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Context of 'Before August 20, 2004: Consulting Firm Hires Employees to Register Only Republican Voters'

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According to OpenSecrets.org, Sproul & Associates—a political consulting firm run by 32-year-old Nathan Sproul, a former Christian Coalition activist and one-time director of the Arizona Republican Party—receives $812,864 from the Republican National Committee to do voter outreach and $736,665 for political consulting. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/2004; Center for Responsive Politics, 1/19/2006] During the months preceding the election, the firm is accused of instructing its workers to register only Republican voters, and in one case actually destroying registrations forms filled out by Democrats. The alleged activities reportedly occur in Nevada (See October 12, 2004), Oregon (See Early September 2004, October 2004, and (October 12, 2004)), Pennsylvania (See Before September 6, 2004, October 19, 2004 and October 19, 2004) and West Virginia (See Before August 20, 2004). The company—which operates under several names, including Voters Outreach of America, America Votes and Project America Votes—denies these charges. [Mercury News (San Jose ), 10/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, America Votes, Sproul & Associates, Nathan Sproul

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2004 Elections

Sproul & Associates, a Republican-financed consulting firm, contracts a temporary employment agency in West Virginia to hire people to register only Republicans. The hirees are provided with scripts that encourage deceptive practices and are told little about the consulting firm for whom they will be working. One of those initially hired for the job is Lisa Bragg, a 37-year-old resident of St. Albans. Responding to an ad for a “customer service” position, she visits Kelly Services, a national temp agency, in August 2004 and is offered a job. At first, the company doesn’t provided any details about the job. But the next day, when she attends an orientation, she learns that she will be registering Republican voters. Though another voter registration group in the same community which registers people of all political persuasions pays canvassers only $5.50 an hour, this job is paying $9 an hour. She and the other applicants will be canvassing at One Stop convenience stores throughout the Charleston region. According to a script provided by Kelly Services, the canvassers will approach One Stop customers and ask whether they support George Bush or John Kerry. If they indicate that they plan to vote for Bush, the canvassers should ask if the person is registered to vote and then offer a voter registration card if the person answers no. However, if the person is a Kerry supporter, they should only say thank you and provide the person with a registration card if asked. If anyone asks questions, the firm advises, “Only state you are there to conduct a simple field poll to see what neighborhood support is… a nonpartisan registration drive” If the person becomes angry, they should quietly listen and remember, “The goal is to register Republicans and to remain positive.” The canvassers are also told that people will be checking up on them in the field. Bragg later says in interviews with the press that she thinks the purpose of the monitoring was to make sure the canvassers keep to their script and avoid registering Democrats. The script is printed on Sproul & Associates and America Votes letterhead. But Sproul & Associates is not affiliated with America Votes. Kelly Services does not divulge information about Sproul to the canvassers. According to Bragg, instead the temp agency advises,“[T]he less you know about the company, the better off you are, especially if the media would come asking questions.” Bragg, a Democrat, declines the job and instead tells her story to the Charleston Gazette and Salon. [Charleston Gazette, 8/20/2004; Salon, 10/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Sproul & Associates, Lisa Bragg, George W. Bush, John Kerry, America Votes, Kelly Services

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

In Medford, Oregon, Meghan O’Flaherty, the county librarian, receives a one-page fax from the Republican-financed political consulting firm, Sproul & Associates. The fax says it wants to hold a voter registration drive at the local library and claims to be acting on behalf of a nonpartisan group called America Votes. The fax reads: “Our firm has been contracted to help coordinate a national nonpartisan voter registration drive, America Votes!, in several states across the nation.” The fax also says it intends to “equally register all those who wish to register to vote.” The fax is sent to three other Oregon libraries as well. [Mail Tribune (Medford), 9/21/2004; CBS News, 10/14/2004] When Flaherty calls Kevin Looper of American Votes, she learns that the organization did not hire Sproul & Associates and that they had nothing to do with America Votes. [KGW 8 (Portland, OR), 10/13/2004] Nathan Sproul, owner of the consulting company, claims that it was an innocent mistake. “We were not trying to copy their name,” he says. Sproul also tells a Mail Tribune reporter, “You telling me that they even exist was really the first time I’d heard it.” He said his company, hired by a number of clients to register voters, came up with what he believed was a generic name. Yet Sue Noel, a temporary employee at Sproul & Associates, says the voter drive is called Project America Votes and she knew about the redundant name. “What we try to do is tell people we are not affiliated with America Votes,” she says. Looper expresses doubt about the company’s claim. You’ll have to forgive me for not finding it credible that they would not have heard of a group that is one of the largest in the country and is in every one of the 17 swing states and that could hardly be missed in any political circle.” [Mail Tribune (Medford), 9/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Nathan Sproul, Kevin Looper, Sproul & Associates, America Votes, Meghan O’Flaherty, Sue Noel

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

Employees of the Republican-financed political consulting firm, Sproul & Associates, contact the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to request space outside its buildings to register voters. According to Holly McCullough, special assistant to the library director, a woman from the firm claims that she represents America Votes, a nonpartisan but liberal-leaning organization. McCullough agrees to provide the space on the condition that their activities are non-partisan and that there is “no issue advocacy.” But several days later, McCullough will receive a call from Ryan Hughes, director of the Woods Run library branch, saying that patrons have complained about the behavior of the canvassers (see September 7, 2004). [Philadelphia Daily News, 10/19/2004; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/20/2004]

Entity Tags: America Votes, Ryan Hughes, Sproul & Associates, Holly McCullough

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

In Oregon, Douglas County Clerk Barbara Nielsen receives complaints from voters who claim that canvassers working for the political consulting firm, Sproul & Associates, tried to push them into registering as Republicans, saying that if they registered as Democrats the canvassers would not get paid and that the forms might not make it to the clerk’s office. In the state of Oregon, it is a class-C felony, punishable by five years in jail or a $100,000 fine, to destroy registration forms. [KGW 8 (Portland, OR), 10/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Barbara Nielsen, Sproul & Associates

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

In Nevada, Eric Russell, a former employee of the Republican-funded political consulting firm, Sproul & Associates, claims in a signed affidavit that the company’s employees were paid to register only Republicans. His former employer told him to ask prospective voters, “Who would you vote for in the next election?” Only people who indicated they would vote for President Bush were to be registered, he says. When Russell refused to follow instructions and registered both Democrats and Republicans, his employer docked his pay. Russell also says that he witnessed his supervisor take out eight to ten Democratic registration forms from a pile and destroy them—a felony in some states. He added that hundreds, if not thousands, of forms were destroyed. “I personally witnessed my supervisor at VOA, together with her personal assistant, destroy completed registration forms that VOA employees had collected” he explains. [KGW 8 (Portland, OR), 10/13/2004; CBS News, 10/14/2004; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 10/14/2004; Mercury News (San Jose ), 10/14/2004] “We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant, and he ripped them up right in front of us.” [CNN, 10/14/2004] “All of the destroyed registration forms were for registrants who indicated their party preference as ‘Democrat.’” [Mercury News (San Jose ), 10/14/2004] Russell’s account is supported by another of the firm’s former employees, Tyrone Mrasak, who tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that workers were encouraged to register 18 Republican voters per day. He says that they were permitted to finish the day at anytime after meeting this quota and would still be paid for eight hours of work. “We didn’t get credit for forms we brought back marked Democrat,” he explains. He also recounts how he would often loiter in front of homeless shelters and give homeless people cigarettes in exchange for registering as Republicans. “As long as they have an address, they can register,” Mrasak says. “If they were looking to bum a cigarette I’d say, ‘I’ll trade you a cigarette if you sign this.’” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 10/14/2004] These charges are adamantly denied by the Republican National Committee, which provides the San Jose Mercury News with affidavits from two other employees of the firm claiming that no voter-registration forms had been destroyed. [Mercury News (San Jose ), 10/14/2004] The firm also denies that its employees were instructed to destroy forms, but does not dispute that they were encouraged to register more Republicans than Democrats. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/2004] Republican consultant Paul Senseman says that Sproul is “very professional, very mission-oriented,” adding, “He’s somebody that gets things done.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Sproul & Associates, Republican National Committee, Paul Senseman, Tyrone Mrasak, Eric Russell

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

Michael Twilla, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that as an employee of Sproul & Associates, a Republican-financed political consulting firm, he was instructed not to register Democrats. “If they were a Kerry voter, we were just supposed to walk away.” A copy of the script that he and other canvassers are given tells them to offer unregistered Bush supporters a registration form and to tell them that the form would be personally delivered to the local courthouse. However, in order to avoid registering Democrats, the script also recommends asking registrants two questions: “Do you consider yourself pro-choice or pro life?” and “Are you worried about the Democrats raising taxes?” If voters say they are pro-life, the form says, “Ask if they are registered to vote. If they are pro-choice, say thank you and walk away.” If anyone asks who the canvassers are working for they are to respond, “Project America Vote,” a name that is nearly identical to the liberal-leaning national non-partisan group, America Votes. Other workers were reportedly also advised to say they were working for Career Concepts, a local employment agency. But a spokeswomen for Career Concepts told the Post-Gazette that the company did not employ the canvassers. Twilla also complained that he was paid for only eight of 72 hours he worked. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Sproul & Associates, Michael Twilla

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

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