Firm probed for voter fraud has Va. GOP ties

Posted: October 25, 2012

The Winchester Star

Jill Vogel

WINCHESTER — A Republican voter registration scandal that originated in Florida has spread to other states, including Virginia. And the company in the middle of the controversy has ties to state Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville.

Strategic Allied Consulting (SAC), headed by Conservative Arizona political figure Nathan Sproul — who has a history of companies investigated for voter registration fraud — was registered in June as a Virginia limited liability company (LLC) by Vogel’s Warrenton law firm, Holtzman Vogel Josefiak PLLC, according to Virginia State Corporation Commission records.

Vogel said her law firm does a lot of work registering companies, but declined to comment Thursday on her firm’s relationship to SAC.

According to Florida Department of State documents, the company is currently under investigation there for “numerous” claims in 10 counties that it submitted voter registration forms with similar signatures or false addresses, filed under the names of dead people, or had party affiliations changed.

And Thursday in Virginia, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office charged Colin Small, 31, a former contracted SAC employee, with a combined 13 felony and misdemeanor counts after he allegedly threw eight voter registration forms in a Harrisonburg trash bin on Monday hours before the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

At the time, Small was an employee of Pinpoint Staffing, which SAC and the Virginia Republican Party contracted with to provide voter outreach work.

The Republican National Committee and Virginia GOP paid SAC a combined $3.7 million to register voters, according to federal campaign finance reports. But the GOP severed ties with SAC on Sept. 25 after the allegations in Florida came to light, saying it would not tolerate voter registration fraud.

According to Sproul’s lawyer, David Leibowitz, by the time the GOP dumped SAC Small was no longer working for the company.

When the charges were filed against Small on Thursday, he was still a Pinpoint employee, but according to the Rockingham Sheriff’s Office was contracted not by SAC but directly by the Virginia Republican Party — which subsequently severed ties with him.

Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins said in a statement Friday that the party “will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process.”

Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran called for an investigation, questioning why the state GOP — after severing ties with SAC in light of the alleged fraud in Florida — decided to keep on an employee who was previously working for the company in the commonwealth.

“Virginians deserve answers as to how this person was still working for Republican campaigns here and whether his behavior was directed by his superiors or party officials,” he said in a Friday statement.

According to Robert Dudley, professor of judicial behavior and American elections at George Mason University, Vogel’s involvement with SAC looks bad — noting that Sproul companies have been accused of fraud in the past.

“I wouldn’t think [it’s good],” he said. “Particularly for Republicans who have raised the issue of voter corruption.”

He was referring to the fact that Vogel supported a bill this year that tightened voter identification rules in Virginia.

State Republicans argued that the new law is to prevent fraudulent votes — although supporters could only produce a handful of cases where that happened over the years.

Democrats mostly opposed the law, with some arguing that it attempts to suppress voting by the elderly, minorities, poor and young people — who turned out in large numbers in 2008 to vote for President Barack Obama.

Although the Republican Party is no longer paying SAC, the company continues to operate in Virginia.

“I think there’s some ongoing get-out-the-vote work,” Leibowitz said. “I don’t know exactly what, if it’s slipping literature under windshield wipers or what.”

A Republican Party of Virginia spokesman wouldn’t say Friday if the party opposes SAC continuing to operate in the state. And Leibowitz wouldn’t say where SAC is receiving the money to continue its voter outreach efforts.

“It’s being paid for from somewhere,” he said. “But most [contributors] reserve the right to keep their donations private.”

Dudley assumes the funds are coming from super PACs.

American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC co-founded by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, gave $750,000 to another Sproul company, Grassroots Outreach LLC, in 2010, federal election reports show.

Vogel’s law firm also does work for Crossroads.

The group, which is responsible for millions of dollars worth of attack ads on President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate candidate from Virginia Tim Kaine, has paid Vogel’s firm $262,548 from October 2011 to September 2012, according to campaign finance documents.

Another company, run by Sproul — Lincoln Strategy Group — has received about $70,000 from Romney for President Inc., according to campaign finance reports.

Companies run by Sproul — who is a former executive director of the Arizona Christian Coalition and the Republican Party of Virginia — aren’t strangers to accusations of voter registration fraud.

Three states investigated his companies for fraud in the 2004 election. No charges were filed, however. Similar claims have popped up in Nevada and Colorado this year.

Leibowitz said SAC has hired thousands of workers and that there are bound to be some bad apples among such a large bunch.

The Virginia State Board of Elections will not ask the attorney general to investigate the Harrisonburg case, a board official said Friday.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com