Saturday, October 13, 2018

Exposing More Political Dirty Tricks in Kentucky and Elsewhere



Apparently many of you have expressed interest in some of the more seemly ordinary everyday type of corruption which goes on at the campaign level. While I'm not sure why, perhaps because it's proximity and happens all around you, or if it's because of just how brazen it often it. Nevertheless, I will oblige your curiosity with some other examples that I'm aware of.

We've thus far discussed simple things like stealing yard signs, either outright or having the opposing camps (perhaps their supporters) place "bounties" on the signs. We've also talked about phony baloney newspaper and other types of endorsements, the use of "ringers" to draw votes away from the other side. We've also briefly ventured the area of vote buying, be it with cold cash or by willing voters a chicken dinner (which is oh so Kentucky). Of course, as in the old days, vote buying also consists of giving the voting accomplice liquor in exchange for their vote (or more accurately, votes) or hard cash.

As everyone knows, certain establishments are closed while the voting polls are open; establishments like liquor stores, bars, strip clubs, and so forth. One technique that used to be popular, and I'm sure remains so, is to go down to the local skid row and find a few willing volunteers who are willing to go vote in exchange for a pint of liquor (or these days, perhaps some other substance if it can be easily obtained). This technique works well where voter ID isn't used since the party hack has easy access to voter rolls and can tell by looking at the voter frequency just how often someone votes (often call "fidelity voting").

Since people's gender and age are also given, it's a simple matter of matching up your volunteer with, say three or four profiles, and take them around to the appropriate polling place. All the individual really needs to do is remember the name and address. After accomplishing their mission, it's just a matter of dropping them off and paying up. Sounds simple doesn't it? The volunteer isn't going to say anything. They got their booze. They're happy, and besides, vote buying is illegal. Vote buying is considered to be technically a "bribe", and can carry a fine of $10,000 and/or up to five years in jail. Obviously the reward doesn't justify the risk, but some will still try it.

One of the biggest curtailments to vote buying these days is voter ID. While some groups poo-poo the notion of showing a photo ID, claiming it causes some "undo" hardship on the voter, especially if they're a minority, the fact is that it doesn't. Nearly everyone has some form of photo ID these days, and if they don't (such people with no driver's license), a photo ID can still be easily obtained . In Kentucky, all you need is a social security card, a copy of your birth certificate, and a piece of postmarked mail with your address on it along with $12.00. The cards can be obtained at any of the County Clerks' Offices. Doesn't sound real difficult does it?

A similar, and perhaps more common form of voter fraud is as easy as taking a walk to the local cemetery. Seriously. While long considered to be something of a urban legend, the dead often find themselves remaining on voter rolls long after their death, while someone else shows up to vote in their name. Again, this is most common in places where a voter ID isn't required and where voter registries aren't regularly purged so that someone recently deceased, even five or eight years ago, remains on the voter registry. One of the most infamous cases of the dead voting is Lyndon Johnson's first senate race in 1948 in which approximately 202 dead Mexican-Americans voted at the last minute in Jim Wells County Texas. Oh, and they voted in alphabetical order! As an aside, it does seems that the dead tend to prefer Democrat candidates. Don't know why.

Another neat feature about requiring voter ID is that it cuts down on non-citizens from illegally voting, which is becoming a serious problem in a number of states which have large numbers of illegal immigrants. However, despite federal laws to the contrary, only 24 states are actually compliant with voting laws. Nevertheless, another disturbing trend is that some states and cities have started to allow illegal immigrants to vote in certain elections as part of their so-called "sanctuary" status. Personally, I think any state or locale which allows allow illegals to vote or for that matter, claims a "sanctuary" status and all that entails should forfeit any federal monies it receives.

Another "dirty trick" which is gaining in popularity is the good ole computer virus. Today every candidate has a web page. It's a common as having a palm card to pass out. However, websites can be easily disrupted several ways. First is the computer virus. One candidate I know had a very successful web page which was generating a lot of hits. So, a computer virus was sent to their website, hidden in a email as they usually are. Fortunately, this individual was able to detect it before opening and allowing the web page, which can cost several hundred dollars to create, to be destroyed. The candidate filed a complaint with the local party chairperson, but since this was a primary, the chairperson refused to get involved (except for the pleas not to release the incident to the local media in exchange for a promise to "investigate", which of course never happened). Apparently anything goes in primaries as Bernie Sanders recently discovered.

A similar trick is to try and overload the website with fake messages. Since every candidate wants to answer their email, a new trick is to get 10 or 15 individuals to send worthless emails demanding that the candidate personally respond. These individuals use different email addresses to make it look like there's more people than there really is. By keeping the candidate busy answering emails, it keeps them off the campaign trail. It can also create a situation where something the candidate writes can be used out of context, which often happens with speeches as we've all seen from TV commercials. Along the same lines, is trying to overload a candidates phone system in the same way.

However, if the opponent gets out on the campaign trail and starts out walking and knocking you, there is another common little trick which gets used a lot called "Pigeon-holding" (not "pigeonholing"). As a rule, a candidate has about 10 seconds from the time a prospective voter answers the door to make their pitch. After that, the average person tunes the candidate off and shuts the door. However, with pigeon-holding, the prospective voter is usually a friend or supporter of the opponent. Instead of letting the candidate make their 10 second spiel, they will keep asking questions. Of course, after usually getting a lot of doors slammed in their face, the candidate is delighted to have someone's full attention, except that it's a ruse.

Candidates deal in volume work. The more doors they knock on, the better the chances of getting votes. However, when they're pigeon-holed, they are kept in one spot for as long as possible, thus cutting down on the voters they meet. That usually helps their opponents who get the opportunity to knock on more door while their opponent is tied up. A variation on this trick is to also request signs, which candidates love to do since it shows support...and then "lose" the sign. They then contact the candidate or their headquarters and request another sign or two which of course also gets "misplaced", "stolen", or "destroyed" (usually they go out with the trash or are hidden behind the house or in the garage).

This will go on until the candidate or their staff gets wise to the ploy, but meanwhile they've cost the candidate money (remember, signs cost money) and time in delivering the signs (if you factor in the cost of assembling the signs---usually delivered in lots of 500 to 2000---as well as the costs of gas, the average yard sign cost about $5.00 each, and upward to $20 for the larger signs). As I previously mentioned, a certain candidate I know discovered that their signs---regular yard signs and the larger 3x5 signs were being stolen on a regular basis. They later learned that a public employee associated with the school system was paying students to steal the signs; $1.00 for the small signs and $5.00 for the bigger ones, plus $1.00 for each of the metal posts used to hold the 3x5 signs. That just breaks all sort of laws doesn't it? Then too, what moralistic lesson does that teach the students? By the way, most of the students involved were supposedly in Junior High School.

I have no doubt that these sorts of juvenile games are commonplace in just about every state, county, and burgh in the US. However do they really work? Actually, no. It's true that signs are a visible symbol of support and seeing a lot of signs for one particular candidate can be impressive, the fact is that signs don't vote nor do they necessarily persuade others to vote for that person. If someone has agreed to support you, stealing or defacing a yard sign won't change their mind. It will, however, tick them off and they will tell their neighbors and friends. Perhaps the most overlooked component to any campaign is word of mouth. People naturally tend to believe and trust what family and friends...and neighbors say about candidates, especially when one is believed to be trying to cheat or be underhanded. However, what yard signs do is reinforce name recognition which is important since that's all lesser informed many people seem to remember about the candidates.

Lastly (for this issue) is the ever popular rumor mill. Everyone who went through grade school knows the damage rumors can cause to someone's reputation. In fact, rumors tend to continue through school and sometimes even into one's place of employment (where it's given a thin veneer of respectability by being called the "gossip mill" or "grapevine"). Regardless, it largely the same. In politics, especially during elections it still happens except that it's often more subtle but every bit as vicious. Political rumors can be started in a infinite variety of ways, from "insider" leaks to the news media to little innuendos while talking to voters at the door or in a group. Sometimes they're in the form of a mailer or a radio or television spot (or even on the Internet).

Rumors are often hard to respond to since by the time you hear about them, they've been out there awhile. Therefore, some candidates strike first by putting out disclaimers up front and apologizing on behalf of their opponent for the lies that will likely be spread about them. Another example is a candidate who knew that their opponent had been lying about their record, took the unusual step of doing a side by side comparison of backgrounds---education, political or community, military and professional experience, and using both their opponent's own literature and public records. It caused quite a loud outcry from the opponent's camps. Not because it was untrue, but because the comparison made their candidate look bad!

However, while that's a positive example of dealing with rumors, most aren't so positive. Many rumors, founded or not, were floated around in Kentucky regarding an individual's alleged sexual orientation, despite being married with children (it was a "cover" so the rumor went). In fact, this happened to a few candidates who subsequently either lost or decided not to run. In New York this is what happened in a race between Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo in 1977 ("Cuomo not the homo"). Koch won by the way. Women often face far worse. From everything about their sexual orientation to being poor mothers or wives, to making sexual deals for campaign endorsements or contributions. However, it's been my experience that women can be far tougher than men when it comes to these sort of things. Perhaps it's because women have had a far more difficult time in the workplace than men and have had to endure more and work harder for the same respect (and money) given to men.

One way to help stave off some of these rumors is to be pro-active. By that I mean requesting a police background check and even requesting the FBI do the same thing. This provides added, and impartial, information to refute most claims. An employer reference, as well as references from respected community leaders (especially those who don't have anything to gain or lose with your election) are great. Another suggestion is having a generic rebuttal letter, radio, or television spot ready to go in an instant. Also, have a generic press release ready to go as well. That allows the candidate to get out in front of the issue before it gets out of hand, and buys time to prepare a more specific response.

Well, there you go. A few more examples of the corruption of the political system at its most basic level---the campaign. However, unfortunately corruption in politics has literally become institutionalized at the highest levels. When corporations are freely able to spend what they want to get the legislation they desire or to hire lobbyists to help write specific legislation, then you know it's gone too far. When there was more turn over in the old Soviet Politburo during the height of the USSR than in the present day US Congress, you know it has gone too far. When Congress has become a millionaires club and the average citizen is unable to afford to run for office, then you know it's gone too far. When the revolving door between government and the corporate world spins at such as dizzying speed that you can't tell the two apart, then you know it has gone too far. It's up to us to stop it.


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