Gov. Corbett contracts with Romney fundraiser for PA Voter ID ad campaign

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration has signed a $250,000 contract with a company run by Mitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharma lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct Voter ID law campaign.


Gov. Corbett contracts with Romney fundraiser for PA Voter ID ad campaign

POSTED: Sunday, July 8, 2012, 4:58 PM

Filed Under: Elections | Schools | State Politics

?Oh no they didn’t? is Daniel Denvir’s weekly blog post on last week’s state politics. Philadelphians know precious little about the legislature or governor, but pretending that Tom Corbett doesn’t exist will not make him go away. Follow on Twitter @DanielDenvir.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett‘s administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run by Mitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state’s Voter ID law.

Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is ?gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.?

One sample PSA on the Bravo Group‘s Vimeo page portrays voter ID as just the latest installment in a bright history of American voting rights, and features anodyne black and white photos?including one of suffragettes. Another spot portrays a lot of shiny-toothed middle class models holding ID cards. [note: Bravo removed the two videos this morning but Occupy Harrisburg has reposted them here and here.]

The tagline? “Your right to vote: it’s one thing you never want to miss out on.?ÿÿ

What the ads don’t mention is that a whole lot of Pennsylvanians might just miss out on exercising that core democratic right.

An astounding 758,939 registered voters in the state, or nine percent, do not have PennDot IDs, according to data released last Tuesday by the Department of State. In Philadelphia, it’s even worse: 186,830 registered voters, or 18 percent, do not have ID. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele had previously assured lawmakers that 99 percent of Pennsylvanians possess the necessary ID?based on what, I have absolutely no idea.

The state released this astonishing data on July 3 in what seems like a transparent effort to ensure that the bomb-like news would drop like a dud on the July 4th holiday. And they did so with the almost-unbelievably-Orwellian title ?Department of State and PennDOT Confirm Most Registered Voters Have Photo ID.?

Corbett has rebuffed a call from rights advocates and civic groups to delay voter ID implementation. But a legal challenge presses on. 93-year old Germantown resident Viviette Applewhite, who has been unable to obtain a Pennsylvania birth certificate, is the lead plaintiff in the ACLU and NAACP lawsuit. Other plaintiffs include ?three elderly women who say they cannot obtain necessary ID because they were born in the Jim Crow South, where states have no records of their births.?

A Commonwealth Court hearing in a case to decide whether the law is indeed tantamount to the reimposition of Jim Crow voter suppression tactics is scheduled for July 25 in Harrisburg.

The Department of State approved the $249,660 contract with the Bravo Group on June 25, according to public documents collected by the Cost of Freedom Project and sent to City Paper. The Bravo Group is run by Mitt Romney fundraiser Chris Bravacos, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist who also operates the Bravo Foundation, which funnels donations to private schools in a voucher-like program for corporations looking for a legalized taxpayer kickback (see this New York Times report).ÿ

What’s worse? The contract appears to be funded by federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) dollars, which was passed to ensure that the chaos of the 2000 presidential elections (you know, when all those votes weren’t counted) is not repeated. HAVA, like any federal program, also requires states to comply Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which stipulates that “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

“It’s outrageous that Pennsylvania is using money appropriated by Congress to help Americans vote to hire a lobbying firm, founded by a former executive director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and Mitt Romney fundraiser to develop the ‘community outreach and public relations portion of the 2012 general election voter education media campaign,'” said an incredulous Cost of Freedom leader Faye Anderson. “Are we really to believe that a Republican operative will draft a plan that will empower the very voters targeted by the GOP’s voter suppression by voter ID scheme.”

The Civil Rights Act, alongside the Voting Rights Act, were key legislative achievements of the civil rights movement. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will this week hear arguments in a case to decide whether Texas‘ voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act, as the Department of Justice, which blocked the law, contends.

Last week, state Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to review Pennsylvania’s law to ensure that it complies with the Act.

The contract details are interesting.

Bravo is making a $24,900 subcontract to the Skyler Group, a consulting outfit run by the African-American former Harrisburg City Councilman Otto V. Banks. Banks is also the head of the pro-school voucher REACH Foundation, a recipient of funding from the right-wing group American Federation for Children (yes: the same group that helps fund campaigns against anti-voucher politicians like state Rep. James Roebuck). Bravacos also sits on the REACH executive committee?along with a who’s who of conservative state religious and business figures in REACH leadership.

This is perhaps what passes for minority contracting under the Corbett Administration: the state Request for Quotation (RFQ) promises ?greater consideration? to projects that include a ?Minority Business Enterprise.?

The webs of power and money, as usual, run thick: Bravacos also sits on the board of the pro-charter Philadelphia School Partnership, which City Paper last week reported is set to receive a $15 million grant from the William Penn Foundation?the same foundation that funded the Boston Consulting Group‘s proposal to dismantle and potentially privatize Philly public schools. [late addition: Bravacos also served on Governor Corbett’s education transition team and is a “long-time friend.”]

?Everyone should be outraged that not only is this voter ID a solution in search of a problem,? says Anderson, ?but it’s playing out in plain view.?


In other news, the legislature is on summer break. Don’t rest too easy?check out my ?11 things PA Republicans (and Dems) have done that you should know about? for a comprehensive catch up on seven months of madness.

And Corbett, the Inquirer reports, has ?charter school reform? on the top of his legislative agenda come September. By ?reform,? Corbett means shifting charter oversight from local school districts to the state?and thus perhaps eviscerating what little oversight currently exists.

Another priority? Shifting new state employees into the no-secure-future 401(k) plans that so many of us (this reporter included) have come to personally appreciate as an absurd and cruel joke on the very idea of a dignified retirement.

Posted by Daniel Denvir @ 4:58 PMÿ
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Comments ÿ(8)

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  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 9:43 AM, 07/09/2012

    Corbett must think we are really stupid, voter fraud country wide is less than 0.0007%. We can read and do the math. This is just a republican tactic to keep democrats from voting, WE ARE NOT STUPID!!!!!

    ? deb1ryan

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 10:22 AM, 07/09/2012

    Of all the terrible things that Corbett’s doing (and, Jesus, it’s a long list), enrolling new state employees into 403(b)s (I assume, since 401ks aren’t for public employees) isn’t one of them. Pensions in the US were an accident, born out of the ill-advised wage controls of the ’40s. Ever since, they’ve served a similar purpose: allowing corporations and governments to shift expenses from their reign to the future, aided and abetted by the unions. It’s a win-win for politicians and unions, as the unions get greater (future) compensation and the politicians shift money from their watch to the future. Not so great for solvency, however, or (and impossible not to sound like a rightwinger here) taxpayers.

    ? tsarstruck

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 5:02 PM, 07/09/2012

    Me thinkest thou (Dems and this reporter) doth protest too much.” If, indeed, there is such concern as expressed re eligible voters who do not possess ID why, then, are the numerous groups opposing Voter ID not pooling their money and efforts assisting those in need of obtaining proper ID vs spending their money and time in an effort to overturn legislation favored by the majority of Pennsylvanians and other Americans? We all know the answer and I issue the same refrain to “debfryan” as she shouted to Governor Corbett and the Republicans.

    Mr. Denvir throws any and everything he can in an effort to disparage HAVA yet fails to mention one fact about ACORN, a “Get out the Vote” group working on behalf of Democrats proven to be so corrupt it was forced to fold. They are back up and running under a new name. Let’s see if Mr. Denvir is as interested in this group as he is in HAVA.

    ? Chantal

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 4:14 PM, 07/10/2012

    Imagine if groups like the ACLU, NAACP, and others who are outraged by this law would use the money they are using to sue Penndot, Department of State and others instead to help those who do not have proper Ids?this would be a nonissue. Instead of helping people with this new law and helping them get a new ID (Which would give them access to other important options in their lives), they would rather spend it on court fees and attorneys (Which work for them). So who are these groups really helping?

    ? theAngelsofBlood

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 1:20 PM, 07/11/2012

    This is such a ridiculous comment. You’re saying that instead of legally challenging a law that attempts to strip voting rights from otherwise eligible PA voters (which seems pretty unconstitutional in the PA Constitution), we should accept this corrupt, anti-democratic legislation and spend millions to try to get a fraction of the 800,000 newly-disenfranchised PA voters re-enfranchised. It is a much better use of money to challenge an illegal law through the courts, rather than try to minimize its damage. And if you read the article, the case lists plaintiffs who cannot obtain an ID because they cannot obtain their birth certificates because they are black and were born in the Jim Crow south. No amount of money is going to get these women PennDOT IDs.

    And again, may I suggest you read the article above? The author doesn’t have a problem with HAVA, he just thinks these federal funds (designed to promote fair elections) shouldn’t be used to contract with Bravo Group, a group who holds fundraisers for Mitt Romney.

    The problem with ACORN was that they paid their get out to vote workers based on commission, so some folks who didn’t make their quota filled out fraudulent registrations so they would still get paid. That’s a dumb way to do things organizationally, no doubt, but it doesn’t change the actual election one bit. Not sure how pointing out a fraudulent voter registration drive by ACORN somehow legitimates Corbett’s corrupt voter ID law and contracts with Romney supporters to enforce it.

    ? chris commentary

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 7:21 PM, 07/10/2012

    I’ve got at least three IDs that will be acceptable to vote. It just pisses me off that I have to do it. I’ve no patience for people who invent a non existing problem (Voter Fraud) then spend my tax money (and yours) to give the illusion that they are only looking out for your rights. BS….. What about the rights of all those people who have been made to put up (an ID) or shut up (don’t vote)….. This is an obvious attempt to steal the election this fall.

    ? jdkinpa

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 10:10 PM, 07/10/2012

    I hope someone grabbed a copy of the two videos. The videos of the 2 PSAs have been removed from Vimeo.

    ? john.harvey

  • 0 like this / 0 don’t ÿ ? ÿ

    Posted 1:37 PM, 07/11/2012

    “no-secure-future 401(k)”And pensions are secure? I thought the state was behind on payments. I’d rather control my own 401(k) than count on the state to set the money aside. All that pension money is just too easy to “borrow”. (HTML deleted)

    ? phillycaster

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