Monday, May 09, 2022


Your right-wing relatives are probably obsessed with the new, Trump-endorsed Dinesh D'Souza movie 2000 Mules. If they're certain it's scrupulously accurate, maybe you should show them this brutal AP fact-check.
... the movie ... paints an ominous picture suggesting Democrat-aligned ballot “mules” were supposedly paid to illegally collect and drop off ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But that’s based on faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data, which is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a drop box, according to experts.

The movie was produced by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and uses research from the Texas-based nonprofit True the Vote....

True the Vote has said it found some 2,000 ballot harvesters by purchasing $2 million worth of anonymized cellphone geolocation data ... in various swing counties across five states. Then, by drawing a virtual boundary around a county’s ballot drop boxes and various unnamed nonprofits, it identified cellphones that repeatedly went near both ahead of the 2020 election.

If a cellphone went near a drop box more than 10 times and a nonprofit more than five times from Oct. 1 to Election Day, True the Vote assumed its owner was a “mule” — its name for someone engaged in an illegal ballot collection scheme in cahoots with a nonprofit.

... experts say cellphone location data, even at its most advanced, can only reliably track a smartphone within a few meters — not close enough to know whether someone actually dropped off a ballot or just walked or drove nearby....

CLAIM: In Philadelphia alone, True the Vote identified 1,155 “mules” who illegally collected and dropped off ballots for money.

THE FACTS: No, it didn’t. The group hasn’t offered any evidence of any sort of paid ballot harvesting scheme in Philadelphia. And True the Vote did not get surveillance footage of drop boxes in Philadelphia, so the group based this claim solely on cellphone location data, its researcher Gregg Phillips said in March in testimony to Pennsylvania state senators.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Sharif Street, who was there for the group’s testimony in March, told the AP he was confident he was counted as several of the group’s 1,155 anonymous “mules,” even though he didn’t deposit anything into a drop box in that time period.

Street said he based his assessment on the fact that he carries a cellphone, a watch with a cellular connection, a tablet with a cellular connection and a mobile hotspot — four devices whose locations can be tracked by private companies. He also said he typically travels with a staffer who carries two devices, bringing the total on his person to six.

During the 2020 election season, Street said, he brought those devices on trips to nonprofit offices and drop box rallies. He also drove by one drop box up to seven or eight times a day when traveling between his two political offices.

“I did no ballot stuffing, but over the course of time, I literally probably account for hundreds and hundreds of their unique visits, even though I’m a single actor in a single vehicle moving back and forth in my ordinary course of business,” Street said.
It's all like this. True the Vote claims there was cheating because people were dropping off ballots wearing gloves. Were they trying to conceal fingerprints? No. They were probably cold (it was fall) or worried about catching COVID (many of us thought we could easily catch it from surfaces back in 2020).

If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you might recognize the name of the organization generating this crackpottery. True the Vote is a Republican organization that pretends to be an apolitcal nonprofit, and it was a major player in the so-called IRS scandal during the Obama years. Republican politicians ginned up outrage -- funny how they're always doing that -- by claiming that the IRS was targeting right-wing groups that had applied for tax-exempt status, even though a partisan political organization shouldn't be eligible for that status.

True the Vote was and is clearly partisan:
A 2010 video announcing True the Vote's launch begins with right-wing activist David Horowitz telling the camera that "Republicans have to win by at least three percent in order to win an election," since Democrats are likely to case fraudulent votes....

At the time of True the Vote's "poll watching" activities in Harris County, Texas during the November 2010 elections the organization was described as a "project" of the Houston-based Tea Party group the King Street Patriots. As a result of a 2010 lawsuit filed against the King Street Patriots by the state Democratic Party, a Texas judge ruled that the organization was an unregistered PAC rather than the nonprofit corporation that it claimed, and that it unlawfully provided in-kind donations to the state Republican Party....

In fact, in 2012, True the Vote contributed $5000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee....

True the Vote's website portrays voter fraud as largely a Democratic party problem. It routinely runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals," or "Democrats" but has, to date, never run a story on Republican or Conservative instances of voter fraud.
The New York Times reported on the group quite skeptically in 2010:
It might as well be Harry Potter's invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists.

The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group's leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election.

"Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time," Ms. Engelbrecht said. "Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so."

Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people "who did not appear to be from this country."

Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. "It's so stealthy that no one is ever able to get a picture and no one is able to get a license plate," said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin agency that oversees elections. In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. "Pick your minority group," he said.
Yet Peggy Noonan, who's now a critic of Donald Trump and the Big Lie, wrote a sob story about Engelbrecht and True the Vote in 2013:
But the most important IRS story came not from the hearings but from Mike Huckabee’s program on Fox News Channel. He interviewed and told the story of Catherine Engelbrecht -- a nice woman, a citizen, an American. She and her husband live in Richmond, Texas. They have a small manufacturing business. In the past few years she became interested in public policy and founded two groups, King Street Patriots and True the Vote.

In July 2010 she sent applications to the IRS for tax-exempt status.... The U.S. government came down on her with full force....

All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: “These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers.”

This week Ms. Engelbrecht, who still hasn’t received her exemptions, sued the IRS.
The IRS scandal preceded Trump's entry into electoral politics. The Republicans who were outraged include people now regarded as anti-Trumpers, like Paul Ryan.

And as Jonathan Chait noted in 2017, there was no scandal:
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reviewed a decade of IRS handling of political organizations. It found that scores of liberal groups were subject to the same heavy scrutiny that conservative groups faced. This merely certified what had been perfectly clear all along....

And yet the scandal has lived on and on in the conservative mind....

Fervently anti-Trump conservatives like Michael Gerson, George Will, Noah Rothman, and many others continue to cite the nonexistent scandal as if it were a real thing.
And now True the Vote is feeding tinfoil-hat Big Lie dinformation for one of Dinesh D'Souza's godawful movies. Mainstream Republicans, this was your doing. You built this.

No comments: