The Voting Integrity Project, Inc.
For immediate release For further information contact:
Sunday, April 26, 1998 - 6 pm ESTDeborah Phillips (888) 578-4343
SF City Attorney Authored Key Portions of CA State Report Whitewashing Election Fraud
The Voting Integrity Project, Inc. (VIP) released today a newly-discovered document which reveals that San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne drafted critical sections of Secretary of State Bill Jones' Report on the June 3, 1997 Special Election in San Francisco in an attempt to protect the very officials she had just agreed to represent in VIP's election contest challenge.
The City Attorney's comments were submitted by Chief Deputy City Attorney Dennis Aftergut to Secretary of State Jones' assistant Alfred Charles in a facsimile document dated December 23, 1997. Renne had just assumed defense of then Election Supervisor Germaine Wong and Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. in the election contest filed on December 3, 1997 by Douglas Comstock and VIP. Aftergut is the lead counsel in the case.
Aftergut's facsimile transmittal states "Here are our quickly put together suggestions for changes. Let me know what you think." The Secretary of State's final report is an almost verbatim reiteration of the City Attorney's comments, including replication of an error in the referendum date.
The City Attorney's comments concern findings regarding "Allegation: No Ballot Secrecy Envelopes for Election System," "Allegation: Sites of Early Polling Places Selected to Intentionally Influence Election," "Allegation: Improper Transport of Ballot Boxes," and comments on other allegations concerning electioneering and intimidation at polling places, various improper voting practices, and about illegal consideration for voting.
Among the key suggestions adopted verbatim by the Secretary of State were the following:
[Re: Violations of Ballot Secrecy] "There is no evidence suggesting that the Director of Elections intended to undermine the right to a secret ballot or that she even knew that the ballots would lack a foldover flap." (Renne Suggestions, p. 1; SOS Report, p. 7.)
[Re: "Early voting" Sites] "There is no evidence suggesting that Wong selected these early voting sites with the intention of affecting the outcome of the election or favoring any campaign or group." (Renne Suggestions, p. 1; SOS Report, p. 8.)
(It should be noted that the City Attorney's comments preceded the disclosure in the San Francisco Examiner of December 28, 1997 that Wong had accommodated political initiatives of Sharon Hewitt and Zachary Reed, representatives of the Mayor, to locate early voting sites at housing agency locations in precincts that strongly favored Propositions D and F.)
VIP has attempted to obtain copies of the Secretary of State's draft of the Report, but has been advised the Secretary of State did not keep copies of its drafts.
While the Secretary of State's report was highly critical of Wong's conduct with respect to voting secrecy and the "early voting" program, the City Attorney and the 49ers have cited the provisions of the Secretary of State's Report drafted by the City Attorney, as confirmed in the newly-discovered documents, as evidence that exonerates Wong in the election contest litigation.
VIP President Deborah Phillips expressed shock and dismay at this discovery: "The City Attorney, with knowledge of her new duty to defend Wong and the Mayor's Office, salted the Secretary of State's Report to benefit her new clients in our election contest case. This is highly unethical and improper."
Doug Comstock, VIP National Board member and treasurer of The Committee to Stop the Giveway, also expressed anger at the new discovery: "Renne abandoned her investigative responsibilities to cover up for her new clients in our election contest. The taint of this election grows day by day."
Attorney Charles Bell, who represents VIP and Comstock in the election contest and a declaratory and injunctive relief action seeking to overturn the Propositions D and F election and to bar future abuses of ballot secrecy and "early voting," commented that Renne's position poses possible violations of legal ethics. "Attorney ethics violation claims are in the news quite a bit thes days. However, a public attorney such as the City Attorney has higher ethical responsibilities. This newly-discovered information will be turned over to the State Bar of California for their review."
Bell also noted that his clients have sought copies of the investigative interviews of Wong and others interviewed by Secretary of State investigators under public records disclosure laws. "However, the Secretary of State's office has not yet turned over this information. It is possible additional disclosures may shed more light on Renne's and Wong's roles in protecting election officials concerning claims about the tainted June 1997 election," Bell said.
Phillips also criticized Secretary of State Bill Jones for accepting the Renne draft comments verbatim. "This new discovery is the icing on the cake on the challenge to the credibility of the Secretary of State's January Report. When Jones gushed praise for Renne's cooperation we were uneasy. Little did we know he had ceded Renne the opportunity to whitewash the allegations about this fundamentally-flawed election and clear her election contest clients at the same time. The Secretary's fraud unit does more harm than good by misrepresenting that it has performed diligently in election fraud cases."
Comstock also commented, "Jones' oft-repeated claim of 'zero tolerance for fraud' apparently didn't apply to the drafting of his own report."
VIP Attorney Charles Bell, who will represent VIP in the April 30 hearing, said, "Although we had already questioned the heavy reliance by the Secretary of State on the very office which was a subject of allegations central to our lawsuit, the City Attorney's authorship of a memo attempting to directly influence the conclusions of the Report goes beyond inappropriate it appears to be a most serious breach of public trust and a demonstration of the kind of direct conflict of interest which makes election fraud cases so difficult to prove."
The Voting Integrity Project (VIP) is a national, non-partisan citizens coalition organized to protect the integrity of the American electoral process. VIP is best known for conducting the first voting fraud investigation of the Jenkins-Landrieu U.S. Senate race in Louisiana last year (highlighted in the The Reader's Digest "They're Stealing Our Elections, August 1997)." VIP also educates and equips citizens to safeguard the electoral process in their own community and conducts research on vote fraud patterns and technology.
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