Mulvaney Staffer First to Share Pro-Kraninger Website Run by Shady Astroturf Group?

The Big Question: Why was one of Mulvaney’s most senior aides apparently the first to know about pro-Kraninger website produced by group tied to Voter Fraud and Forged Letters to Congress?


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Mulvaney spokesman John Czwartacki appeared to become the only person on Twitter to share a link to a new website supporting Trump’s nominee for CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger.  The website is the work of Protect America’s Consumers, a shadowy astroturf group tied to individuals who have conducted fake grassroots campaigns featuring forged letters from members of Congress.  Others who are reportedly associated with Protect America’s Consumers have been accused of voter fraud in several states.

This raises serious questions of impropriety within Mick Mulvaney’s inner circle. How did one of his senior aides apparently become the first and only person to share a new website on Twitter that was produced by a shady astroturf group in support of Kraninger’s nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)?” asked Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.

He continued, “Protect America’s Consumers is run by individuals who have been caught faking grassroots issue advocacy campaigns featuring forged letters to members of Congress. The group is in bed with one of the most notorious voter fraud organizations in the country that was caught numerous times in multiple states blatantly violating voter registration laws. What on earth is John Cwartacki doing sharing content from these people and how was he apparently the first person to know this website even existed? These are serious questions that must be answered before Kathy Kraninger’s confirmation hearing on Thursday.”

The Facts:

SENIOR MULVANEY AIDE APPEARS TO BE THE ONLY PERSON TO HAVE SHARED PRO-KRANINGER WEBSITE PRODUCED BY ASTROTURF GROUP WITH SHADY HISTORY

Mulvaney’s Communications Director appears to be the first and only person who has tweeted a link to Protect America’s Consumer’s website encouraging the confirmation of Kathy Kraninger for CFPB Director. On July 17, 2018, John Czwartacki, Chief Communications Officer and Spokesperson at the CFPB, tweeted a link to protectconsumers.com, with the headline “Support Kathy Kraninger for Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.” As of 10am July 18, Czwartacki appears to be the only person who has tweeted the link. [Tweet by John Czwartacki, 07/17/18 at 5:59pm ET] 

PROTECT AMERICA’S CONSUMERS CEO STEVE GATES WAS SPOKESPERSON FOR A GROUP THAT HIRED LINCOLN STRATEGY GROUP TO RUN ITS ASTROTURF OPERATION

Protect America’s Consumers’ CEO Is Steve Gates, Who Worked with The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity When “It Was Caught Feigning a Grass-Roots Campaign, Including Sending Forged Letter to Congressional Offices.” “The only person who has been identified with the group, spokesman Steve Gates, worked for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity while it was caught feigning a grass-roots campaign, including sending forged letters to congressional offices. Gates didn’t respond to requests for comment.” [Politico, 1/7/16]

LINCOLN STRATEGY GROUP WENT TO WORK FOR PROTECT AMERICA’S CONSUMERS TOO

Lincoln Strategy Group is the “Force” Behind Protect America’s Consumers. In May 2016, Politico reported that “Lincoln Strategy Group, a political consulting firm Tempe, Ariz” was the “force behind” Protect America’s Consumers. The connection between the groups was revealed when a consumer advocate in attendance at a CFPB field hearing in New Mexico saw an audience member “texting with Dan Centinello, an executive vice president at Lincoln Strategy Group.” [Isaac Arnsdorf, “PI EXCLUSIVE: Uncovering the ‘astroturf’ firm behind the CFPB attack ads,” Politico Influence, 05/19/16]

LINCOLN STRATEGY GROUP IS ONE OF THE MOST NOTORIOUS VOTER FRAUD ORGANIZATIONS IN THE COUNTRY – AND HAS BEEN CAUGHT NUMEROUS TIMES IN MULTIPLE STATES BLATANTLY VIOLATING VOTER REGISTRATION LAWS 

Think Progress: Lincoln Strategies Is “One of Most Notorious Voter Fraud Organizations in The Country.” “The new firm managing the “grassroots” campaign for the coal industry has a history that distinguishes it as being one of the most notorious voter fraud organizations in the country:” [Think Progress, 8/7/09]

In 2012, Lincoln Strategy Group Was Accused of Submitting Fraudulent Voter-Registration Forms to Florida Counties On Behalf of The RNC.  “Nathan Sproul and his Tempe-based voter-registration company, Lincoln Strategy Group, formerly known as Strategic Allied Consulting, is accused of submitting possible fraudulent voter-registration forms to Florida counties. Keith Kameg, spokesman for Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement, declines to specify how many counties, saying the case is an active criminal investigation that “precludes us from providing further information.” Sproul was working on behalf of the Republican National Committee to register voters to help presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a key battleground state before the committee fired Sproul. The Republican Party of Florida paid Sproul’s firm more than $1.3million. Sproul says his employees are trained on campaign-finance laws, and he says his company has turned in employees who break the law.” [Arizona Republic, 12/28/12]

  • Complaints Surfaced in 10 Florida Counties of Voter Registration Fraud by Lincoln Strategy Group Including Similar Signatures, False Addresses, And Names of Dead People; Similar Claims Also Arose Against Lincoln Strategy Group in Nevada and Colorado. “The tables have turned, however, and Republicans are now playing defense over the role of a well-paid operative, Nathan Sproul, in a voter registration scandal that emerged in Florida and has spread to other states. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it was reviewing ”numerous” claims involving a company that Mr. Sproul runs to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted. Complaints have surfaced in 10 Florida counties, among them allegations that registrations had similar signatures or false addresses, or were filed under the names of dead people. In other cases, party affiliations appeared to have been changed. In recent days, similar claims against Mr. Sproul have arisen in Nevada and Colorado.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]
  • Voter Registration Fraud Accusations Against Sproul and Lincoln Strategy Group “Seem to Fit a Pattern” And in Nevada a Woman Was Told by an Employee of Lincoln Strategy Group to Rip Up a Registration Where She Registered Democrat and Fill Out Another Where She Registered Independent.“Susan Bucher, the superintendent of elections in Palm Beach County, Fla., said that about 100 questionable voter registrations had been flagged there. Of those, more than half involved changing a voter’s party affiliation to Republican or independent. Ms. Bucher said that the revised registrations gave her ”the feeling that the person completing the application had not come in contact with the voter,” because they failed to include proper identifying information, like the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. The voter registration fraud allegations against Mr. Sproul’s companies seem to fit a pattern. In Nevada, a complaint filed last month with the secretary of state’s office alleged that a woman, Cathy Sue Yancey, was told to tear up a form in which she registered as a Democrat and fill out another one without marking her party affiliation. The complaint was filed by another woman who said she witnessed the event outside an unemployment office in Henderson, Nev., on Sept. 13. That woman, Gina Greisen, said she and a group of friends had been approached by a man who told them that they needed to update their voter registration. ”He talked about voter fraud and mentioned Acorn and illegals voting,” Ms. Greisen said. The worker then approached Ms. Yancey. ”He was sure a Republican, because he was totally against Obama,” said Ms. Yancey, who was reached by phone and verified Ms. Greisen’s account. ”I’m a Democrat. I’m certainly voting for Obama.” The election forms were traced to a Sproul operation.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]
  • In 2012, The RNC and All State Republican Parties Terminated Their Contract with Lincoln Strategy Group (DBA Strategic Allied Consulting) After The Voter Fraud Allegations and Reince Preibus Stated “There Is No Tolerance for Them at All.”“The Republican Party of Wisconsin contracted with Sproul’s Strategic Allied Consulting and had its workers in the state for about a week, according to Nathan Conrad, a spokesman for the Wisconsin party. Conrad said the contract was terminated last month when the problems in Florida emerged. The Republican National Committee and other state parties also terminated their contracts at the time. “There is no tolerance for them at all,” said Reince Priebus, the RNC’s chairman. Sproul has operated companies under a number of names, including Sproul & Associates, Lincoln Strategy Group and Strategic Allied Consulting, according to The New York Times. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/14/12]

Spoul’s Firm Was Accused of Throwing Out Democratic Registrations in Nevada and Oregon in 2004. “Sproul told the Times he formed Strategic Allied Consulting at the request of the RNC for publicity’s sake, given past negative media coverage of Lincoln stemming from past allegations going back to 2004, when employees in Nevada and Oregon signed up Democrats but threw out their forms instead of turning them in.” [Fox 31 (Denver), 9/28/12]

  • In 2004, Sproul’s Company Was Accused of Only Registering Republicans in Multiple States and A Worker In Las Vegas Said He Watched a Supervisor Tear Up Democratic Registrations. “In 2004, a company he started was paid millions by Republicans to register voters. Employees in several states alleged they were told to register only Republicans. A worker in Las Vegas said he watched a supervisor tear up Democratic registrations. A Justice Department investigation did not lead to any charges, Sproul said.” [LA Times, 9/28/12]
  • The Oregon Department of Justice Investigated Spoul Companies for Voter Fraud in 2004.“Similar allegations prompted an investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice in 2004.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]
  • A Woman Told Investigators That She Was Paid by Sproul’s Consulting Firm Only When She Registered Republicans; The Claims Were Also Investigated by The Portland Office of The FBI.“The woman told investigators that she was paid only when she registered Republicans or those who said they would vote for President George W. Bush. The Oregon inquiry focused on more than 100 fraud complaints, many pointing to operations run by Mr. Sproul, but did not result in any charges. A lawyer for Mr. Sproul said at the time that the company had a system in place to prevent and detect fraud and forgery. Additional investigations of Mr. Sproul’s organization, including one by the Portland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also failed to produce any charges.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]

Officials at A Library in Pittsburgh Complained That Sproul’s Organization Got Permission After Using False Pretenses to Set Up a Voter Registration Desk Outside Their Building—Only After Visitors Complained Did They Learn That the Canvassers Represented the Republican Party.“Around the same time, officials at a library in Pittsburgh complained that Mr. Sproul’s company had used false pretenses — claiming to represent the nonpartisan America Votes — to get permission to set up a voter registration desk outside their building. It was only after visitors began to complain that the library learned that the canvassers represented the Republican Party.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]

Former Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party Said Nathan Sproul, Head of Lincoln Strategy Group, Was “Very Controversial” In Arizona Republican Circles. “Mike Hellon, a former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, said that Mr. Sproul had been considered ”very controversial” in Arizona Republican circles before the recent allegations, partly because of past voter registration investigations. ”There are questions among a lot of people in the party about how he gets these contracts and why he gets contracts,” Mr. Hellon said.” [New York Times, 10/5/12]

Election Law Expert: If Sproul’s Firm Appears On Filings It “Would Immediately Raise Red Flags Among Democrats.” “But the record of allegations makes Sproul a lightning rod in political circles. “There’s no question if the name Sproul & Associates appeared on any filings, that would immediately raise red flags among Democrats,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert who teaches at UC Irvine.”  [LA Times, 9/28/12]

Leader of Protect America’s Consumers Was Once Spokesperson for Koch Brothers-Tied, and Scandal-Plagued Coal Industry Trade Association That Faked Grassroots Campaigns and Forged Letters to Congress 

Protect America’s Consumers’ CEO Is Steve Gates, Who Worked with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity When “It Was Caught Feigning a Grass-Roots Campaign, Including Sending Forged Letters to Congressional Offices.” “The only person who has been identified with the group, spokesman Steve Gates, worked for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity while it was caught feigning a grass-roots campaign, including sending forged letters to congressional offices. Gates didn’t respond to requests for comment.” [Politico, 1/7/16]

  • The Forged Letters Were Supposedly Written On Behalf of Military Veterans and Local Chapters of Civil Rights Groups and Sent to Democratic Members of Congress in Opposition to The Waxman-Markey Energy Bill.“ACCCE is best known for its ties to Bonner & Associates, the lobbying firm that got caught sending forged letters to Democratic members of Congress this summer. The letters, putatively written on behalf of military veterans and local chapters of civil rights groups, opposed the Waxman-Markey energy bill. In late October, congressional investigators found that ACCCE knew that Bonner was sending out phony letters on its behalf, but waited to tip off lawmakers until after they’d voted on the bill.” [Mother Jones, 12/4/09]

The ACCCE “Subcontracted Its Astroturf Operations to Lincoln Strategy Group, A GOP-Tied Firm Notorious for Voter Fraud.” “The new project will use 225,000 volunteers dubbed “America’s Power Army.” They will visit town hall meetings, fairs and other functions attended by members of Congress and ask misleading questions about energy policy. Think Progress has discovered that ACCCE has subcontracted its astroturf operations to the Lincoln Strategy Group, a GOP-tied firm notorious for voter fraud. The LinkedIn profile for Lincoln Strategies staffer Courtney Forrester reveals that her employer is engaged in a massive effort to recruit supporters on behalf of the coal industry. Steve Gates, communications director for ACCCE, told Think Progress that Lincoln Strategy Group ran their grassroots campaign last year as well.” [Think Progress, 8/7/09]

  • Think Progress: Lincoln Strategies Is “One of Most Notorious Voter Fraud Organizations in The Country.”“The new firm managing the “grassroots” campaign for the coal industry has a history that distinguishes it as being one of the most notorious voter fraud organizations in the country:” [Think Progress, 8/7/09]

Executives with Two Member Companies of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity Attended A “Secretive Gathering Held by The Koch Brothers” To Discuss 2010 Election Strategy. “With no end in sight to such dramatic spending in order to protect polluters’ profits, a new Think Progress exposé published yesterday suggests that the level of coordination between secret money political groups, ultra-rich conservative donors, and polluters may be even deeper than previously thought. Think Progress obtained a memo detailing a secretive gathering held by the Koch brothers this past June, at which the Koch brothers plotted their 2010 election strategy with 210 attendees from the oil industry, coal companies, health insurers, banks, right-wing media (including Glenn Beck), the U.S. Chamber, and others. The June meeting was merely the latest in a series of similar gatherings held twice annually by the Kochs in order to coordinate the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts. The list of attendees obtained by Think Progress shows that there is considerable overlap between the groups that have been running tens of millions in anti-clean energy ads and those who attended the Koch confab, including: …American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity: The well-known and scandal-plagued coal industry front group has spent over $16 million on energy ads this year. Executives from two of its member companies—Alpha Coal Sales Company (a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources) and Alliance Resource Partners were in attendance at the gathering.” [Think Progress, 10/21/10]

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