Tim Griffin, a protege of Karl Rove, has been hired by the RNC for opposition research. According to TPM,
his role will be to dig into Barack Obama's past for damaging information to use against him in the general election (Griffin is credited with finding material to "swiftboat" John Kerry).
This may very well be true, but there are no doubt many operatives doing the same type of digging. Another possibility is that Griffin is being brought on to do whet he did in 2004: shepherd the RNC's vote suppression works. Combined with GOP plans to appoint former RNC lawyer Caroline Hunter to the Federal Elections Commission, and I think we are witnessing the birth of another GOP vote suppression scheme for 2008.
In the 2004 elections, the RNC helped guide state political parties in identifying and challenging likely democratic voters through a scheme called "Caging". (For background, see This article.)
Basically, caging is a method of voter suppression in which first-class mail is sent to registered voters to confirm their addresses. If the letter is returned to the sender, the name and address on the returned mail is entered into a database known as "caging list." This list can then be used to challenge voters who show up at the poll to prove their residence and eligibility. The RNC has historically used caging lists to suppress likely democratic voters. The lists of the 1980's disproportionately affected minority voters, leading to lawsuits against the RNC. In 1982, a consent decree signed by the RNC prohibited caging efforts directed at voter suppression of minority populations.
In 2004, Caging was employed across the country to generate challenge lists. In a famous example first brought to light by Greg Palast, a caging list containing nearly 2000 voters in Jacksonville Florida was emailed from Republican Party of Florida workers to Tim Griffin at the RNC. The media attention brought by Palast and others probably prevented caging list use in 2004, but now that Griffin is headed back to the RNC, they may attempt a similar scheme for 2008.
In addition to Griffin returning to the RNC fold, another RNC figure involved in 2004 caging is poised to be appointed to the Federal Elections Commission. Caroline Hunter, who was an RNC lawyer in 2004, was implicated in caging operations in Ohio, where she was copied on emails between the Ohio GOP and Tim Griffin discussion strategies to challenge voter registrations.
Unfortunately, after a long (and successful) fight to block the appointment of vote suppression Lawyer Hans Von Spakovsky to the FEC, the Senate may not give FEC nominee Caroline Hunter the scrutiny she deserves. With a former RNC lawyer and caging expert installed at the FEC, and Tim Griffin back at the RNC, it seems that the GOP may be up to there old tricks of doing everything possible to suppress Democratic votes.
What to do?
Encourage your Democratic Senators to ask questions before approving Republican Partisan, RNC vote-suppression consigliere Caroline Hunter to the Federal Election Commission, such as these:
- Did you, as RNC deputy counsel, approve of Tim Griffin's 2004 vote caging schemes in Ohio?
- Are you aware of other RNC vote caging schemes initiated in 2004, such as that in Duval County, Florida?
- Are you aware that many of the RNC caging schemes that you were apparently apprised of, violate consent decrees and discriminate against minority voters?
And next, call your county board of elections supervisors and find out how to volunteer at the polls on election day. Part of the GOP strategy in the past has been to plan to staff polling places with partisans holding challenge lists. We need to be there to ensure that this type of intimidation is protested.