How the Democrats could steal the key to winning Louisiana (and the rest)

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Fresh off re-election victories, President Barack Obama and his campaign-trail machine show no signs of slowing down. At all.

On Jan. 18, Obama for America (later, Organizing for America) became Organizing for Action; on Jan. 24, the campaign’s former national field director, Jeremy Bird, launched the party’s plan to turn Texas into a battleground; and in the coming weeks, if successful, the president’s Department of Justice will begin the process of turning Louisiana blue.

Just how would they go about doing that? Simple, really: The first step toward winning a state in the modern age is a deep knowledge of who is in that state, allowing organizations to understand how to reach, and sway, those people. And a major, major step in that direction in the Big Easy is obtaining the voter roll information — we’re talking Social Security numbers, license numbers, dates of birth, mother’s maiden names, dates and places of registration, and all changes to updates to registrations — for 2.9 million Louisiana voters, as well as the computer source codes the secretary calls “essential to election integrity,” and turn all that over to the activists and data gurus that won the country for the president in 2008 and 2012. One of these potential recipients is Catalist — an organization the Capital Research Center called “the most powerful weapon in [the left’s] arsenal,” and one that counted Obama for America among its long and illustrious list of (entirely progressive) clients.

Sound nefarious? Well, it is. And this, in real time, is how it is playing out:

The Basics:

The DOJ is suing Louisiana Secretary of State Thomas Schedler, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires states to register voters at welfare handout locations (they call these “public assistance” programs).

Louisiana, they charge, has not been registering welfare recipients with the “sufficient vigor” they think the 1993 law — at least the one section they choose to enforce — requires. (RELATED: Schedler: DOJ selectively enforcing 1993 Voter Rights law for ‘political agenda’)

Sounds likely enough, right? Louisiana, by the admission of Schedler himself, has a troubled past when it comes to voting corruption. Who would be surprised that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is taking an interest? But despite the insistence of professional race baiters across the country, the year is 2013, and here are a few voter facts to go with the hip new times: About 84 percent of eligible voters in Louisiana are registered, putting it in fourth place nationally; Louisiana’s 67.9 percent 2012 turnout was nine points above the national average and makes it one of three states with improved turnout from 2008; it was one of the first in the country to allow online voter registration; and it was one of the first to provide access to voter registration status at any time online. So now that the ghost of the KKK is out of the way, let’s take a look what’s going on here:

The Players:

The DOJ launched their lawsuit on July 12, 2011 — less than three months after an April 19 lawsuit was launched by Project Vote and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on pretty much the same grounds. Seriously: According to Voteguards.org — a website supporting Mr. Schedler and others in similar situations — the cases were so similar, “the defendants in the two identical cases attempted to have them merged into a single case in an effort to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, but to no avail.”

This week, the court found largely in favor Louisiana on the NAACP/Project Vote case, stating that since the suit had been filed, Louisiana has been in substantial compliance, but Mr. Schedler’s office is unsure on how this will impact the DOJ’s case — and their data fishing — and as of now, the data for 2.9 million Louisiana voters remains at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

Now, throughout this whole thing, here’s a relationship to keep in mind: In December 2011, the conservative watchdog, Judicial Watch, released documents under the Freedom Of Information Act highlighting a relationship between the DOJ and, among other various pressure groups, Project Vote and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Judicial watch uncovered communications between “Estelle Rogers, a former ACORN attorney currently serving as director of advocacy for the ACORN-connected organization Project Vote” and the DOJ, showing DOJ staffing recommendations and meetings between the two on how to register more welfare recipients — before Election Day.

The Data:

So during the discovery stage of the DOJ lawsuit, the judge ordered Louisiana’s secretary of state to hand the personal voter roll data of 2.9 million Louisiana voters over to the complainants, who said they need that data for their case (the slang term for this is “fishing”). The data — Social Security numbers, license numbers, dates of birth, mother’s maiden names, dates and places of registration, and all changes to updates to registrations for 2.9 million people — would be released under a revised protective order, which allows for “confidential information” to be shared with those working “on behalf of” the parties, including lawyers, consultants, witnesses, potential witnesses and experts.

So how would this information get from the DOJ to Catalist? “Because Catalist has a lot of PhDs on their staff,” one right-leaning data guru told TheDC. And that is really all an organization needs to be counted as an expert in a trial. In addition, Catalist could be counted as a consultant, and it wouldn’t be the first time Attorney General Eric Holder’s DOJ used Catalist in a case against a state.

In March 2012, the DOJ hired Catalist to assist in a voter ID case against Texas. In a July 5 letter to Mr. Holder, House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith complained, “the Department of Justice directly paid Catalist to provide the data on which the department’s experts based their analysis… [and] nothing in the record indicates that the department conducted an open bidding process in obtaining Catalist’s services.”

All in a day’s work: As Catalist’s homepage brags, “Serving the progressive community.”

Given the DOJ’s private and public collusion with activists and partisan private companies, it is understandably hard for the Louisiana’s secretary of state, Mr. Schedler, to trust the department to handle this private and valuable data with nonpartisan and apolitical discretion. But isn’t this kind of private data release illegal, and doesn’t Mr. Schedler have recourse? Unfortunately for him, that area is gray and unlikely. Though there are six federal laws and two state laws that protect the public release of the data contained on the rolls, in the case of the DOJ, the judge believes that the protective order is enough and has overruled Mr. Shedler’s objections and ordered Louisiana to hand over the data; and since the case is only in the discovery process, Mr. Schedler’s chances of appealing to a higher court are decidedly low, though he has appealed to the Fifth Circuit and is waiting to find out if they will hear the case. Mr. Schedler has also offered the commercial list — which does not include the legally-protected data and is routinely bought by campaigns.

But could a witness or consultant use the private, legally-guarded data for treasure and victories? Sure, because it would be very difficult to prove that they did, in fact, get the names from a confidential document. There is a large body of penalties regarding misuse of information uncovered during discovery, and anyone caught breaking those rules faces severe penalties but, as one Republican data analyst told TheDC, “There are rules on what you can do during discovery, but it’s very hard to prove the source [of data] in an integrated [voter] list. Very hard.”

The Endgame:

In a Nov. 10, 2012 column about how Mitt Romney’s polling consultants screwed up royally, TheDC asked, “How does a politician know what direction to turn if they don’t even know where the hell they are?” (The answer is that the politician doesn’t know which way to turn.) And in that breakdown of one of the many failed aspects of the campaign — the data aspect — the column got to “the scary side: The Democrats didn’t get [the data] wrong. They got it pretty much dead right.” (RELATED: The tyranny of the political consultants)

The Democrats, everyone knows, have the best ground game in the country, as well as the best voter intelligence in the country, allowing their campaigns to micro-target on a scale that the Republican Party of 2012, with their stupid apps, could only dream of. (RELATED: Why ORCA is innocent, and no one wants to talk about it)

The main weapon in the Democrats’ war chest is Catalist: Whether their client is Planned Parenthood, the president or his Civil Rights Division lawyers, Catalist has the intel. And their friends at the DOJ have the lawsuits: Lawsuits pending in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Rhode Island.

And how about the DOJ’s friends? The NAACP has lawsuits pending in Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Maryland; while Project Vote has lawsuits pending in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Floria, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island.

If anyone out there thinks their state is so staunchly red that no amount of intel could flip it, they’re wrong. The president won re-election in November, but his fight is far from over: His ideas may be yesterday’s garbage, but he and his allies have tomorrow’s power: more reach, and more electoral understanding, than any politician in American history; and they have explicitly said that they are not afraid to use it to win elections and push their post-election agenda. If Republicans want to stand a chance in this fight, they had better get to it, and they can start by fighting back in Louisiana.

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