RP: Well, they are not going to be listened to.To address the growing number of concerns about the National Election Reform Commission (see previous post), The Brad Blog set up a page on The Velvet Revolution website where anyone who cares to can send a letter of protest to President Carter at the Commission. The Velvet Revolution is a coalition of 100+ election reform and voting rights organizations.
BB: So, you are suggesting that somehow, for some reason, you should have more power over our American democracy than any other American Citizen? Are you kidding me?!
RP: Well, apparently I do have more power because otherwise you wouldn't care so much about what the commission is doing.
BB: Yes, we care, because it's an important commission...It needs to happen...Such a commission is necessary, very necessary...but the way this thing has been fixed and stacked...
RP: It is not stacked.
BB: Who appointed the members of that commission?
RP: The members of the commission are Republicans and Democrats and individual non-partisans...
BB: Who appointed them to this commission?
RP: You have a problem with three or four of the commission members and one of the academic advisors, but there are probably more Democrats than Republicans on the commission...
BB: I don't care how many...This isn't about Democrats or Republicans, Bob. There should be Republicans on the commission...We have no problem with that! What we do have a problem with is Bush/Cheney and Voting Machine Representatives...is the lead attorney from the Kerry/Edwards campaign on the advisory board, Bob? . . .
RP: No he's not. But there are people on the Right that have problems with all the Democrats on the committee.
BB: I don't give a damn about the...There's no problem with Republicans on the committee, Bob...It's not...
RP: Do you know who won the last election?
BB: Uh...Not really...Do you?...
RP: You don't know who won the election?
BB: Not really...I wish I did, but...
RP: The Republicans won the Presidency! And both houses of Congress, the House and the Senate!
BB: How do you know that?...
(Phone conversation, Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog (BB) and Robert A. Pastor (RP), Executive Director, National Election Reform Commission.)
After receiving thousands of emails via the Velvet Revolution page, the Commission's Executive Director, Robert A. Pastor, called Brad Friedman on the phone on Tuesday (4/19) and chewed him out for "harassment." Brad took notes while they spoke, and the dialog above is from their conversation. It is a remarkable conversation, which ought to be read in full.
I am puzzled as to what Republican electoral victories have to do with the selection and conduct of the Commission's members. While some of Pastor's bluster seems due to ignorance of how email and internet communications work, he also seems deeply alarmed that the Commission is a source of controversy. It appears that Pastor was operating under the assumption that his organization would conduct its hearings, make high profile recommendations that undermine the work of the election reform and voting rights communities and then fade out of sight, no questions asked. I hope my readers here will head over to the Velvet Revolution page and help make sure that Mr. Pastor continues to hear that the American public does not consider the Commission, in its current form, a legitimate body for the pursuit of election reform.
I mentioned in my last post that one major source of controversy regarding the Commission is that it is has excluded Representative John Conyers, Jr., from the its ranks. Representative Conyers has investigated the 2004 presidential election tirelessly and has been a constant voice for election reform and voting rights. It is therefore incomprehensible that any national election reform commission would not think his participation essential to its mission.
Yesterday, Representative Conyers met with Mr. Pastor to express his own concerns about the Commission directly.
I had a lengthy, substantive, and frank meeting with Dr. Robert Pastor, Executive Director of the Baker-Carter Election Commission. I shared my concerns about the Commission with him. Among other things, I remain concerned about the involvement of Mr. James Baker, III, in this Commission, and the emphasis of some of the Commission's work thus far. In this meeting, Dr. Pastor displayed great familiarity with my report on the 2004 Ohio Presidential election and expressed his strong commitment to election reform. Dr. Pastor has established an open channel with me to continue discussing these concerns, and I intend to continue this dialogue. I also intend to attend future meetings of the Commission, and personally meet with President Carter and other Commission members. In sum, I want to assure you that I will be monitoring this Commission and its work very closely. In other words, I am on the case.We're certainly not out of the woods, but it is reassuring to know that Conyers is taking an active role in the Commission, all invitations aside.
The contrast between Pastor's tone and demeanor in his Tuesday conversation with Brad and his civil cooperation with Conyers on Thursday is stark. The change must certainly be in no small measure because of Conyers' unflappable diplomacy. The contrast should also be taken as evidence that public pressure is, in fact, effective and that ongoing vigilance is essential.
If you go The Brad Blog or to The Velvet Revolution, do take note of the new email address for correspondence with Pastor in his capacity as Executive Director of the the Baker-Carter Commission. Representative Conyers and Brad Friedman have asked concerned citizens to use the new address as a good faith measure, in return for Robert Pastor's conciliatory response in the Thursday meeting.