There has been an interesting back-and-forth this week between Republican Attorney General candidate Leslie Rutledge and Democratic Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane.
In short, Crane canceled Rutledge’s voter registration based on the fact that she was still registered in Washington D.C. and Virginia and that she filled out a change of address form in 2013 when she moved back to Arkansas instead of a new voter registration form. There has been plenty of rhetoric between Rutledge and Crane as to who is to blame.
But what started all this? According to Crane, his office began researching Rutledge’s voter status after receiving this letter from a group calling themselves “Arkansas Libertarian Coalition.” Crane says he believes someone – he is not sure who – hand delivered the memo to the Pulaski County Clerk’s office. Records show the memo was stamped received on September 26, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
The memo is addressed “to all concerned members of the media and political party machinery.”
“Libertarian Candidate Aaron Cash is the only Conservative candidate legally eligible to be elected Attorney General this. Leslie Rutledge is guilty of multiple count of Voter Fraud and cannot be elected to hold office,” says the memo which goes on to claim she is “registered to vote in Virginia not Arkansas.” The memo details a timeline of Rutledge’s voter registration history in Arkansas, Virginia, and D.C.
Crane tells me this memo led his office to investigate the claims and it led to his decision to cancel her voter registration. Crane said that such a complaint regarding someone’s voter registration is extremely rare, if not unprecedented.
“In my time as county clerk, I do not recall anyone ever filing a complaint like this,” said Crane who said it is so unusual there is no office policy on how to handle such complaints nor is there any plan to implement one.
So who exactly is “Arkansas Libertarian Coalition?” One thing is clear – they have no affiliation with the Libertarian Party of Arkansas (LPA).
“That group is not in any way affiliated with the state party,” said LPA Chair Jessica Paxton. “As a matter of fact, I have no knowledge of any group by that name and had not heard of them until I was shown the Rutledge letter on Monday. No one from that group has reached out to the LPAR either. I’ve spoken with dozens of party leaders and members and no one has any knowledge of that group. It’s very strange.”
However, a FOIA request I made to the Pulaski County Clerk sheds some light on who might actually be behind this group.
On August 21, 2014, a FOIA request was filed with the Pulaski County Clerk for “the voter history for Leslie Carol Rutledge” including when she first registered to vote in Independence County, Pulaski County, what dates if any “Leslie Rutledge rescinded, cancelled, annulled, or terminated her voter registration in Pulaski County after registering in Pulaski County,” and “what date(s) Leslie Rutledge re-registered to vote in Pulaski County.”
“Okay, just a hypothetical: If I’m a registered Arkansas voter, and I move to Mississippi, and want to register to vote there, whose responsibility is it to cancel my Arkansas voter registration status (assuming I register to vote in Mississippi),” asks the FOIA requester. “And vica versa, if I move back to Arkansas after a few years, whose responsibility is it to cancel that Mississippi voter registration if I then move back and want to register in Arkansas?”
“We cannot provide interpretations of statutes based on hypothetical questions,” replies David Berman with the clerk’s office.
So who has such insight to ask these questions? The FOIA came from someone named Brad Hennessy listing his address as “3525 Sussex Circle” in Little Rock and “(603) 817-0310” as his phone number.
Sound familiar? It should. This is the same address and phone number that Teron Reed – the DPA tracker – listed for his address and phone number in the FOIA request he filed with DHS which led to the negative headlines regarding Rutledge’s time there. I wrote about this incident a few weeks ago. In addition, the DHS FOIA request was sent via fax line from a Kansas City area code number with “Brad Hennessy” listed in the subject line.
A voice mail left at the number Hennessy listed was not returned, so it is not clear if he was working directly for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, why he filed the request, or what his connection is to the shadowy group filing the complaint in September.
Records do show that Hennessy definitely has a history as a Democratic operative. A website for Lafayette College in Pennsylvania lists a “Brad Hennessy” with the same phone number as the contact for a 2011 College Democrat event where Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak was speaking as well as various other College Democratic events. Another article shows him volunteering for Obama’s Organizing for America group promoting Obamacare. The Pulaski County Clerk also tells me that they show no record of anyone with the name “Brad Hennessy” registered to vote in Pulaski County.
In short, there is little doubt in my mind that Hennessy is a Democratic political operative. The timing of Hennessy’s request – August 21 – was roughly a month before the memo from the shadowy group “Arkansas Libertarian Coalition” was sent to the Pulaski County Clerk’s office. Although hiding behind the Libertarian label, it seems to me that the Democrats are behind the Rutledge voter registration story much as they were with the DHS story.
UPDATE: Speaking of DPA trackers, someone pointed out that David Berman – the Pulaski County Assistant Chief Deputy Clerk who responded to Hennessy’s FOIA request – worked for the Democratic Party of Arkansas in 2010. I knew he looked familiar when I met him yesterday at the clerk’s office. Berman was the DPA tracker in 2010 who followed around Jim Keet and John Boozman filming them for the DPA. It might just be a coincidence, but it is an odd one.