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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Report Ignites Controversy

by Pamela Leavey

Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone magazine, reports today on the controversy over Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s article in Rolling Stone earlier this month. It’s certainly been a controversial subject on this blog as well.

The 2004 Election
Kennedy report ignites controversy

During a White House press briefing on June 8th, a tough question caught Tony Snow off guard. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has written an article in Rolling Stone which revisits the Ohio vote in 2004,” a Baltimore radio reporter asked Bush’s spokesman. “Does the president believe Kennedy has raised any new evidence of voter fraud?”

Snow tried to deflect the question with a joke, suggesting that the reporter should serve as Bush’s “emissary from Rolling Stone.” But many citizens, journalists and elected officials are taking our four-month investigation of vote-rigging in Ohio far more seriously [“Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” RS 1002]. The debate began online, where the story set off a firestorm. More than 700,000 people logged on to rollingstone.com to read the story, and thousands of bloggers posted heated entries about Kennedy’s report.

The online furor caught the attention of some in the mainstream press, which has long downplayed the evidence of vote tampering. In The New York Times, Bob Herbert devoted an entire column to our investigation, concluding that John Kerry “almost certainly would have won Ohio” if Republicans had not blocked so many of his supporters from casting ballots. And The Seattle Post-Intelligencer blasted the media for its “deafening” silence on Kennedy’s report. “In terms of bad news judgment,” the paper observed, “this could turn out to be the 2006 equivalent of the infamous Downing Street memo” — evidence that the Bush administration falsified intelligence on WMDs to justify invading Iraq — “that was initially greeted by the U.S. media with a collective yawn.”

Even Democrats who have been slow to question the election results were convinced by Kennedy’s exhaustive report. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who serves as the party’s chief deputy whip, took the extraordinary step of admitting her mistake. “I apologize for not taking seriously enough the allegations that the 2004 election was stolen,” she confessed in a speech on June 14th. “After reading Bobby Kennedy’s article in Rolling Stone — ‘Was the 2004 Election Stolen?’ — I am convinced that the only answer is yes.” Schakowsky promised that the Democrats would move aggressively “to ward off a repeat performance.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, is preparing to up the ante on those he believes abetted the GOP’s electoral theft. In July, the outspoken attorney plans to file “whistle-blower” lawsuits against two leading manufacturers of electronic voting machines. According to Kennedy, company insiders are prepared to testify that the firms knowingly made false claims when they sold their voting systems to the government — misrepresenting the accuracy, reliability and security of machines that will be used by 72 million voters this November.

“This is a unique way to try and stop these vendors,” Kennedy tells Rolling Stone. “In both cases, our whistle-blowers are familiar with security problems that were well known by the vendors but concealed from election officials during the bidding process. Because we’re relying on ‘inside’ knowledge, it is a far more frightening prospect to the company than a traditional lawsuit might be. And if we prove our case, we will hit the corporations the only place they feel it: in their pocketbooks.”

My initial reaction to Kennedy’s article was that it was time for a serious wake-up call to voters and our Democratic leaders. Controversial as it was, sometimes it takes stirring up some controversy to wake people up from their deep slumber in the the land of denial. Kudos to Rep. Jan Schakowsky for promising that “the Democrats would move aggressively “to ward off a repeat performance.”” Let’s hold her feet to the fire.

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