Media Smears O'Keefe – Using Obama Election Lawyer

Obama election lawyer Samuel Issacharoff (left). Source: NYU Law School

The left is desperate to quash James O’Keefe’s exposé of potential voter fraud in New Hampshire–and to prevent voter ID laws from being passed and enforced in states across the nation.

On Tuesday, during the New Hampshire primary election, members of O’Keefe’s Project Veritas recorded poll workers from both parties providing ballots in the names of recently deceased voters at multiple polling places across the state.

New Hampshire does not require voters to present photo identification at polling places. The state’s Republican legislature passed a voter ID law last year, but Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed the measure, and the state senate failed to override his veto.

Left-wing groups and the Obama administration are targeting voter ID laws in advance of the 2012 election. Recently, for example, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blocked South Carolina’s new voter ID law.

Ryan Reilly of Talking Points Memo (TPM) Muckracker has attacked the Project Veritas sting in an article alleging that “O’Keefe’s allies could face criminal charges on both the federal and state level for procuring ballots under false names.” Citing “election law experts,” Reilly concludes that the undercover video “doesn’t demonstrate a need for voter ID laws at all.”

The media has picked up Muckraker‘s talking points (pun intended) and run with them., for example, smugly declares: “O’Keefe has pretty clearly violated the law and TPM reports that a federal prosecutor is reviewing his video. But at least he finally proved that voter fraud is a very real threat….As we all know, once you prove that something is hypothetically possible, it is a factual certainty that ACORN has done it.”

Even the Wall Street Journal fell into step, citing Reilly’s article: “Election law experts say James O’Keefe’s affiliates who got the ballots under false names could face criminal charges, as federal law bans not only the casting of such ballots, but their procurement as well, according to TPM.” Few of the media outlets repeating Reilly’s claims appear to have consulted “election law experts” with different opinions.

Curiously, one of the experts Reilly spoke to is Samuel Issacharoff of NYU Law School.

Issacharoff happened to be on Barack Obama’s legal team during the 2008 election, and assisted John Kerry’s campaign in 2004.

Obama used Issacharoff’s textbook, The Law of Democracy, while teaching at University of Chicago Law School–and Issacharoff thanked Obama on page x of the introduction for his help with the manuscript.

In 2009, Issacharoff regaled an admiring NYU audience with tales from Election Day in Chicago.

Reilly does not provide those highly relevant facts en route to smearing O’Keefe.

Indeed, Reilly may have deliberately sought opinions that would support his evidently predetermined conclusion that O’Keefe’s associates had committed a crime. He sent an email to an election law listserv in which he opined that the sting was “the largest coordinated attempt at in-person voter impersonation fraud,” and asked for comment.

It is unclear whether the experts Reilly interviewed knew more about the Project Veritas sting than he told them. He argues that O’Keefe’s colleagues violated a federal law prohibiting the “procurement” of ballots, even though they left each polling station without voting. However, that law applies to those who attempt to “deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process.” O’Keefe and Project Veritas were trying to defend the freedom and impartiality of that process.

Reilly also quotes UC-Irvine School of Law Professor Rick Hansen, who jokes that O’Keefe should “next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.” The more appropriate analogy is the undercover DEA agent who buys cocaine from a drug dealer to bust an entire smuggling ring, or perhaps the “white hat” computer hacker who highlights the security flaws of a computer system in the hope that they will be fixed.

Reilly quotes another professor, Henry Brady, who serves as Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley: “Yes, this shows it’s possible to do what they did but you have to ask yourself… how many illegal immigrants would risk a jail term to vote illegally?” In fact, in one recent example in Illinois, two Iranian non-citizens were prosecuted after having voted fraudulently for years, and now face possible deportation.

The enthusiasm with which left-wing media have rushed to accuse O’Keefe of voter fraud–while denying that voter fraud is a problem–is laughable. Reilly even admitted, in an interview with Current TV’s David Shuster, that “New Hampshire doesn’t have, like many other states, make you actually sign a piece of paper when you accept your ballot, so that’s something that could potentially have prevented this as well. They do have some lax rules…” (5:51 to 6:05 below).

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Al Sharpton of MSNBC devoted an entire segment to accusing O’Keefe of committing fraud–“He actually increased fraud in the state by 1200 percent to try to prove there was a problem that didn’t exist”–deliberately obscuring the point of the Project Veritas sting, which was to show the potential for voter fraud in the absence of photo ID requirements.

Last night, a furious Gov. Lynch called for the investigators to be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law, if in fact they are found guilty of some criminal act.” (Normally, people are prosecuted before being found guilty.) Last July, in explaining his veto of the voter ID law, Gov. Lynch had claimed: “There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire. We already have strong elections laws that are effective in regulating our elections.”

O’Keefe’s real “crime” is blowing the whistle on the weaknesses in an election system that does not require voters to prove their identity. Though Project Veritas showed that it was as easy for Republicans to cheat as Democrats, the left knows which party benefits most from the status quo. That why they’ve made O’Keefe–not voter ID–the issue.