Tim Griffin is a case study of what happens when a story on the Internet takes on a life of its own.
Griffin, 41, is running for Congress in the 2nd District of Arkansas. He is seeking the seat that Democratic incumbent Vic Snyder has held since 1996. Snyder said earlier this year he would not seek re-election. Snyder announced his retirement on the heels of a poll that showed Griffin leading Snyder by 17 points.
Following the 2004 election, reporter Greg Palast alleged that Griffin was involved in the suppression of minority, homeless and service members’ votes while employed by the RNC in 2004.
“It’s hogwash,” says Griffin.
But not surprising, he says.
“While I am talking about private sector job creation, the cap-and-trade energy tax, Speaker Pelosi’s health-care bill and card-check legislation, Washington Democrats are defending groups like ACORN,” he says. “They are on the wrong side of the issues and know their views are wrong for Arkansas, so they attack me. It’s their way of trying to distract the voter, and it won’t work.”
Griffin has worked behind the scenes extensively in Washington.
At the Republican National Committee, he worked as research director and deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee in 2004 and deputy research director during the presidential campaigns.
In 2005, he served as special assistant to the president and deputy director in the Office of Political Affairs at the White House while Karl Rove was serving as deputy chief of staff. Despite repeated characterizations as a Rove aide or Rove protege Griffin did not directly report to Rove, however. His duties included organizing and coordinating support for the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Griffin left the White House for military leave when he was ordered to active duty for a year as an Army prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Later in 2006, he was deployed to Iraq.
Upon his return, he hit the patch of hullabaloo.
He was appointed to U.S. attorney for the Eastern District by the Bush administration’s Department of Justice. At the time, Bush dismissed seven U.S. attorneys. Congressional investigations followed, focusing on whether the White House and Department of Justice were using the seats for political advantage.
At that high level, those angry at Bush and his appointments targeted Griffin.
In June 2007, the voter suppression matter was raised by Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and Sheldon Whitehouse who sent a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Office seeking an investigation.
Congressional Democrats spent millions investigating the U.S. Attorney matter, but no one ever contacted Griffin.
In fact, Palast had photographs taken of himself giving information to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers. Again, no one ever contacted Griffin.
Palast’s stories focused heavily on “caging,” a direct mail term that means the receiving, processing and reporting of mail results.
Griffin has described Palast’s obsession with him as “creepy at times.”
As the allegations swirled, Griffin wrote a 23-page letter to the Department of Justice in November 2007 denying any voter suppression and responding to Palast’s stories.
Numerous reports of voter fraud were reported in 2004 by both parties.
In his 2007 DOJ letter, he wrote, “Much of this voter registration fraud was driven by a desire for financial gain by unscrupulous individuals who were hired by third party groups such as Americans Coming Together (ACT) and Move On to seek out and register new voters and were paid for each successful registration.”
In turn, the RNC, says Griffin in his letter, set out to find voter fraud. A number of Republican state parties mailed thousands of letters to newly registered voters. Its intent? To highlight thousands of fraudulent voter registrations. It had been reported that even Mary Poppins had been registered to vote in Ohio.
Griffin wrote in his 2007 DOJ letter that the “caging” lists were “simply lists of returned letters mailed by the state parties.”
Part of the complex situation that Palast chronicled involved a wrong e-mail address in Florida. There, an enterprising Democratic prankster owned the e-mail address: @georgewbush.org – essentially a dead letter office. Some emails from Republican campaign workers were sent to that address instead of the correct @georgewbush.com. As a result, the owner of the “org” address captured hundreds, perhaps thousands, of emails – one with an attached spread sheet with the name “caging.xls.”
The file name originated from Florida. In the letter, Griffin asserts that he did not know what the definition of “caging” was.
Griffin will be a force for any opponent.
He has served in Iraq, been in the Army for 13 years, worked as a federal prosecutor, worked as a counsel on Capitol Hill and is a member of Arkansas and Louisiana bars.
Last week, the Washington Post’s The Fix blog ranked Griffin’s race number nine to watch out of 20 races. It had held at the number 10 position. Chris Cillizza wrote: “Griffin starts with a financial edge over any Democrat and will benefit from the fact that Obama lost the district by 10 points in 2008.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee announced last week that Griffin has reached “Young Gun” Status, the top level of its three-level Young Guns program. A NRCC press release said, “By advancing to the program’s top tier, Griffin has proven his ability to build a winning campaign and achieve substantial fundraising goals.”