Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has signed and enforced new voter ID laws, defending them against lawsuits and multipronged liberal attacks.
In a 2011 email released during an unrelated lawsuit, a Walker ally suggested that if a close statewide election went the wrong way, Republicans needed to “start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’” and argue for a recount.
Yet in the 24 hours after conservative activist James O’Keefe released a video, claiming to expose a voter fraud plot in Wisconsin, Walker has been relatively quiet. In his first comments on the videos, Walker tweeted a link to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that covered how Madison activist Scott Foval got Democratic “bird-doggers” into Republican events.
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) October 19, 2016
Walker’s caution, and the hands-off approach of other Republicans, suggest that the second Project Veritas Action video — “Massive Voter Fraud” — is prompting caution about how to move.
Because Project Veritas Action’s full undercover interview with Scott Foval has not been made available, the charge that he plotted voter fraud is constructed from O’Keefe’s narration and damning-sounding quotes.
Foval — who was laid off Monday by Americans United for Change, where he had been national field director — seems to be describing how easily voter fraud would be, but it’s unclear what he’s recommending to an undercover reporter.
“Our investigators wanted to find out what it would take to get the highest favorable turnout,” says O’Keefe in the video. “Democratic politico Scott Foval was our target, and he was more than willing to lead us through the process of how to rig an election.”
The video cuts to Foval. “We did them when we were in charge, too,” he says. “We did the exact same thing. We manipulated the vote with money and action, not with laws.”
There’s another cut, in which it’s not clear whether the topic has changed. “It’s a very easy thing for Republicans to say, ‘Well, they’re busing people in,'” says Foval. “Well, you know what? We’ve been busing people in to deal with you f — kin’ a — holes for 50 years, and we’re not going to stop now. We’re just going to find a different way to do it. So, I mean, I grew up with that idea. They used to bus people out to Iowa. If we needed people out there, we’d bus people out to Iowa.”
That cut ends, and the narration about voter fraud continues. But without seeing what happened before the “busing” quote, it’s not 100 percent clear he’s talking about voter fraud. The Madison-based Foval was a frequent opponent of Scott Walker, who regularly accused unions and progressive activists of busing in protesters to fabricate opposition to his policies.
“The big-government special interests, the powerful special interests, the union bosses and others, they will stop at nothing, and all their supporters out there,” Walker said on Fox News during his presidential bid. “They brought 100,000 protesters into our state to try and intimidate us, to back us down.”
Shipping protesters to events is common; in-person voter fraud, according to years of investigations, is not. When the narrative picks up, Foval is seen speaking about what seems to be getting away with something illegal.
“When I do this, I think as an investigator first,” he says. “I used to do the investigations, a different method. I think backwards from how they would prosecute if they could, and then try to build out the method to avoid that.”
O’Keefe’s narration picks back up. “The plan that was discussed was how to bring people from one state into another state to vote illegally,” he says.”
There’s another cut to Foval, who does seem to be mentioning the idea of fraudulent voters traveling by bus. “They could invalidate… well, okay,” he says. “Let’s say in theory if a major investigation came up of major vote fraud that way, how would they prove it? And who would they charge? Are they going to charge each individual of voter fraud? Or are they going to go after the facilitator for conspiracy which they could prove? It’s one thing if all these people drive up in their personal cars. If there’s a bus involved? That changes the dynamic.”
The video cuts again. “It’s the legality,” says Foval, “because you can prove conspiracy if there’s a bus. If there are cars…” He trails off and raises his eyebrows.
Later parts of the conversation more directly touch on how easy it would be to obtain the addresses and IDs needed to vote. But the quick cuts make it unclear whether Foval is talking about a plan or a theory.
“So, this is sort of maybe not stuff for the general, but stuff to maybe hold off until…” says the undercover reporter.
“No, I think you should do it for the general,” says Foval. Because of the cuts, it’s unclear what “it” refers to. The same issue arises after another cut, in which Foval says “you implement a massive change in state legislatures and in Congress, so you aim higher for your goals, and you implement it across every Republican-held state.”
“So, you start with the grass-roots,” says the reporter.
“Honestly, the ripest environment to do it in? Two within striking distance: Michigan, Indiana,” says Foval.
If Foval was describing voter fraud, it would indeed be massive. But his phrasing — “implement a massive change in state legislatures and in Congress” — is curious. The cost of what’s being pitched, including the purchase of cars for enough fraudulent voters to create a “massive change” in votes, is barely discussed. And the two other interviews included in the video, with Democracy Partners’s Bob Creamer and DREAMer activist Cesar Vargas, never get into these details.
Today, while the “voter fraud” claim has ignited social media, few Republicans who are in positions to act are talking about it. A spokesman for Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he would not be talking about the PVAction videos. In a new FEC complaint, the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation ignores the “voter fraud” topic and focuses on the PVAction videos’ coverage of communication between Foval and the Hillary Clinton campaign, and on Foval taking credit for getting activists at Trump rallies in the hope of getting a newsy, negative, or even violent reaction.
“It appears that all violent disruptions at Trump for President campaign rallies have been executed by paid protesters trained and instructed in their speech and conduct to advocate against Trump and in support of Clinton,” writes Joseph A. Vanderhulst, PILF’s legal counsel. “On information and belief based on the same source, agents of DNC and HFA communicated with the third party groups and individuals engaging in the activity and content through agents of Democracy Partners and The Foval Group.”
But in a new fundraising message to supporters of PVAction, O’Keefe writes that “a rampant and organized system of voter fraud has been exposed” by his reporters, and he promises more to come.
“Weeks ago, we deployed undercover journalists in early voting states across the nation,” O’Keefe writes. “They have been recording hours and hours of footage as we waited for the dam to break. And now I need to double down and flood the field with undercover investigators. They will be deployed to early voting stations around the nation to monitor ‘bussing’ activities and catch voter fraud in the act. Can you pay for one hotel night for an undercover journalist? One meal?”