Dirty tricks in politics are as old as politics itself. A number of observers have itemized those in the United States and ranked them. A review of those lists indicates the top three dirty tricks in American politics are: (1) Watergate; (2) Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris peace talks concerning Vietnam; and (3) the “Brooks Brothers” riot at a Dade County election center in 2000. The curious are encouraged to conduct independent research to obtain details on each and craft their own ratings.
The 2020 campaign may top the charts for sheer volume in this regard, if only with respect to character (of lack thereof). As the January 6th House committee continues to make public some of the results of its work and the media pursue details, we are treated to additional plots and activities that cry for attention in the dirty tricks universe.
On July 4, 2020, Independence Day, Kanye West announced via Twitter his candidacy for the presidency. Promoted as an independent bid, few accorded any credibility to the announcement, deeming it at most a play for publicity. However, as it turns out, at the heart of West’s political operation was a Virginia-based law firm – Holtzman Vogel – a well-connected legal services firm with major Republican ties and clients. The campaign staff was laced with GOP operatives less dedicated to delivering President West than in reelecting the incumbent.
Jill Holtzman Vogel is managing partner of Holtzman Vogel, and a sitting state senator whose term ends in January 2024. Previously, Vogel served as counsel in the Florida Presidential Election Recount for Bush/Cheney in West Palm Beach and Osceola counties. In 2004, she was chief counsel to the Republican National Committee.
Court filing documents in a Texas lawsuit revealed some of the dots connecting the West campaign to Holtzman Vogel, including records and material branching into the identities of a number of Republican and right-wing organizations. The Trump/Republican guiding hand in West’s campaign was obscured from public view but apparently clear to insiders and strategists.
According to public reports, Jill Vogel functioned as West’s de facto campaign chair, representing the candidate’s interests to a number of other groups working for the operation, as seen in the lawsuit. The goal of the campaign now appears more clearly to have also been an effort to siphon Black voters from the Democrat and support election challenges.
According to public reports, Jill Vogel functioned as West’s de facto campaign chair, representing the candidate’s interests to a number of other groups working for the operation, as seen in the lawsuit. The goal of the campaign now appears more clearly to have also been an effort to siphon Black voters from the Democrat and support election challenges. Court documents show the campaign funded a baseless election challenge lawsuit in Minnesota, which coordinated with another group employed by the campaign, using Giuliani protégé Jenna Ellis.
The connecting dots, however, continued to emerge from the West organization, reaching also into Georgia. Last month, a Fulton County, Georgia, election worker and her daughter filed a defamation lawsuit against a conservative website that had published and promoted video clips alleging that the two were engaged in fraudulent balloting. The family pair were besieged by threats, forcing them–at the advice of the FBI–to relocate for several months.
Allegations of election fraud in Georgia were, of course, a priority of the Republican candidate who, in a recorded phone call on January 2, 2021, with the secretary of state for the Peach State, singled out one of the election workers 18 times by name, characterizing her as a “professional vote scammer,” “hustler,” and a “known political operative’ who “stuffed the ballot box.”
On January 4, 2021, the election worker was visited by a publicist with ties to Kanye West at the request of the director of an organization called Black Voices for Trump. The meeting took place in a police station in Cobb County and was partially recorded on a body cam. The message to the targeted election worker was clear: If she acknowledged fraud, she would be protected, receiving immunity. Time was of the essence, she was told, since the election would be certified in two days and it is “really important to get to the right people before an election is certified.”
While this particular chapter may not achieve stardom in the ranks of the nation’s dirty tricks walk of fame, it narrates a dark and deep level of deceit on behalf of a candidate and trauma to the life of an innocent citizen. The sad element is that none of the principals have paid as high a price as the worker.
Last week, the election workers filed another federal defamation claim naming Rudy Giuliani and One America Network (OAN). Perhaps, down the road, some compensation will be paid for the reprehensible conduct.
For the rest of us, a win by the workers would represent some accountability for dirty tricks.