My Meeting With Gregory Palast, Tuesday, April 17th, 2001


I met Gregory Palast in Cleveland, on Tuesday, April 17th, after he spoke to a class at Case Western Reserve University. Upon leaving the classroom, Greg started the discussion by asking me point-blank: "How are we going to overcome the media silence about the stolen election?" I mentioned our media activism campaigns, the burgeoning pro-democracy activist movement on the web, and in particular, our new Media Untwister, currently being used to contact PBS affiliates in order to ask them to carry his new documentary on the voter purge in Florida. His new documentary is part of the new PBS series called "The Calling." Greg provided some details about contacting the PBS affiliates to make sure that they carry his new program. Then, we discussed this program, and his Florida election coverage in general.

Palast's contribution to "The Calling" will reveal some new pieces of the purge puzzle that have not yet been reported. Although mentioned by The Palm Beach Post, Palast has more about statements issued to the Florida State Department by a DBT/ChoicePoint V.P, who warned Harris's office that many legal voters would be eliminated from the voting rolls given the loose standards used to develop their lists. Because Harris decided to use the lists anyway, the new information further impugns Florida's State Department and Jeb Bush's Florida government. Further, the alibi used by the State Department, that the responsibility for checking the lists was that of the county election supervisors and not the obligation of the State Department, rings hollow. Florida law required these lists to be used by the county election supervisors, and the voters listed thereon had to be purged according to this law, unless county supervisors could show that they shouldn't be. The burden of proof rested on the counties, but the authority to purge came from the State Department. Since DBT/ChoicePoint boasted in letters to county elections supervisors about the accuracy of these lists, the county officials were even less prone to question their validity. I asked Greg whether or not he had actually seen these letters touting the accuracy of the purge lists. He smiled, and assured me that yes, he had.

I gave Greg an idea: why not look for any communications between Jeb Bush and GW Bush for dialogue regarding DBT? Under the Freedom of Information Act, such communication between public officials and their offices would be fair game for investigation. He thought this a great idea and said that he would pursue it. He said that if GW and Jeb Bush corresponded at all about DBT, then there would be a trail. Such trails, he said, are very difficult to cover up entirely. He told a funny anecdote about a secretary who kept a file entitled, "Files of Destroyed Documents." Such a handy tip-off is unlikely in this case, but other such clues very well might exist. As I see it, such communications are the most potentially damaging of anything that could possibly turn up regarding the fraud in Florida, aside from testimony about deliberately double-punched ballots. Such communications constitute the proverbial smoking gun in this election scandal.

Greg also made very clear to me the extent to which the purge was illegal, and the Tallahassee legerdemain that went on and is still going on behind the scenes. Records have been destroyed by the Clemency Board of Jeb Bush's Tallahassee offices. A letter penned on September, 18th of 2000 by Janet Keels, head of the Florida Clemency Board, was sent to county elections supervisors, telling them that even exonerated felons from others states had to reapply for their voting rights in Florida. Such a "policy" was in blatant violation of federal "full faith and credit" law.

After Palast's report came out in The Nation, Jeb Bush was infuriated. The September 18 letter was subsequently destroyed. On February 23, 2001, a new letter was written, suggesting a "clarification" of an already existing policy. As for the first letter, a secretary from the Clemency Board told Greg that the September 18th letter did not exist. "You mean the letter that I have in my hand that bears the Clemency Officer's signature dated Sept. 18, 2000 never existed?" "That's right," the secretary answered. Luckily, Palast does have a copy.

Palast said that we should expect the NORC ballot review to be interpreted by the news overwhelmingly in Gore's favor, but to expect some editorialists to twist the story to suit Bush. His friend Joe White, said, "No, the results will be random." To this, Palast emphatically said, "No, the results will overwhelmingly show that Gore won. But the NORC will not call a winner or loser--the newspapers will interpret the ballot review, showing clearly that Gore received far more votes than Bush. But some editorialists, depending on the paper, will skew the story."

He also said that the Civil Rights Commission findings would strongly support his stories. (He fed them their information in the first place). But, we should expect their attorney to couch the news in very measured language. "Don't expect the media to cover the CRC findings."

Greg is a very friendly, upbeat and interesting character, and a bit more of a classical lefty than I expected. The top hat is a trademark, and it is a tad misleading. He talked to the students about resisting the corporate hegemonic job market and striking out on their own. Certainly, he is a living example of striking out of his own and defying the corporate powers-that-be in his own field.

Cheers from the Front,

Mike Rectenwald