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
?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.
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