largest increase in more than a decade, the College Board reported Oct. 19, according to the New York Times. Last year's rise, 13%, was the highest. Private universities and community colleges also increased tuition &emdash; by 6% and 9% respectively, in a year when inflation has been hovering at about 2.5%. The tuition increases at private and community colleges were also among the steepest in a decade.

'SCHOOL OF AMERICAS' STILL TARGETED. In a lecture at Clarke College in Dubuque on Oct 14, Eric LeCompte, events and outreach coordinator of School of the Americas Watch (soaw.org), decried continued US taxpayer funding of terrorist training at the Fort Benning, Ga., school, sometimes called the School of Assassins and officially renamed in 2000 as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Among the outrages perpetrated by school alumni was the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter in San Salvador by El Salvadoran military in November 1989, a US congressional task force reported. LeCompte reported that SOA Watch seeks to change US foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress, and participating in creative nonviolent resistance. HR 1258 is the House bill which would close SOA/WHISC and establish a task force to assess what kind of training for Latin American allies is appropriate for the Department of Defense to provide. LeCompte also conducted a nonviolence seminar at Loras College, Dubuque, on Oct 13, to train those who will be attending the annual SOA Memorial events at Fort Benning, Ga., the weekend of Nov. 20-21.

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