While Republican lawmakers in Florida passed new election laws last year that equate to voter suppression claiming they want to crack down on non-existent voter fraud, a hearing was held last week in Tampa where Gov. Rick Scott refused to appear and lawmakers who proposed and pushed the laws fought against testifying after they were issued subpoenas. Two of those avoiding depositions were sponsors of the election laws: Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla from Miami, and Rep. Dennis Baxley from Ocala. The other two were Sen. Paula Dockery and Rep. Seth McKeel, from Lakeland.
Given the so called urgency of such laws, one would think these legislators would be first in line to defend their laws, not to mention Gov. Scott, but then the haste of the matter was about getting the laws on the books ahead of the 2012 elections.
The so-called urgency of voting requirements, ID laws and such magically fell by the wayside in the recent Iowa caucuses where Rick Santorum was shown to be the winner by eight votes, but the Republicans who favored Mitt Romney declared a resounding "meh" and ignored the results.
In short, voting technicalities that might affect results seem to be somewhat selective as far as the Republican Party is concerned, but that shouldn't surprise anyone paying attention to recent events.
Imagine the outrage if members of a certain group showed up at voting precincts on election day to coordinate and recruit members and fund raising while paying for signatures? That might be something the GOP would dream up and project onto the party of opposition like Democrats, after all, recall the faux ACORN outrage where false claims paid off for the GOP.
Well, such a thing is actually happening as the Republican primary is underway in Florida, and the GOP is in fact outraged. Their imagined scenario is actually being played out against them.
By the "Tea Party."
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is signing up Florida tea party leaders to serve as regional coordinators, and paying groups $2 per signature to recruit Election Day volunteers.
"It's an opportunity for tea parties to raise dollars for their organizations by helping AFP with an awareness and membership drive on Tuesday," said Slade O'Brien, AFP's Florida director.
But critics say it looks suspiciously like a conservative version of ACORN, buying foot soldiers for election work.
"It's reprehensible," said Apryl Marie Fogel, a former AFP state director. "Slade is doing things we would never have considered doing."
Though O'Brien said AFP does not endorse candidates, Fogel expressed concern about the organization's activities on Tuesday and beyond.
"Incentivizing people with money is no different than what ACORN or other groups are doing," she said.
O'Brien said "about 50" tea party and patriot members have been gathering signatures of volunteers, who, in turn, will wear AFP T-shirts and spread the group's message at precincts on Election Day.
He could not provide a current tally of volunteers, but said they will be working statewide.
"All volunteers are required to sign a release stating that they will only hand out AFP material and will not display, have available or advocate for any candidate while engaged in this project," O'Brien told Sunshine State News.
"Many [tea and patriot] groups struggle to raise money. This is an opportunity for us to boost membership on Election Day."
O'Brien defended the $2-per-head bounties paid to recruiters, saying, "All groups spend money to attract new members. This is an efficient way to have a face-to-face conversation."
But Fogel said the process smacks of "Astroturf."
Smacks of astroturf? Of course it does. That's what the Koch funded Americans for Proseperity is all about. They're in large part responsible for creating the Tea Party monster that Republicans once championed and is now threatening to swallow the Party whole. While some claim the Tea Party is dying a slow death, groups like AFP have an interest in keeping it very much alive. They aren't going anywhere if the AFP has anything to say about it:
O'Brien said he hopes to make the field coordinator jobs permanent, extending beyond November.
"We'll be engaged in Florida in the 2012 cycle, and we're hoping to keep them on board to spread the word of free markets and fiscal restraint," he said.
Now appearing at a polling place near you in a shiny new Americans for Prosperity t-shirt. They're probably there right now.
Cue the Republican outrage?