Catherine Engelbrecht "facilitated" the May 8th Groundswell meeting. Engelbrecht is the president and founder of True the Vote, a Texas group dedicated to challenging voting rights among the poor, students, and minorities. In addition to their regular work attacking sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act via lawsuits, Engelbrecht was the media go-to person for the media on the phony IRS scandal. That story broke on May 9th, after the Benghazi hearings had more or less fizzled out the previous day.
There was wave after wave of headlines about these so-called scandals. Some people wrote about what an awful week the White House had. It wasn't coincidence. It was orchestrated and planned by this group of people, who had the will and the power to secure the participation of people like Darrell Issa, John Boehner and more.
True the Vote led the charge to sue the IRS and serve the highest-profile plaintiff among the "aggrieved" groups. Yet this audio recording shows their president "facilitating" a clearly partisan, right-wing activist group meeting of people who claim to be fighting a "30-front war." No big deal? When is the last time anyone you know could ring up the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and take a face-to-face meeting in the wee hours of the evening with approval from the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice?
In the first 20 minutes of the meeting, a lot of ground was covered. The audio of the final hour or so is available, but the quality is not clear enough at this time to publish it. However, they helpfully provided handouts at the meeting relating to their voter suppression efforts discussed later on. Here are some highlights from the audio and then parts that came later.
At 3:45, Jerry Boykin advises the group of the meetings he and Frank Gaffney had with Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa concerning Benghazi on the evening of May 7th about how the Benghazi investigation is progressing. This was the night before the last Congressional Oversight Committee hearing was held on Benghazi, where the so-called whistleblowers were to testify.
In the late-night meeting with Gaffney and Boykin, Boehner advised both that they needed to allow the regular order of committee meetings to play out before he would push for a select committee. Issa told him the same thing. Boykin and Gaffney reported this to the group, along with a promise that there "would be answers." Both reiterated that they and former Rep. Allen West were very concerned about the lack of a military response and assured the group that "what we'll find today is that Hillary Clinton made some egregious decisions and the president was basically absent from his post and did not make the decisions that as the Commander-in-Chief he should have been making...because he was focused on some other things."
They further assured the group that they weren't backing away from their demands, but instead they "kind of have a pledge from...Issa and the Speaker."
Future Debt Ceiling Battles
Just past the Benghazi discussion, the group received a report about upcoming debt ceiling negotiations, where they are advised that a survey has gone out to conservative lawmakers to see "what they're looking for in exchange for their votes raising the debt ceiling."
Of course, you'd never know from the press they get that there was any intention of raising the debt ceiling at all. Now we all can see that they will in fact do it reluctantly, as Shonda Weery reports when she advises that it's "not a vote they'll want to give without getting back something in return." Let the horse-trading begin.
During the meeting, True the Vote made a presentation (document below) about their plan to attack groups who are actively working to protect voting rights around the country, particularly after the Supreme Court gutted most of the protections. Code-named "Hydra", True the Vote argues that the left is undermining voting rights, and must be stopped, by hook or by crook.
Let's review that timeline.
On May 8, 2013, True the Vote is a facilitator and presenter at a meeting where Ginni Thomas and others are key players. TTV presents their plan to attack "the left" for daring to register voters. They're committed to stopping them from challenging any and all efforts to disenfranchise voters. Or as they describe it, securing the vote. Others might call it democracy corrupted.
On May 9, 2013 the IRS "scandal" breaks after Lois Lerner plants a question in a conference Q&A about IRS "targeting."
On May 21, 2013, True the Vote, represented by ActRight Legal Foundation, sues the IRS for not granting their tax-exempt status and targeting them for their beliefs. ActRight Legal Foundation uses Cleta Mitchell as one of their consulting attorneys. Mitchell is a well-known and very high profile litigator on behalf of conservative causes. There are very few conservative nonprofits that don't have Mitchell's fingerprints all over them.
True the Vote goes all over conservative media with their tale of woe. Their message: The IRS was used as a tool by the liberal president to target conservatives and suppress their free speech rights. Until True the Vote was a victim of the terrible IRS, they were under Congressional investigation for voter suppression, by the way.
In fact, the IRS had ample reason to believe they were a partisan, political group who was not simply acting on behalf of voters everywhere. But that did not stop Engelbrecht from pushing forward with her anti-voter initiatives while simultaneously leading the charge against the IRS.
But wait, there's more. True the Vote wrote a letter in opposition to the nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor, complaining that "Mr. Perez, through political appointment and action, has made clear his intent to ignore key functions in federal election law – namely Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)."
In TTV's document entitled "Hydra with Footnotes", the battle lines are drawn with very partisan rulers. After making their case that the "Organized Left is preparing a massive campaign to promote 'Universal Registration' and threatening to block citizen observers from the polls," TTV vows to target those groups however they can and defeat the terrible lefty Hydra by "attack[ing] the source of its strengths", which they view as the usual right-wing targets: unions, the NAACP, Common Cause, Project Vote, Demos, Center for American Progress, The Nation Foundation, and more.
While this flurry of organizing and activism is happening, TTV is front and center in the press with loud, strident claims that the IRS "targeted" them.
Another active member of Groundswell, J. Christian Adams, contributes content to the True the Vote site on issues such as whether any fix to the Voting Rights Act is possible after it was gutted by the Supreme Court in June. Adams serves as counsel to the Election Law Center, yet another right-wing effort to suppress the vote.
The efforts of this group should not be marginalized, given that what they are saying is repeated in the halls of the House and the Senate on a daily basis. It isn't just right-wing crazy people being crazy. These are activistswith contacts in high places who are using those contacts to strip people of their rights, to invent scandals to undermine the President at every turn, and to marginalize Hillary Clinton if she should choose to run in 2016. Those are just a few of their goals. They have power and they're not afraid to use it.
Group members are the water-carriers and action arm of the billionaires' tea party. Listen to the full 20 minutes of that audio, or read the transcript here to see just how destructive they intend to be.
This is the first of a two-part series. Tomorrow, I'll look more closely at Ginni Thomas' involvement to see whether Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas engaged in unethical conduct or colluded with his wife and her associates.
True The Vote's Hydra document presented at the meeting: