pageok
pageok
pageok
Response to Adler on Corruption.

I would like to join my fellow VC posters in congratulating Barack Obama on his historic victory. I have always thought him to be (as I described him before) "the most reasonable, thoughtful, moderate person on either national ticket." My problem is with his (statist) politics. But then, after the most socialist administration since LBJ or FDR (the second Bush administration), the statist trend is already somewhat entrenched.

Unfortunately, Jonathan Adler's disagreement with me in a post yesterday requires that I support my original claim, which would otherwise seem rather obvious. In return, I hope that Jonathan will try to support his.

Jonathan takes issue with this statement of mine in an earlier post:

It is ironic that in 2008 we probably have two of the most honest and decent men running for president that we have had in a long time, and yet this has easily been the most corrupt election in my lifetime.

To support this claim, I pointed to three things:

1. tens or hundreds of thousands of illegal voter registrations,

2. illegal campaign contributions, including illegal foreign contributions,

3. the press's performance.

I concluded by hoping that "the voting today is not so close that it was likely determined by voter fraud or tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions," a hope that was borne out by the substantial margin for President-elect Obama.

Jonathan disagrees with my conclusion, but the only arguments that he raises in response are that:

(1) "it does not look like corrupt election practices actually affected the outcome in any national races," and

(2) "it might appear to some [because of more press and internet coverage] that there is more bad stuff going on, but I haven't seen any solid evidence that this is in fact the case."

Jonathan's first point essentially agrees with my assertion in my original post, so that's not grounds for disagreeing. I would dispute Jonathan's second point quite vigorously and would ask him which year since 1952 was more corrupt and what arguments or evidence he has for such a claim. In some of the early elections (eg, 1952, 1956, and 1960), African-American voters were suppressed quite substantially by poll taxes and the like, but that is not the sort of "corruption" I was talking about. As I made clear, I pointed to the extent of phony registrations, illegal contributions, and press bias.

[In the comments to one of the earlier posts, a commenter helpfully points to the 1972 election, which had slipped my mind. Certainly, a reasonable case could be made for that one being (in very different ways) as corrupt or more corrupt than this one. Illegal foreign contributions were probably much less, and registration fraud and press bias were incomparably less, but it would be hard to top the dirty tricks in 1972 and some of the seemingly explicit quid pro quos for domestic contributions. So in 1972, things were in some senses much more corrupt and in some senses much less corrupt than in the 2008 election.]

FRAUDULENT VOTER REGISTRATION

In my post, I linked as evidence to John Fund's piece at Politico:

Anita MonCrief [is] an ACORN whistle-blower who worked for both it and its Project Vote registration affiliate from 2005 until early this year . . . . MonCrief, a 29-year old University of Alabama graduate who wanted to become part of the civil rights movement, worked as a strategic consultant for ACORN as well as a development associate with Project Vote and sat in on meetings with the national staffs of both groups. She has given me documents that back up many of her statements, including one that indicates that the goal of ACORN's New Mexico affiliate was that only 40 percent of its submitted registrations had to be valid.

MonCrief also told me that some ACORN affiliates had a conscious strategy of flooding voter registration offices with suspect last-minute forms in part to create confusion and chaos that would make it more likely suspect voters would be allowed to cast ballots by overworked officials. Nate Toller, who worked on ACORN registration drives and headed an ACORN campaign against Wal-Mart in California until 2006, agrees.

Here is a small sampling of the fraud that has been uncovered so far:

Indiana — More than 2,000 voter registration forms filed in northern Indiana's Lake County filled out by ACORN employees turned out to be bogus. Officials also stopped processing a stack of about 5,000 applications delivered just before the October 6 registration deadline after the first 2,100 turned out to be phony.

Connecticut — Officials are looking into a complaint alleging ACORN submitted fraudulent voter registration cards in Bridgeport. In one instance, an official said a card was filled out for a 7-year-old girl, whose age was listed as 27. 8,000 cards were submitted in Bridgeport.

Missouri — The Kansas City election board is reporting 100 duplicate applications and 280 with fake information. Acorn officials agreed that at least 4% of their registrations were bogus. Governor Matt Blunt condemned the attempts by ACORN to commit voter fraud.

Pennsylvania — Officials are investigating suspicious or incomplete registration forms submitted by ACORN. 252,595 voter registrations were submitted in Philadelphia. Remarkably, 57,435 were rejected — most of them submitted by ACORN. . . .

Texas — Of the 30,000 registration cards ACORN turned in, Harris County tax assessor Paul Bettencourt says just more than 20,000 are valid. And just look at some of the places ACORN was finding those voters. A church just next door is the address for around 150 people. More than 250 people claim a homeless outreach center as their home address. Some listed a county mental health facility as their home and one person even wrote down the Harris County jail at the sheriff's office. . . .

That's not all. So far this year at least 14 states have started investigations against ACORN. Talk about a culture of corruption. It is so bad that Representatives of Congress have asked for the Justice Department to investigate.

ACORN has registered over 1.3 million voters this year. If their GOAL is only to have 40% of them legitimate, then there probably are hundreds of thousands of illegal registrations. Indeed, just the short list above includes over 70,000 fraudulent registrations. Jonathan, I've never heard of national registration fraud on such a grand scale.

In Indianapolis, over 105% of adults eligible to register are registered. That's more registered voters than there are adults (national rates of registration are only 72%).

Jonathan, if you have any reason to think that any other election in my lifetime had a similar level of phony registrations, please explain the basis for your claim. Before ACORN, we never had a national organization that was set up to promote so much voter registration fraud, so I can't see how you would defend that claim. Organizations such as the League of Women Voters were never engaged in systematic registration fraud like this.

ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

There are at least seven reasons to believe that illegal campaign contributions are more widespread in 2008 than in any election since at least 1952 [or perhaps 1972]:

1. Computer use is higher and online contributions are easier to make than they have ever been before. Just a few years ago, most contributions were made by check, which left a paper trail.

2. The incentive and desire by foreign nationals to contribute to Obama is higher than in any prior election. (Before this year, I don't remember any foreign public officials publicly admitting that foreign nationals were raising money for American presidential candidates.)

3. The Obama campaign disabled the normal credit card address verification feature on their website so that making illegal foreign and excess US donations was made much easier.

4. According to foreign newspaper and internet reports, the Obama campaign has repeatedly sent requests for money to foreign nationals who are prohibited from contributing.

5. There are many false names and occupations on the released lists of donors.

6. There are many suspicious patterns and amounts of donations just in the incomplete data that was reported.

7. The Obama campaign has refused to release the list of donors under $200 as the McCain has done.

Because illegal contributions are so much easier to make than ever before, it would be strange if there weren't more illegal contributions. Why wouldn't there be more illegal foreign contributions this year when the Obama campaign is the first to send frequent emails to foreign nationals asking for money? Jonathan, do you know of any reports that Kerry, Gore, or Bush did this in prior years?

There are many reports of illegal fundraising and illegal contributions. Here is just one summary:

Federal law does not require the campaigns to identify donors who give less than $200 during the election cycle. However, it does require that campaigns calculate running totals for each donor and report them once they go beyond the $200 mark. Surprisingly, the great majority of Obama donors never break the $200 threshold.

The FEC breakdown of the Obama campaign has identified a staggering $222.7 million as coming from contributions of $200 or less. Only $39.6 million of that amount comes from donors the Obama campaign has identified. . . .

It is the largest pool of unidentified money that has ever flooded into the U.S. election system, before or after the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms of 2002. . . .

"[CRP] and seven other watchdog groups asked both campaigns for more information on small donors," [Massie Ritsch] said. "The Obama campaign never responded," whereas the McCain campaign "makes all its donor information, including the small donors, available online."

The rise of the Internet as a campaign funding tool raises new questions about the adequacy of FEC requirements on disclosure. In pre-Internet fundraising, almost all political donations, even small ones, were made by bank check, leaving a paper trail and limiting the amount of fraud.

But credit cards used to make donations on the Internet have allowed for far more abuse. "While FEC practice is to do a post-election review of all presidential campaigns, given their sluggish metabolism, results can take three or four years," said Ken Boehm, the chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center.

Already, the FEC has noted unusual patterns in Obama campaign donations among donors who have been disclosed because they have gone beyond the $200 minimum.

FEC and Mr. Doodad Pro

When FEC auditors have questions about contributions, they send letters to the campaign's finance committee requesting additional information, such as the complete address or employment status of the donor.

Many of the FEC letters that Newsmax reviewed instructed the Obama campaign to "redesignate" contributions in excess of the finance limits.

Under campaign finance laws, an individual can donate $2,300 to a candidate for federal office in both the primary and general election, for a total of $4,600. If a donor has topped the limit in the primary, the campaign can "redesignate" the contribution to the general election on its books.

In a letter dated June 25, 2008, the FEC asked the Obama campaign to verify a series of $25 donations from a contributor identified as "Will, Good" from Austin, Texas. Mr. Good Will listed his employer as "Loving" and his profession as "You." A Newsmax analysis of the 1.4 million individual contributions in the latest master file for the Obama campaign discovered 1,000 separate entries for Mr. Good Will, most of them for $25. In total, Mr. Good Will gave $17,375.

Following this and subsequent FEC requests, campaign records show that 330 contributions from Mr. Good Will were credited back to a credit card. But the most recent report, filed on Sept. 20, showed a net cumulative balance of $8,950, still well over the $4,600 limit.

There can be no doubt that the Obama campaign noticed these contributions, since Obama's Sept. 20 report specified that Good Will's cumulative contributions since the beginning of the campaign were $9,375. . . .

Similarly, a donor identified as "Pro, Doodad," from "Nando, NY," gave $19,500 in 786 separate donations, most of them for $25. For most of these donations, Mr. Doodad Pro listed his employer as "Loving" and his profession as "You," just as Good Will had done.

But in some of them, he didn't even go this far, apparently picking letters at random to fill in the blanks on the credit card donation form. In these cases, he said he was employed by "VCX" and that his profession was "VCVC." . . .

Just as with Mr. Good Will, there can be no doubt that the Obama campaign noticed the contributions, since its Sept. 20 report specified that Doodad's cumulative contributions since the beginning of the campaign were $10,965.

Foreign Donations

And then there are the overseas donations — at least, the ones that we know about. The FEC has compiled a separate database of potentially questionable overseas donations that contains more than 11,500 contributions totaling $33.8 million. . . .

More than 1,400 of the overseas entries clearly were U.S. diplomats or military personnel, who gave an APO address overseas. Their total contributions came to just $201,680 [out of $33.8 million]. . . .

Unlike McCain's or Sen. Hillary Clinton's online donation pages, the Obama site did not ask for proof of citizenship until just recently. Clinton's presidential campaign required U.S. citizens living abroad to actually fax a copy of their passport before a donation would be accepted.

With such lax vetting of foreign contributions, the Obama campaign may have indirectly contributed to questionable fundraising by foreigners. In July and August, the head of the Nigeria's stock market held a series of pro-Obama fundraisers in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city. The events attracted local Nigerian business owners.

At one event, a table for eight at one fundraising dinner went for $16,800. Nigerian press reports claimed sponsors raked in an estimated $900,000.

The sponsors said the fundraisers were held to help Nigerians attend the Democratic convention in Denver. But the Nigerian press expressed skepticism of that claim, and the Nigerian public anti-fraud commission is now investigating the matter.

Concerns about foreign fundraising have been raised by other anecdotal accounts of illegal activities.

In June, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a public speech praising Obama, claiming foreign nationals were donating to his campaign.

"All the people in the Arab and Islamic world and in Africa applauded this man," the Libyan leader said. "They welcomed him and prayed for him and for his success, and they may have even been involved in legitimate contribution campaigns to enable him to win the American presidency..."

Though Gadhafi asserted that fundraising from Arab and African nations were "legitimate," the fact is that U.S. federal law bans any foreigner from donating to a U.S. election campaign.

The rise of the Internet and use of credit cards have made it easier for foreign nationals to donate to American campaigns, especially if they claim their donation is less than $200.

Gadhafi is not the only foreign official to talk about foreigners making donations. According to one internet account, a prominent Spanish official admitted on TV that he had donated to Obama's campaign.

More accounts of registration, voting, and contribution irregularities are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

CONCLUSION

In my original post, I gave three reasons why in my opinion 2008 was the most corrupt election in my lifetime (even if, as I expected, it probably didn't affect the outcome):

1. illegal voter registrations,

2. illegal campaign contributions, and

3. the press's performance.

I was quite specific about the three facets of this year's corruption.

I have supported the first two with arguments and evidence. Given the massive illegal voter registrations this year, I find it hard to see how Jonathan could disagree on my first point.

On my second point, I don't see how there couldn't be more illegal donations this year, given the switch from donations by check to donations by computer, the lax controls, and the frequent fundraising emails to foreign nationals. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the greatly increased press reports of illegal donations are just the result of better reporting (as both Jonathan and Orin seem to imply).

The third type of corruption -- press bias — is so obvious and so widely recognized by the public and by many elites that I doubt that Jonathan would challenge me on that, so I won't waste his time on that point in an already very long post.

I gave three reasons why this election was the most corrupt since 1952 [or perhaps than 1972]. Jonathan, please indicate which election since 1952 was more corrupt than this one, and why? You never say (nor does Orin in his post).

BABH:
IANAL, but my understanding is that filing voter registration forms given over to one's care is not any kind of fraud. Is it?
11.5.2008 3:38am
dirk calloway (mail):
Where's the evidence for the first part of your argument: that these were two of the most honest and decent men to run for president? I agree that you've made the case that the election was totally corrupt. Doesn't that undermine your contention that Obama is honest and decent, since he's the one who ran the most corrupt campaign since 1952, according to you?
11.5.2008 3:55am
gwinje:
Methinks. . .
11.5.2008 3:58am
frufru:
Here in Canada we have civil service bureaucracy called Elections Canada. Total geeks. They manage electoral lists, review campaign spending &etc. It may seem like a good idea, and is implemented well, but in reality it's statist.
11.5.2008 3:58am
Gerard Magliocca (mail):
Er . . . how about 1960? Mayor Daley, Chicago, etc.
11.5.2008 4:13am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Er . . . how about 1960? Mayor Daley, Chicago, etc."

Yes indeed. I refer the reader the Seymour Hersh's book, The Dark Side of Camelot-- Chapter 10, "The Stolen Election." Hersh, who is no Republican, amasses a tremendous amount of evidence showing massive election fraud in the 1960 presidential race leaving little doubt the election was stolen.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
11.5.2008 4:38am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Prof. Lindgren.
You missed the point.
As examples: Cold Cash Jefferson is still in Congress. Duke Cunningham is in jail, as Stevens will soon be, I hope.
Point is, if the dems do it, it's okay.
Gore. No controlling legal authority.
If the dems do it, it's not corruption.
Not sure how it works, but that's the way it works.
11.5.2008 4:38am
Splunge:
You know, I was going to argue for 1960, say, and Mayor Daley voting the dead for JFK at the behest (and for the dough) of old man Kennedy, maybe the mob connections. Or maybe for Truman's re-election and the influence of the Midwest machines.

But...maybe you're right. Egregious as those earlier examples were, they were somewhat limited in their scope, because of the low-bandwidth communications of the day, and the fact that the sheer reach of personal influence is limited.

The same is harder to say in a modern era of mass and instant communications, and when the agent of corruption is not personal influence but that far more fungible agent, plain cash money.

If one accepts the thesis that points at the margin of an election can be bought with plain old money, then it's quite possible much of the wealthy of the planet -- including no doubt Europeans, Chinese, and the oil barons, all of whom had good reason to prefer Obama -- may indeed have bought an American election.

Must be some kind of karmic payback for when we used to buy elections in dinky Central and South American banana republics.
11.5.2008 4:47am
Mike& (mail):
Impressive post. It's pretty sad that the posts disputing your initial claims did not offer any sort of refutation beyond: "Well, my sense is that the media is paying more attention to these issues." That's not much of an argument.

Wondering.... Does the FEC require people accepting online donations to log the IP address of individual donors?

If I wanted to make illegal campaign contributions, I could do this easily. I'd go buy a bunch of prepaid credit cards. Then I'd keep making $199 donations on them from my home computer. I could even use several different credit cards to hide my fraud. After all, there isn't a very high premium on prepaid cards. (I think AmEx charges $5.95 a card.) It'd be worth the 3% or so premium to funnel more money to my candidate of choice.

This is all very basic stuff. Not hard. It took me 30 seconds to think of it. If I had thought of the issue before, I could come up with much more creative ideas.

To ferret out this fraud, you'd just log my IP address and disallow multiple contributions from the same IP address. Granted, I could then use a proxy server. But not everyone knows how to do that.
11.5.2008 4:50am
Mike& (mail):
Given that it took me 30 seconds to think of the prepaid credit card idea, I did some Googling. Sure enough, I'm not the only one to come up with such an obvious idea:

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.


Now, there are legit reasons to allow prepaid cards. Obama has a lot of black supporters, who don't have the credit to give a credit card or open a bank account, which is what inspired Russell Simmons to come up with the Rushcard.

That said, some basic IP logging would prevented much fraud.

Disclosure is always a good thing, too.
11.5.2008 4:54am
Vermando (mail) (www):
I second Gerard. You discredited yourself in the first post not with your contentions about corruption but with your hyperbole that this was the most corrupt election of your lifetime. Worse than 1960? Really?

More broadly, the other area of disagreement was not with your contentions but with your logical jump that if you prove those three points then you have shown this to be the most corrupt election of your lifetime. Sure, false registrations are bad, but they are nothing compared to false ballots. We seem to be catching at least some of the first - and since they are all from one organization, we have a systematic way of identifying the rest - while with, say, the election of 1960, we had a ton of the second that went undetected.

Likewise, illegal contributions under $200 may be against the rules, but as evidence of massive corruption? Many on this blog thinks donations should be unrestricted in any case, and the rules President-elect Obama is accused of violating date from 1971, before which both unions and business interests operated fabulously corrupt electoral financing machines. Am I to believe that the money Senator Obama has received has really corrupted this campaign more than the labor and party-boss shenanigans of yore?

So, I think that you chose poor indicators of corruption. What makes an election corrupt, e.g., what makes me either doubt the validity of the result or think that the politician who just won owes his victory to somebody who put him there through illegitimate means? I am not sure, but I am sure that I do not think that Senator Obama won an illegitimate victory, and I am sure that I do not think that he owes any favors to any of his sub-$200 per a donation donors. The same certainly cannot be said of every election since 1952.
11.5.2008 4:55am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jim, you failed to mention the various efforts made to block voters. These deserve some attention, as no doubt it is not confined to a single party: http://www.truthout.org/110308A
11.5.2008 4:55am
Syd Henderson (mail):
Let's put it this way. Obama's won this election by somewhere between six and ten million votes. This stuff you are trying to present to us as outrages is trivial. You're in a position like someone who tried to convince us that Al Landon somehow beat FDR. Give it up. It's pathetic, embarassing, and makes you look like like a partisan idiot.
11.5.2008 5:11am
anon345 (mail):
Jim has been pathetic, embarassing, and a partisan idiot throughout. The point of his post is to undermine Obama. If he must continue to sacrifice his integrity in the name of partisan advantage then so be it.
11.5.2008 5:51am
Anon333:
The problem with your first point re: false voter registration (aside from the point already made that fraudulent voter registration cannot undermine the integrity of an election unless there are false ballots cast -- and there is no evidence that anyone tried to vote as "Mickey Mouse" etc.) is that in many states ACORN was required to submit all voter registration forms it collected and indeed was subject to a substantial fine if it did not. E.g., Fla. Stat. 97.0575(3); Missouri Stats. 115.203. I would cite the laws from each of the States you have listed as an example of "fraud" to show that in fact ACORN had not choice but to submit the registrations, but honestly my guess is it doesn't much matter to you. This is not to say that ACORN should be excused if they are intentionally encouraging their employees to falsify registration cards, but the mere existence of fraudulent registration is not evidence of that.
11.5.2008 6:36am
Splunge:
Many on this blog thinks donations should be unrestricted in any case

I don't think anyone anywhere thinks donations should not be restricted to American citizens. There's a nontrivial chance that a substantial chunk of Obama's cash came from foreigners.

I'm one of those who couldn't care less if Joe in Missoula and Jane in Peoria want to dump all their wordly wealth into Team Obama's Global Warming Action Fund, but I would not like to have a President elected with (say) the help of some multibillionaire Saudi oil prince who hopes he'll let up on the whole crusade against Wahhabism thing, or Russian mafia bosses and spam kings who have been accidentally caught in the War on Terror crackdown on international money laundering and would prefer a President more relaxed about such things.
11.5.2008 7:09am
Dadadum (mail):
"In some of the early elections (eg, 1952, 1956, and 1960), African-American voters were suppressed quite substantially by poll taxes and the like, but that is not the sort of "corruption" I was talking about. As I made clear, I pointed to the extent of phony registrations, illegal contributions, and press bias."

Well, if you say "most corrupt election" than you are referring to the general meaning of corruption, not just the three things that you care about and that you think were most important in THIS election. Press bias does not necessarily fall within the meaning of corruption. Phony registrations are bad but not nearly as bad as phony votes (of which there is little evidence so far) and suppression of peoples'ability to vote based on the color of their skins.
11.5.2008 7:24am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Splunge.
You wouldn't? Nativist neanderthal.
Most other posters would agree with you if the candidate in question were republican.
11.5.2008 7:24am
Daniel Wolf (mail):
Anon333 is absolutely correct. The person who fills out the form and signs it is responsible for its veracity and the local voting registrar is responsible for determining whether or not it is a valid application. An agent which collect forms may not dispose of them as they see fit, nor may they modify the forms to correct them, but must turn them in as signed by the applicant. This is entirely reasonable, as it is not in our interest that a third-party intercepts applications en route to a registrar. ACORN has, in fact, in numerous cases, warned registrars that applications appeared to be either false or otherwise ineligible. If ACORN were committing widespread fraud, they would hardly turn themselves in voluntarily!
11.5.2008 7:27am
_quodlibet_:
Is there any evidence that the "illegal" campaign contributions (from either domestic or foreign sources) constituted bribery or undue influence? If not, I don't see how they can be considered a source of corruption. (And if they're anonymous/untraceable, it's especially hard to see how they might have a corrupting influence.) I also disagree with the Supreme Court that contributions can be criminalized under the First Amendment if they're not bribery or the like.
11.5.2008 8:05am
glasnost (mail):
You have no idea of an appropriate context in which to place your complaints.

First, false positives in voter registration are a normal part of every American presidential election. We have an absurdly decentralized voting system with an unheard of patchwork of registration rules. In the Gray Davis, Republican-sponsored recall election of 2004, 30% of the registrations were bogus. This is an unseemly feature, but a generalized problem not specific to now, and, as you are no doubt aware, *completely* different from voter fraud.

For #2: It's very strange to think that "a substantial part of Barack's donations came from foreign nationals". Barack Obama had five million volunteers and the largest Democratic popular majority since Lyndon Johnson. Perhaps a more likely possibility is that most of his money came from excited Americans. Perhaps you should wait for some evidence on this before making declarations, no?

#3: I don't concede in any way your manufactured issue of press bias (and no, getting lots of conservative pundits to repeat your claims does not validate them), but even if someone else was to conceded them, press bias is no worse than the media's open mockery of Al Gore in 2000.
11.5.2008 8:06am
Jody (mail):
Anon333 is absolutely correct. The person who fills out the form and signs it is responsible for its veracity and the local voting registrar is responsible for determining whether or not it is a valid application. An agent which collect forms may not dispose of them as they see fit, nor may they modify the forms to correct them, but must turn them in as signed by the applicant.


This is a reasonable explanation when a small percentage of registrations are fraudulent, say 1-3%. But when 60-70% are fraudulent and fraudulence extends across all states and locales, it has to be at the direction of the registering organization.
11.5.2008 8:12am
devil's advocate (mail):

Methinks. . .


most efficient post.

Jim, the problem with your allegations about the extent of corruption implied by ACORN's activities is not just the substantial national margin. I think the extent of corruption is actually in the eye of the beholder.

The perception of this activity as corrupt by classes of people clearly outside its ambit demosntrates shifting allegience not corrupt effects (I'm with you on the media bias, that is your strongest point, but I think it is a stretch to call it corruption. You can call it sloth, idol worship, 5th column=4th estate, but it is not as if this phenomenon were not called out - by the candidates themselves. What is announced is not corrupt in the sense of conspiracy to violate the public trust.

That is not to dispute the phenomenon or th evidence, but to say that the public has passed upon whether or not this corruption — to an extent I imply a similar phenomenon with regard to Stevens reelection in Bernstein's senate post above.

I would like to think that ACORN's efforts, obviously designed to capture an election on the margins would be discouraged by the general electorate rejecting the party that practices it, but such was obviously not the case.

I would like to think that the gruesome storyline of the press would be self-evidently a medium is the message scripted narrative — really sitcom — of the electorate and its choice. For crying out loud Tim Russert's son in Indiana displaying a puerile echo of his father and trying to tell everyone why a fairly standard youth turnout was groundbreaking. As important a concept because that was the hook that NBC used to legitimize this nepotism. I wish him the best but that wasn't it. It was a fairy tale. Bill Clinton was right. But everybody was on notice and decided to suspend disbelief.

Brian
11.5.2008 8:19am
neurodoc:
Must be some kind of karmic payback for when we used to buy elections in dinky Central and South American banana republics.
Hey, c'mon. Will you next say that we stole Texas and leave out the "fair and square" part?
11.5.2008 8:23am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
This has been the most corrupt election in my lifetime. Why? Because the media made fun of my candidate. Waaaaah!
11.5.2008 8:25am
devil's advocate (mail):
man I wish they had editting on this blog. Keep an archive of original post so if coward can't hide what they meant, but let the rest of us fix our jibberish so we can say what we meant.


The perception of this activity as corrupt by classes of people clearly outside its ambit demosntrates shifting allegience not corrupt effects


Spelling problems aside, what I meant is the ability of those not involved in the activity to perceive the extent to which it represents "corruption" incorporates their judgment on this question in the changing allegiances demonstrated by the demographic and geographic shift,e.g., white college educated independents and populous well to do suburbs (good deal of overlap there). This shift took place amidst a plethora of signals about this ACORN phenomenon.
11.5.2008 8:44am
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
Jim - You have answered Adler. Now I hope that you will answer the rest of us. You said that Obama is an "honest and decent" man.

Would you either support that claim (which seems absurd) or concede that it is false?

Here is a simple fact: Almost every time a news organization checks what Obama has said about his past, they find discrepancies. (For instance, take a look at the NYT article on his time at Business International.) A few of these discrepancies could be attributed to the failings of memory almost all of us have. But there are too many discrepancies to allow that conclusion. Anyone who looks at them has to conclude that Obama has not been honest about his past, in large ways and small.

Here is another simple fact: In his first race, Obama disqualified all his opponents, getting them thrown off the ballot rather than beating them at the polls. That was legal, but in my opinion, unethical, and an attack on the very foundations of democracy. (FWIW, Alice Palmer has said that she thinks she could have won a court challenge -- if she could have afforded it.) I think that was an indecent way to win.

I also think that his casual acceptance of genocide as possible consequence of following his Defeat Now! policy in Iraq was and is indecent.
11.5.2008 8:46am
T Gracchus (mail):
This is an odd use of the term "corrupt". One would have expected evidence of intent to evade law for a particular purpose. Failure to comply is not enough for corruption, particularly where the alleged conduct is by third parties.
11.5.2008 9:05am
PC:
Prof. Lindgren, you are demonstrating the power of memes. The first two reasons you give for this being the most corrupt election ever are memes that were constructed by astroturfers for this election cycle. The third reason is a standard Republican go to meme.

If there's one thing I found fascinating about this election, it was the ability to discover how smears can be built using the web. In the cases of "voter registration fraud" and "illegal donations," both were well tested in a dark net[0] of blogs before they were unleashed into the larger blogosphere.

I doubt Prof. Lindgren had any knowledge of the dark net, but it does show the power of refining smears until they can be developed into something that appeals to the gut of persuadable listeners.

We are living in a different era, so I would fully expect this sort of opinion shaping to continue. As Prof. Lindgren demonstrates, even highly educated people are not immune to the effects.

[0] - it's not a true dark net because it does link out to mainstream blogs and the sites are easily reachable if you know their locations. The link patterns demonstrated that it acted as a test bed to for political smears.
11.5.2008 9:13am
Pauldom:

But when 60-70% are fraudulent and fraudulence extends across all states and locales, it has to be at the direction of the registering organization.

Where do these figures come from? Can anyone provide a link?
11.5.2008 9:14am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I'd like to see the separate crimes of fraudulent voter registration and fraudulent voting rolled into one: corruption of the electoral process.
11.5.2008 9:14am
big guy (mail):
Jim Miller,
I'll do you one better. Even when he talks about the present: for example claiming to be on the senate finance committee.
Or his senate race: getting his opponent tossed from the ballot by asking a court to unseal divorce records.
11.5.2008 9:19am
Frank M Howland (mail):
(1) Jim Lindgren doesn't offer much in the way of comparative data, making it rather hard to support the "most" charge. He also doesn't do much to filter out the differences in information we have about past elections versus the one which we just had. (A point that other posters on the blog have made.)

(2) A question about his definition of corrupt with regard to the press. The OED offers several senses of the word, but the one closest to Lindgren's apparent meaning is: "Debased in character; infected with evil; depraved; perverted; evil, wicked." Maybe Lindgren would go for the debased in character definition. I think it is hard to support "evil." Another sense noted in the OED is "Perverted from uprightness and fidelity in the discharge of duty; influenced by bribery or the like; venal." Is Lindgren accusing the press of taking bribes? My take is that Lindgren is being too loose with his language, but maybe he can clear this up.
11.5.2008 9:25am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Since registration fraud, fraudulent voting, illegal contributions, and foreign contributions have all been so-whatted, in that they can't be proven to have actually swung the election, they are now okay.
It will be small-minded to complain of them again.
It remains only for the dems to figure out how to do them better. And, once an election is swung by fraud, the fraud has already been deemed acceptable.
So, no problem.
11.5.2008 9:35am
PC:
Richard Aubrey, the Republican PR firms that developed those memes thank you for your support.
11.5.2008 9:43am
JoshD:
Serious question:

Is there any case law or federal statute preventing states from accepting "double votes" from voters who also voted in another state?

I'm not advocating this but would it be permissible for states to define their own voting requirements such that they do not necessarily exclude someone who meets the voting requirements in another state as well and votes there?
11.5.2008 9:47am
Boonton (mail) (www):
Two suggestions:

1. Let all campaign contributions flow through the FEC. Want to give to a candidate? Go to the FEC website, put in your credit card info and select your person. The FEC can amass the reporting data and candidates's camapigns will not have the COI of both soliciting funds and policing the transactions.

2. Establish a national registration database that state and local election offices can tap into. You will get rid of duplicate registrations because each time you move you don't have to worry about your old town keeping you on the voter rolls. Voters can check a single web site to confirm that they are registered, if they are not it is easy to get registered.

This would also create a check against 'snow bird voters'. If you vote in Florida because that's where you have your vacation home the state will update the database. If you try to then vote in NY the polls will stop you.

This could also break us away from having to vote only at our polling places. For every ACORN problem there are probably a dozen votes that don't get made because voters don't have the time or energy to stand in line for hours. You should be able to go to any poll, swipe your registration card and your local ballot will appear on the screen or be printed. You cast your vote, computers update and you're done.
11.5.2008 9:49am
frankcross (mail):
Jim, you made a comparative point. I don't see any comparative evidence. I see no evidence on past voter registration fraud or illegal voting. I see no evidence on past illegal contributions.
11.5.2008 10:04am
SeaDrive:

1. tens or hundreds of thousands of illegal voter registrations,
2. illegal campaign contributions, including illegal foreign contributions,
3. the press's performance.



What are we to conclude from the omission of voter suppression tactics from this list?
11.5.2008 10:07am
JPG:
Jim Lindgren: The third type of corruption -- press bias — is so obvious and so widely recognized by the public and by many elites that I doubt that Jonathan would challenge me on that, so I won't waste his time on that point in an already very long post.

Considering the historically high disapproval rate of the actual republican administration and catastrophic policies, it should come as no surprise that most national medias show a somewhat high level of sympathy for the other party. But linking the overall mediatic coverage to corruption is far-fetched, to put it gently. At least one among the most influential national networks sided a clear bias against the democratic nominee. Mediatic coverage has been partisan at times, ridiculous at others (on both sides), but that's a healthy democratic system at work.

I can understand you were not pleased to see most medias take a different look than yours at the race, but calling them corrupted for doing so is abusive. If you have any evidence of corruption in the mediatic coverage of the race, please share it with us. Also, you'd have to prove the corruption was systematic...
11.5.2008 10:14am
Jerry F:
I don't understand why anyone would congratulate Obama. Virtually any American who enjoyed the same degree of support from the Left-wing media would have one the Presidency. If you want to congratulate anyone for the election outcome, congratulate the folks at the New York Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post and TV news networks who have been a de facto part of the Obama campaign for months and have succeeded in convincing the American people that Obama is not what his policies and his associations suggest he is.
11.5.2008 10:14am
trolls R us:
The third type of corruption -- press bias — is so obvious and so widely recognized by the public and by many elites that I doubt that Jonathan would challenge me on that, so I won't waste his time on that point in an already very long post.


All the sheeple know that the press is biased. It's an article of faith amongst them.

And the bias is corrupt. The freedom of press belongs not to those who own presses, but to those who bribe the owners of presses. The bribery is open and rampant.

The corrupt press stabs America in the back.
11.5.2008 10:22am
Swaine (mail):
I agree with Frank Cross -- where's the comparative data? It certainly doesn't help that you forgot about 1972 entirely. Oddly, part of your post seems to be saying that this was *inevitably* the most corrupt election ever; e.g., when you say "Because illegal contributions are so much easier to make than ever before, it would be strange if there weren't more illegal contributions." So perhaps the point that you're making is that any comparative data would be misleading and, indeed, that it's nonsensical to be making relative claims of the kind you are making.

Anyway, could you clarify what you mean by "corrupt"? It must be pretty broad; you included originally the press's performance, and it seems to include lots of allegations that have nothing to do with either campaign's agency. Why don't you include reduced vote suppression as an offsetting consideration? Why don't you include the upside of the efforts at increasing voter registration, and high turnout rates? I'd think any balanced assessment of corruption, in the sense that you use it, would have to take greater care to avoid cherry-picking.
11.5.2008 10:27am
courtwatcher:

Unfortunately, Jonathan Adler's disagreement with me in a post yesterday requires that I support my original claim, which would otherwise seem rather obvious.

Um . . . no. Not obvious to Adler and Kerr, not obvious to many commenters here. And any assertion of "corruption" should be supported by evidence. And this isn't "unfortunate" - why would it be?

And where is the comparison to other elections? You seem to think it's others' task to refute your assertion and that you don't have to provide any evidence relating to other elections' corruption to prove your rather audacioud claim.
11.5.2008 10:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
From PC:
Richard Aubrey, the Republican PR firms that developed those memes thank you for your support.

PC. You're not nearly smart enough. The bulk of the posts do not contest the issue of whether this stuff happened. Instead, the posts said, effectively, It/they didn't make any difference so...so what.
So, the stuff happened and it's okay.
According to the commenters.
11.5.2008 10:41am
courtwatcher:
Prof. Lindgren,
The "media" are private companies that have shareholders to answer to.
If media bias exists, how, exactly, is it "corruption"?
From where does the media's obligation to be unbiased come?
11.5.2008 10:42am
Suzy (mail):
When it comes to corruption, I'm far more concerned about efforts (from both partisan sides!) to suppress the vote or unfairly disqualify voters. When this breaks the law and actually disenfranchises people, I consider that one of the worst kinds of election corruption. I don't have sufficient comparative data to judge how 2008 stacks up against other years in that regard; in fact, I doubt anyone has that data right now. However, I have no reason to believe that this year was worse, and even less reason to believe that it changed any actual outcomes in awarding electoral votes.
11.5.2008 10:56am
VA atty:
pauldom:

There is loads of evidence that ACORN gummed up the works with hundreds of thousands of duplicate and faulty/fraudulent registrations. The New York Times reported that 400,000 of the 1,300,000 registrations ACORN collected were rejected by local registrars for these reasons.

It is hard to believe that numbers like that were were generated accidentally or unintentionally.

reference:

Group's Tally of New Voters Was Vastly Overstated
The New York Times
By MICHAEL FALCONE and MICHAEL MOSS
Published: October 23, 2008
11.5.2008 10:58am
Passerby:
Sure, if you want to redefine corrupt to take out actual voter surpression (poll tax, etc.) and focus only on your narrow set of parameters and ignoring all evidence to the contrary, Yes, this was the most corrupt election. Since we are going this far in self-limiting, let's just say "ever."
11.5.2008 11:02am
Boonton (mail) (www):
Re: Media Bias.

1. Fox News Fox News Fox News Fox News and NO it doesn't matter that they sometimes put liberals on the air. The NYT has Bill Kristal (perhaps the person who came up with the idea of Sarah Palin) and David Brooks on their editorial page. CNN has Bill Bennett. ABC has George Will.

2. Other Mainstream media ended up cutting McCain breaks because they were too self-conscious about being accused of bias. For example CNN's analysts were giving the last debate win to McCain until the flash polls showed the people thought he lost...then they quickly change their tune.

3. This campaign drew huges amounts of people who watched the convention speeches and debates live. In other words, many people spent hours hearing the candidates directly from their own mouths unfiltered by any media commentary at all.

4. The internet came into its own in this election. More and more the internet blogs drove the newscycle with the MSM catching up or summarizing issues the blogs uncovered, fleshed out and argued about. This is perhaps the election where the MSM had the least amount of influence.
11.5.2008 11:04am
PC:
You're not nearly smart enough.

I never claimed to be. While it does take some measure of intelligence to calculate the eigenvector centrality of nodes in a graph, the results of those calculations are easy to read.

The bulk of the posts do not contest the issue of whether this stuff happened.

I'm challenging whether or not this stuff happened. The astroturfing PR firms created the memes and narratives that you and Prof. Lindgren have bought in to.

Perhaps Prof. Lindgren came about these ideas of corruption separately from the astroturfer's efforts, but a quick search through the spider data doesn't bear that out for Prof. Lindgren's posts on volokh.com. Since the spider doesn't bother with comments, I have no idea if you were calling foul before the PR firms released their memes.
11.5.2008 11:12am
Boonton (mail) (www):
"The New York Times reported that 400,000 of the 1,300,000 registrations ACORN collected were rejected by local registrars for these reasons. ...
It is hard to believe that numbers like that were were generated accidentally or unintentionally. "

I'm not sure why it is that hard to believe. If you pay people low wages to collect names at shopping malls and street corners why is it hard to believe you're going to get a lot of incomplete forms, bogus forms and yes even fraud? Add to that the fact that many states require ACORN and other groups to submit every form that gets filled out...even the obvious joke ones with 'Mickey Mouse'....which is a good policy because otherwise groups could engage in suppression by chucking legitimate forms which would lead to people showing up at the polls honestly thinking they registered only to discover they didn't.

Anyway the popular vote count per wikipedia right now is 118.1 million total votes (not counting 3rd party votes) with Obama ahead by 11.1million. Quite frankly where is there room for significant fraud? ACORN is probably the largest group that is under scrutiny here and you've got 400K registrations. Even if we pretended they all turned into fraudurant votes (which they didn't) where's the real fraud?
11.5.2008 11:13am
Thomas_Holsinger:
John Burgess,

It's called criminal conspiracy.

I'd like to see the separate crimes of fraudulent voter registration and fraudulent voting rolled into one: corruption of the electoral process.
11.5.2008 11:19am
Thomas_Holsinger:
John Burgess,

It's called criminal conspiracy.

I'd like to see the separate crimes of fraudulent voter registration and fraudulent voting rolled into one: corruption of the electoral process.
11.5.2008 11:19am
Thomas_Holsinger:
oops, double post. Sorry about that.
11.5.2008 11:19am
Boonton (mail) (www):
BTW, 1,300 registration forms....400K rejected, 450K legitimate new voters and 450K currently registered voters who were changing their address. That's 900,000 legitimate forms or a rate of 70% for legitimate regisitrations. Keep in mind a portion of the 400K that were rejected were 'duplicates'. People fill out duplicate registration applications all the time because they aren't sure they are registered or they forget that 3 months ago they filled out a registration form at the post office or because they just aren't sure their application was processed.

The article doesn't say how many were duplicates but it quotes Acorn estimated 20-25% were. I'm not clear if that's 20% of the rejected ones or 20% of the total 1.3M. If it is the rejected ones then that's 80,000 (round up to 100,000). If it is 20% of the total that's 260,000. That means something like 85%-90% of their forms are either legitimate or can be cleared as innocent.

So if even ACORN looks this good where the hell is the damm fraud?
11.5.2008 11:22am
DangerMouse:
It seems increasingly evident that Obama won through fraudulent methods. It's a shame he had to employ thugs like ACORN, and also disable basic credit card security. But when you grow up in the Chicago mafia, it's to be expected when you elect a mafia president.
11.5.2008 11:25am
anon345 (mail):
I won't call you traitors but this comment section is a cesspool of unAmerican, unpatriotic corruption.
11.5.2008 11:27am
Randy R. (mail):
If press bias is evidence of corruption, then every single election in the 19th century was far more corrupt that anything today. Back then, newspapers were expected to be biased. The whole notion of an objective newspaper didn't arise until the early 20th century.

If you read any of the rags that were published back then, they would make anyone blush.

"In his first race, Obama disqualified all his opponents, getting them thrown off the ballot rather than beating them at the polls. "

....and all of the died within weeks under very mysterious circumstances. Very mysterious indeed.
11.5.2008 11:28am
DangerMouse:
Just remember, anon345, that dissent is patriotic!
11.5.2008 11:32am
Cheaper Trolls, Ltd:
The astroturfing PR firms created the memes and narratives that you and Prof. Lindgren have bought in to.


That was one of teh best movies, EVUH...

Release the memes! Call forth the hounds of astro!

 

 

©2008 Cheaper Trolls™
11.5.2008 11:37am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Boonton,

I'm not sure why it is that hard to believe. If you pay people low wages to collect names at shopping malls and street corners why is it hard to believe you're going to get a lot of incomplete forms, bogus forms and yes even fraud?

As a sometime "low-wage" worker, I would like to say what I think of the implication that such people ought just naturally to be expected to produce work so bad that a third of it has to be thrown out on cursory examination, but I'm mindful of our hosts' rules here.

That said, I like your two suggestions further upthread — with the proviso that the FEC has to set up donation services for any candidate, however improbable, not just those of the major or even minor parties.
11.5.2008 11:39am
Thomas_Holsinger:
DangerMouse,

Obama used criminal methods, but those were not determinative. He would have won anway.

Which is very, very important. My science-fiction writer friends and I were extremely concerned about the potential for large-scale organized political violence if Obama had WON through criminal means. His legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the tax increases which are coming, would have been impeached and provoked organized violent resistance.

We still expect some disorganized political violence when the Democrats start trying to ban talk radio and censor the internet. Much depends on the judicial system's reaction to that. Justice Kennedy's disregard for precedent is worrisome here.
11.5.2008 11:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC.

Wrong again. You can contest all you like. The bulk of the comments accepted the propositions and then okayed them.

So, even if they didn't happen this time, they have achieved cover for the next time when/if they do happen.
It would be, at worst, like a hypothetical case. "If such and such happens, it won't make much difference, so I guess it's okay."
11.5.2008 11:43am
Sarcastro (www):
Obama stole like 17 Million Votes by means of illegal socialist rhetorical flourishes and media bias and buying lots of ads.

We need reform of elections in this country! Only Real Americans get to vote, as determined by a panel of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman.
11.5.2008 11:45am
Thomas_Holsinger:
I disagree with Professor Lindgren about media bias constituting "corruption". It wasn't criminal. But if the media and newspapers get "bail-outs" from the Obama administration, it definitely would be quid-pro-quo corruption.
11.5.2008 11:48am
DangerMouse:
Obama used criminal methods, but those were not determinative. He would have won anway.

That's what makes it worse. Petty criminals do what they can to get by. Real mafia thugs do what they can even if they know they'll win.

We still expect some disorganized political violence when the Democrats start trying to ban talk radio and censor the internet. Much depends on the judicial system's reaction to that. Justice Kennedy's disregard for precedent is worrisome here.

Actually, I think the violence will begin by the government, acting through Obama. The increasing problem of a 100 trillion unfunded pension liability across the nation means that the government must find ways to cut medical expenses to retirees. If you've got a government pension and are up for retirement, make sure your doctor doesn't have a financial incentive to murder you. (Accidents happen in hospitals, after all.) The euthenasia movement will inevitibly become government policy at some point, for 100 trillion reasons. And then there's the threat to Downs Syndrome babies and other undesireables that the Infanticide President doesn't favor. Nationalization of the medical industry could see care being denied to such people, including pre-natal care, which would result in more abortions. Finally, I do agree that once the Dems try to shut down the opposition with criminal penalties to political opponents (probably based on trumped up charges of "coordination" or something), then the conservatives might fight back.

When Obama tries to disarm you, though, are YOU going to shoot back? That's really the question, isn't it?
11.5.2008 11:57am
Chimaxx (mail):
People have already made the distinction between voter registration fraud and voter fraud. There seems to be almost none of the latter.

The answer to the first is to make ACORN irrelevant by making voter registration automatic when, say, filing taxes, or completing the census. If there is no elaborate separate voter registration system there is no significant target for registration fraud, and any actual voter fraud becomes easier to detect.

And the media simply were not biased. That's a false claim. If anything, they were biased against Obama. for example: Obama's connection to the Rev. Wright and Ayers both got mainstream media coverage. McCain's connection to domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy and Sarah Palin's connection to her nutty pastor...not so much. It only ever got discussed on the blogs, without graduating to the mainstream media.

Claiming that media bias was self-evident is completely false. I acknowledge that it was widely and repeatedly decried by virtually all the right-wing partisan hacks on townhall.com, but that does not equal "wide recognition."
11.5.2008 12:03pm
Anderson (mail):
Let all campaign contributions flow through the FEC.

That is a very interesting idea, actually.

when the Democrats start trying to ban talk radio and censor the internet

Oh, give me a fucking break. Is that before or after the deportations and the concentration camps?

"Science-fiction writer friends," indeed.
11.5.2008 12:10pm
Cold Warrior:
Lindgren chooses to omit the most blatant forms of corruption, including (for reasons I simply don't understand) America's not-so-distant memory of systemic, state-sponsored intimidation of black voters in the South.

Setting aside the fact that Putin arrests his political opponents, shuts down opposition newspapers, and occasionally inflicts radiation poisoning on opponents (but only when they deserve it), I'd have to say the Russian (and Ukraine) elections of the last few years have been remarkably free of corruption. After all, have you ever heard of Mickey Mouse registering to got in Russia?
11.5.2008 12:10pm
Steve P. (mail):
I second Frank Cross's point — you can't exactly make a comparative argument without evidence from other elections to back it up. That's the basis of a work of scholarship, which you'd expect a professor (!!) to understand.

Sarcastro — you forgot about hypnosis.
11.5.2008 12:11pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
Michelle

As a sometime "low-wage" worker, I would like to say what I think of the implication that such people ought just naturally to be expected to produce work so bad that a third of it has to be thrown out on cursory examination, but I'm mindful of our hosts' rules here.

Canvassing is both low wage, low skilled and short term employment. Quality control problems are to be expected. On top of that Acorn has a mission of providing short term employment to marginal workers (the homeless, those with criminal records etc.) which means the quality of their workforce is probablly going to be lower than other types of low wage enterprises like fast food. Yes that is something Acorn and other organizations should manage but Acorn would hardly be the first non-profit that's run with poor management skills. What is of interest is to what extent are their efforts corrupt.

There's also a question of what should be a proper 'failure rate'. The closest thing I can think of is canvassers for credit card applications and I wouldn't be surprised if 15% of those applications come in with bum information. Sorry I suspect Acorn has very few Sig Sigma black belts on their management teams.

That said, I like your two suggestions further upthread — with the proviso that the FEC has to set up donation services for any candidate, however improbable, not just those of the major or even minor parties.

It could also be done on a voluntary basis. Both major parties could agree on a private corporation that would handle the processing of all donations. Perhaps Google would like to do it? :)

I think the good Professor misses the most important issue regarding corruption. Obama clearly established that it is possible to build an effective fund raising operation built on numerous small donations. The main argument for public financing of campaigns and picky regulation of donations (ala McCain's bill) is that big money interests would swamp elections if they weren't stopped. If the internet has made it so that lots of tiny donations can swamp big money we should be encouraging that...especially those with a libertarian bent.
11.5.2008 12:19pm
Kazinski:
It may turn out that the total of illegal campaign contributions to Obama may exceed the John McCain's entire total of campaign contributions.

Obama would have won anyway, but fraud on this level needs to be thoroughly investigated.

Just last week when my wife went to Obama's website and made a $30 donation, her credit card was charged $2300.00. She got the overcharge quickly reversed, but it doesn't seem like an accident that the amount was changed to the legal maximum.
11.5.2008 12:28pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
So you're theory is Obama's fundraising strategy was to charge the cards of the $30 people $2300 and hope that they don't notice? If there were tens of millions of Americans who wouldn't notice a $2,270 overcharge on their debit card the Republicans would have won easily.

I'm all for investigating and improving grass roots fundraising but let's kill this meme that the election was somehow stolen by Acorn fake voters or rich foreigners giving obama money.
11.5.2008 12:36pm
Matthew K:
Your guy lost. This means you are allowed to stop being a senseless demagogue, at least for awhile. They will be an investigation, more facts will become known, and, I would bet, there will be a giant sign flashing the words "No Big Deal" in pink neon light.

Take a deep breath. Hold it....hold it. Okay, let it out. Slowly.
11.5.2008 12:37pm
josh:
Well, I for one find Lindgren's post far more persuasive now that it's been posted here and within the comments of two separate posts by other VC bloggers. Very Colbert-ian. Saying something louder means you're right.

But seriously, I think we'll get Lindgren's evidence that fraudulent registration (flagged by ACORN) = fraudulent ballots as soon as we get that post showing yesterday's stock market gain was attributed to Obama's expected victory.

But I think the best part is the juxtaposition of his complaint about media "corruption" [that's some level of precision for a law prof] while using as support for his claims links to virtually only newsmax, pajamasmedia and ... wait for it ... Atlas Shrugged, the good woman who brought you the "Obama is Malcolm X's love child, and I have the photos to prove it!!!!!" (See http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com /atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html).

That's newsroom diversity I can get behind!!!!
11.5.2008 12:37pm
Cold Warrior:
I suggest we all take a break. This thread seems to be distracting Lindgren from posting his "Markets Down Sharply on News of Obama Win" post.
11.5.2008 12:37pm
MikeS (mail):

The third type of corruption -- press bias — is so obvious and so widely recognized by the public and by many elites that I doubt that Jonathan would challenge me on that, so I won't waste his time on that point in an already very long post.


I'm sure we all agree that the press is biased. Just not in which direction. You, for instance, probably think that quoting Palin's gibberish accurately is a sign of liberal bias.
11.5.2008 1:24pm
Pauldom:
VA Atty:

Thanks for the link. The article states that 400,000 of 1,300,000 were rejected registrations, but not necessarily fraudulent because some portion were merely duplicates (not fraud, just not new registrations). But for the sake of argument, let's consider the entire 400,000 registrations to be fraudulent; it's roughly 30%, not "60-70 %" of the 1,300,000 registration forms submitted by ACORN, a tiny fraction of 1% of the 118 million plus actual voters, and an even more miniscule portion of the unknown (to me) but larger number of actual registrations.

So unless someone can come up with better evidence, based on what Jody said above, it would seem that ACORN's behavior is not corrupt:

This is a reasonable explanation when a small percentage of registrations are fraudulent, say 1-3%. But when 60-70% are fraudulent and fraudulence extends across all states and locales, it has to be at the direction of the registering organization.
11.5.2008 1:25pm
Pauldom:
Responding to myself . . . I do think ACORN needs to get its act together, or better yet, that we need a better system of registration that bypasses ACORN-like groups altogether.
11.5.2008 1:30pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
There are also some economic considerations about fraud:

1. Where fraud is easy to pull off, it probably won't help much. Take the urban populations of CA and NY. With near one party rule an ACORN type outfit might get lots of bad voters on the rolls but since these states are overwhelmingly Democratic anyway they do little in a Presidential election.

2. Where fraud would help it probably isn't so easy to pull off. The Dakotas and Montana, for example, had McCain winning by less than 30,000 votes. But these states had less than half a million votes cast and have alert and active Republican Parties who would suddenly notice a lot of fake people registering and suddenly voting.

3. The larger turnout is, the more fraud you need to swing an election.

3. a. The larger the winning margin is, the more difficult it is to overcome by fraud.

3. b. The larger the winning margin is, the less benefit one derives from trying to use fraud to improve it.

4. The more fraud you need, the more you need to organize it. The more organized fraud you have the odds of detection and prosecution go up.

5. The more participation you have in a campaign, by which I mean not only voting but donating, volunteering, blogging etc., the more you're going to encounter things that look odd. If more people vote, you're going to get more duplicate registrations or incomplete ones. If more people donate, the more odd figures you're going to see in that 800 megabyte database. If more people volunteer the greater the odds of seeing something on YouTube that you'd rather not happen.


Points 1-4 argue against fraud being a major element of this election. Point 5 seems to be unconsidered by many people beating the fraud drum. This is unfortunate because expanded participation is what makes fraud more difficult
11.5.2008 1:43pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
DangerMouse said:

"Actually, I think the violence will begin by the government, acting through Obama. The increasing problem of a 100 trillion unfunded pension liability across the nation means that the government must find ways to cut medical expenses to retirees. If you've got a government pension and are up for retirement, make sure your doctor doesn't have a financial incentive to murder you. (Accidents happen in hospitals, after all.)"


They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-haaa!

Napoleon XIV

Remember when you ran away
And I got on my knees
And begged you not to leave
Because I'd go beserk

Well you left me anyhow
And then the days got worse and worse
And now you see I've gone
Completely out of my mind

And they're coming to take me away ha-haaa
They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha haaa
To the funny farm
Where life is beautiful all the time
And I'll be happy to see those nice young men
In their clean white coats
And they're coming to take me away ha haaa

You thought it was a joke
And so you laughed
You laughed when I said
That losing you would make me flip my lid

Right? You know you laughed
I heard you laugh. You laughed
You laughed and laughed and then you left
But now you know I'm utterly mad

And they're coming to take me away ha haaa
They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha haaa
To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds
And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
And they're coming to take me away ha haaa

I cooked your food
I cleaned your house
And this is how you pay me back
For all my kind unselfish, loving deeds
Ha! Well you just wait
They'll find you yet and when they do
They'll put you in the A.S.P.C.A.
You mangy mutt

And they're coming to take me away ha haaa
They're coming to take me away ha haaa ho ho hee hee
To the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time
And I'll be happy to see those nice young men
In their clean white coats

And they're coming to take me away
To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds
And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
And they're coming to take me away ha haaa!
11.5.2008 1:47pm
first history:
We can b*tch and moan all day, but does any one want to propose a solution?
11.5.2008 2:00pm
darrenm:

It's very strange to think that "a substantial part of Barack's donations came from foreign nationals". Barack Obama had five million volunteers and the largest Democratic popular majority since Lyndon Johnson. Perhaps a more likely possibility is that most of his money came from excited Americans. Perhaps you should wait for some evidence on this before making declarations, no?


There is no conflict between "a substantial part" of donations coming from foreign nationals and "most" donations coming from "excited Americans".
11.5.2008 3:04pm
SeaLawyer:

I suggest we all take a break. This thread seems to be distracting Lindgren from posting his "Markets Down Sharply on News of Obama Win" post.


Here you go.
11.5.2008 3:08pm
darrenm:

Here you go.


I always knew the AP was a right-wing rag. All the gushing over Obama was just a cover. :)
11.5.2008 3:20pm
darrenm:
Err...right-wing news wire service.
11.5.2008 3:33pm
josh:
SeaLawyer

Like I said, I'm waiting for the Lindgren post on it.
11.5.2008 4:38pm
wolfefan (mail):
Hi -

Danger Mouse, at one point you claim that Obama fraudulently stole the election, and at another point you agree with the proposition that the fraud, if any, was not enough to sway the election. Which do you believe?

And FWIW I'm not sure you're really Danger Mouse - where is Cee-Lo? :)
11.5.2008 4:40pm
Brian K (mail):
but that is not the sort of "corruption" I was talking about. As I made clear, I pointed to the extent of phony registrations, illegal contributions, and press bias.

we are all now well aware that the only type of "corruption" that matters is the type that benefits the democrats. suppressing democrat voters is just not a problem, and at least according to some commenters a laudable goal.
11.5.2008 10:47pm
appreciative:
Jim
Thank you for providing the supporting info to your claims. In addition to informative, I found your post very eye opening.
11.5.2008 11:43pm
Dero:
I think it's as simple as realizing there is a difference between registration fraud (which as pointed out, something as simple as a duplicate registration is voter registration fraud) and voter fraud.

What we have is allegations of corruption that probably didn't happen.

Campaign contributions... well I notice you say nothing of the fact the Obama and Mccain camps refunded money that didn't pass their screening.

After a certain point you have to move past speculation and "irregularity" and into actual events.
11.6.2008 1:30am