This interview was conducted by Rose Roby. She and her husband Jeff Roby have done fine work for years as activists and together run St. Petersburg Independents.
Democracy and Its Discontents
“Voting integrity does not rise or fall on vote counting … there hasn’t been integrity in the voting system since the founding of the republic.”
— An Interview with Don DeBar, conducted by Rose Roby
The real origins of Jill Stein’s recount efforts can be traced back to November 2000, when George W. Bush was declared the winner by the Electoral College based upon a questionable win in the state of Florida, a state that was coincidently governed by W’s brother, future failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
When a recount gave Bush the win and was upheld by the Supreme Court based upon a tiny margin of 537 votes, Democrats directed their unbridled rage at Ralph Nader and the Green Party who had won 97,421 votes in Florida. The Democratic Party smugly declared those votes to be their own rightful property and, based upon this anti-democratic reasoning, they have breathlessly given this spin every election cycle since. The Green Party were forever branded as “spoilers” whose sole raison d’etre was to throw elections to the Republican Party by giving left-of-center voters an alternative to the right-of-center Democrats.
Fast-forward to 2004. The Greens nominated David Cobb who won a contentious primary against Ralph Nader that deepened the rift. Cobb refused to actively campaign in swing states where his presence on the ballot could take votes away from the Democratic Party candidate, John Kerry. This became known as the “safe states” strategy and went a long way in neutering the Green’s attempt to serve as a truly independent party that was unafraid to pose a genuine threat to the corporatist Democrats. Rather than tout himself as a serious alternative, Cobb warned potential Green voters in swing states that they should think long and hard before even voting for him over Kerry, asserting in an NPR interview “[In swing] states, I’m acknowledging that there is a profound responsibility on the citizens, and they should weigh their options and decide how to spend their very precious vote.” His running mate, Pat LaMarche stated that she would not cast a vote for her own ticket if it could risk a Bush win! She was forced to walk back that statement, but the damage was done. In the wake of Kerry’s defeat, Cobb demanded a recount in Ohio in an unsuccessful attempt to swing the election to the failed Democratic Party candidate. (The 2004 effort raised a paltry $300,000; a drop in the bucket compared to the near $7 million Stein has raised for recounts in three states that Clinton narrowly lost.)
During her 2016 campaign, Jill Stein campaigned vigorously in swing states and she never let up on her scathing critiques of Clinton and the DNC; consistently responding to spoiler charges by declaring that a Clinton reign scared her every bit as much as having Trump at the helm. In October, Stein fearlessly took on the relentless charges that she could help elect Trump, who was presented by nearly the entire mainstream media as the far more dangerous choice, by pointing out that Clinton’s saber rattling with Russia actually positioned her as just as great a threat to humanity as Trump, saying “It is now Hillary Clinton that wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria by calling for a no fly zone. We have 2,000 nuclear missiles on hairtrigger alert. They are saying we are closer to a nuclear war than we have ever been… On the issue of war and nuclear weapons, it is actually Hillary’s policies which are much scarier than Donald Trump who does not want to go to war with Russia.”
So many were shocked when Stein made the bizarre decision to call for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, three states that if flipped would hand the Oval Office to Clinton. Greens across the country felt Stein had betrayed their struggle for true independence. They were especially offended that central to her demand for a recount was her sworn statement that she believed the heavy-handed media propaganda campaign tying the Wikileaks’ revelations of DNC shenanigans to knock out Bernie Sanders to diabolical Russian hackers hell bent on sabotaging American democracy itself.
The Green Party Steering Committee voted 3 to 2 against the party supporting the move (1 abstention). But Stein and her inner circle, including David Cobb and Ben Manski, charged forward anyway. Within days, Stein had raised nearly $7 million toward the recount, in contrast to the $4 million she raised for her two presidential runs combined in 2012 and 2016.
There was an immediate backlash, and a bitter public split within a party that is notorious for protecting its image at all costs. But this time the fight went beyond the easily silenced rank and file. Among the opposition were high profile Greens such as Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Green Party Co-chair Andrea Merida Culler, and even Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka. Ms. Flowers published a public letter signed by over 100 Greens and prominent left activists, including Chris Hedges and Cindy Sheehan, distancing themselves from the recount.
One of the signers, a journalist, radio show host and former Green party candidate, Don DeBar, filed a Complaint with the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office charging perjury in Stein’s Wisconsin filing.
St. Pete Independents is excited to have had the opportunity to engage in a lively discourse with Mr. DeBar. Part 1 of this interview centers on the recount, his grounds for filing his Complaint, and the dangerous implications of the fund-raising campaign done on its behalf.
Rose Roby for St. Petersburg Independents:
What was your reaction when you first heard that Jill Stein was raising millions of dollars, practically overnight, to demand a recount of the presidential votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states which Donald Trump won but which, if all three were awarded to Hillary Clinton, would hand her the White House.
As a follow-up, give me your thoughts on the official line coming from the Stein camp was that this was in the interests of voter integrity.
The first thing I noticed, in Stein’s press release, and in her outreach for funding, was that she was proposing recounts in three states where Trump had beaten Clinton by a particularly narrow margin, three states which would swing the Electoral College vote from Trump to Clinton. So it wasn’t a random selection. If this was really about election integrity, then it raised questions about why they chose this particular slice when they could have been challenging all along, going back to the primaries, where you clearly had election theft across multiple primaries. By some calculus, according to people who testified in the suit against Edison, the exit polling company, it suggested that had the election not been stolen, Sanders should have had enough delegates to have won on the first ballot in Philadelphia. You have a million different areas of voter suppression, voter caging, purged lists, etc., and none of those are being litigated. Nobody tried to raise $6 million to address those questions.
The only area where it’s worth doing major fundraising and major outreach to protect election integrity was in these three states where the outcome would perhaps swing to Clinton. And if the recounts don’t flip all three for Clinton, it places the integrity of the election in those three states under enough of a cloud to politically enable nullification at the Electoral College later in December, and/or at the January 6 joint session of Congress which is convened to ratify the Electoral College’s outcome. They began an aggressive effort for nullification almost immediately after the election. Almost daily, the most important news item was that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes. Then they announced she’s got more than 2 million. It’s kept out there to keep regurgitating the idea that Trump’s winning the election is illegitimate. That political position is being used, in my opinion, to provide political cover for a soft coup. And it’s already underway.
In terms of the question of Stein’s motives, my response is that I don’t care what Stein’s motives are. That’s just not pertinent.
You’re walking down the sidewalk, a guy in a Jaguar is speeding sideways across the sidewalk at 85 miles per hour and runs you over. Do you wonder — when your body is in small pieces, you’re a small pile of gelatin and bone fragments — if he did it intentionally or not, was he just stupid or intoxicated or something else. So to me, we’ve just had an election where the entire elite from both political parties was aligned with Clinton. These are same elites that control the media, the Republican Party leadership, the Democratic Party leadership, all behind Clinton. But Trump won the election by the rules that were in place. Now they’re making moves to delegitimize that. Whether they replace Trump with Clinton, Biden, or Warren or someone else, the most important aspect is that what they’re doing is an abrogation of the constitutional order, for whatever you think that’s worth. The way you’re supposed to do it is to use the process that’s been provided for amending the Constitution. But what’s happening here is the semi-constitutional process that’s being used by the United States, for instance, in Brazil and in many other places. Now they’re bringing it home.
You’ve filed a Complaint against the Stein filing in Wisconsin. What is that about?
I’ll explain. The Complaint is essentially based on the following fact pattern. The petition filed by Stein in Wisconsin on November 25, right at the filing deadline, rests on allegations that were made in the newspapers and in various media outlets and then addressed in one fashion or another — but not in any detail — by various government agencies. As cited by Clinton and reporters, there were claims of foreign interference, that there was hacking of the DNC by foreign interests. That was the essential idea in her petition. That, coupled with the known unreliability of the machines, meant that it was conceivable that was some sort of foreign interference in the vote tallying. Consequently, a recount was necessary to restore confidence in the integrity of the voting system.
So the DNC locking everybody out of the debates, the whole Citizen United guard funding all kinds of Committees for Clinton, pushing out advertising for her, the unitary voice of the media against Trump, I suppose all of that can be tolerated. People can still have confidence in the integrity of the election so long as they know that the counts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were fair and square. And if they flip to Clinton. The idea is absurd! In any event, Stein makes these allegations on “information and belief” — not because she knows these things personally. She’s not even claiming that these things are true, but she swears that she BELIEVES these things are true. So when I saw those claims, I had a little cognitive dissidence. I had heard her ridicule those very ideas during her campaign. So I said alright, you’re campaigning hard to bring someone to court by swearing that you believe this, but when you were running for office you said that other stuff. The judge would say, ‘When I run for office, I lie. Everybody lies.’ That’s not a prima facie case for perjury.
But while I’m reviewing this stuff, I get an e-mail from people in the Green Party in various leadership roles, in official capacity, people who are well known Greens, that were communicating in and around Jill Stein. They had raised with Stein this question, about how the Clinton campaign had been pulling this McCarthyist line, how Putin and the Russians were trying to hack the election and all of this Cold Warrior tone from the DNC. So these Greens said, “Hey, look this is not where the Green Party is at, you don’t honestly believe that.”
So according to several people, she had told them, “No I don’t believe that at all.” So some of them were surprised when they actually saw those same allegations in Stein’s petition for the recount, that this was one of the fundamental legs of her argument.
So I’m looking at a fact pattern where she’s swearing that she believes these allegations to be true, and on the strength of that belief is requesting that the state do a recount. A recount is a rather substantial state action when you’re asking for it based on this belief that you swear you hold. While simultaneously — within hours of this filing — she’s telling people on the QT that she doesn’t believe it at all. That to me looks remarkably like perjury.
When perjury is part of a petition to induce a state action, that perjury is a fraud in the inducement. That is a separate criminal violation. And when you have it bundled with a fundraising effort, conceivably each contribution given by someone relying on Stein’s statement was obtained by fraud in the inducement of the act. So you’re talking about thousands of potential counts for each contribution made in reliance on her swearing that she believed this was the case to be. Factually she’s swearing in her filing that she believes it, and then she’s telling people she doesn’t believe it.
In short, if what she was telling people in the Green Party is true — that she doesn’t believe it — then she lied under oath. Perjury induced the state action, and perhaps also induced some or all of the thousands of contributions.
[Stein’s petition reads, “Petitioner is informed and believes that (a) in August 2016, it was widely reported that foreign operators breached voter registration databases in at least two states and stole hundreds of thousands of voter records …” It’s Exhibits feature the Affidavit of computer security expert J. Alex Halderman on Cyberattacks and the 2016 Presidential Election, followed by five articles from Wired, the New York Times, NBC News, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor, capped with the “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security.” — Ed.]
So I’ve discovered this, and I’m almost obligated to bring this to somebody’s attention. Politically it needs to be talked about in and around the Green Party. I had heard from a number of people in the party exactly how the discussion had come up and how it was broadcast as being from the Stein/Baraka campaign, and how the original press release used the Green Party’s logo. The original version contained that statement about foreign interference and then that disappeared from the subsequent draft. The whole thing made me very suspicious. So I write a letter to the Wisconsin attorney general, and tell him that this is what I see here, and what I have some personal knowledge of from third party personal knowledge. That means you should oppose her petition on behalf of the state, and make her prove her case. You should seek a dismissal and you should conduct an investigation. So it wasn’t a lawsuit, it was a complaint, like you would do over a lemon law complaint or medical malpractice complaint or somebody conning your grandmother out of 10 grand.
So I submitted that electronically Monday morning. I posted it on my website and I was interviewed by some media outlets about it. Press TV was the first to publish it and they got the story pretty much right. So that’s out there. Then, apparently, Stein’s campaign found out that Wisconsin had agreed to conduct the recount but they were not going to do it statewide by hand. They were going to leave it to the individual counties to decide how to do it. In some counties they’ll do it by hand, and in others they’ll just re-poll of the machines. That was not satisfactory to Stein, who issued a press release that they were filing a lawsuit to compel a statewide hand recount.
If I’m Stein or her lawyer, I’m thinking, look we have a problem with this, it’s not going to look good no matter what because there’s a record of me saying two different things — one to the court and one to the Green Party. So I’m either going to have to tell the court I lied and it was perjury or tell the Green Party that I lied and I’m a liar. And so, if I’m Stein’s lawyer I’d say there’s a possibility that you’re not going to get to choose which one ends up being the outcome. You can lose all this money you collected. And face treble damages. Or spend a little time in the penitentiary, my advice would be — if I were representing Stein or someone in that situation — look, this would throw the action, let’s walk away from this, nice try.
I don’t know how this is going to play out. We don’t even know which team the attorney general is playing on. He’s a Republican, but we’ve seen in this election that it doesn’t mean he stands with the Republican candidate.
There is a very big split on this among the Green rank and file. Some are actually bragging about how we’ve tricked the Dems out of millions of dollars, pretending like we’re helping them while we’re really helping democracy and getting a bunch of money for the Green Party. Like it’s some wonderful scam. This is not good.
People don’t understand a lot of things. So this brilliant scam, whether it’s being pulled together by Jill Stein, David Cobb [Stein’s campaign manager] or Ben Manski [president of the Liberty Tree Foundation and Stein’s 2012 campaign manager], or others, well, those three are involved in the Liberty Tree Foundation nonprofit. Now they’ve got all these names from all these donors from these Democratic Party mailing lists, organized by people who are connected in one way or another to the Democrats and the Clinton campaign, and MoveOn. So now they’ve cleverly gotten all these Democrats’ email addresses, and they send out their next solicitation, they tell them, “Vote for us now, not the Dems.” They believe that’s actually going to work! Furthermore, I can open a phone book and there’s a lot of addresses there, but that doesn’t mean that if I call them all up they’re going to mail me money! Even more fundamental, something they haven’t really thought through, is that all these people have standing to bring all kinds of actions, criminal and otherwise if they don’t like the way things go. If I “trick” a bunch of people into contributing money to me, those people have a key to the bank account I deposited it in. It’s called court and they have standing to play around with it.
I think they are making an overvaluation of what’s happened here. The campaign funding for Stein’s campaigns in 2012 and 2016 totaled less than $4 million. Now they’ve just raised $7 million in less than a week. That was not done by the same Green Party machinery that did their fundraising for the past five years. That’s coming from elsewhere. That doesn’t leave an infrastructure in its wake that’s going to be of use to anybody. Either they’re going to put Clinton in office, or not. If not, a lot of those donors are going to be very angry, and some of them will want their money back. I don’t know what the material benefit will be, unless the idea is to have some money left over that they’re going to put into something. I guess whatever the rules are for how you dump that money after you wind up your campaign would apply.
Something else has troubled me. I guess somebody else opened a book and it troubled them too. At first, when Stein & Co. opened up the website, they were telling people you could contribute up to $27,000. You could contribute the maximum to the Stein campaign, and you could also put $10 thousand to this state party or that state party and they were all linked on that same page. It looked like this website was bundling [independently wealthy people are able to funnel far more money to campaigns than they could personally give under campaign finance laws — Ed.]. I think that’s illegal. Whenever I’ve seen reference to bundling and things that were a lot less overt than that, I’ve seen a bunch of law on it that says this is a non-no. I’m not sure how much forethought went into this.
Anyway, the campaign went to the Green Party to ask the party to act as depository, i.e., make the checks out to them, and they said “no” by a 5 to 3 vote. Some people were concerned over the PR materials, how they raised the spectre of foreign influence in the election. They also noticed that Stein didn’t go into two states that Trump won by a small margin, and two that Clinton won by a small margin. Instead, she went into three that Trump had won. Yet she claimed her motivation wasn’t to lift one or the other, or sink one or the other, but just to expose the lack of integrity in the voting system. And I’m sure some of them took offense at the naïve concept that a recount taken in three states would somehow restore confidence in the integrity of the electoral system, because we know, there hasn’t been integrity in the voting system since the founding of the republic. The 3/5 compromise that enabled slavery, and the Electoral College. Then there’s Nixon, or the 1960 election which was stolen in Chicago and Texas. That whole argument is not only naïve, but embarrassing if this is the first thing people hear about the Green Party, if we’re trying to hold ourselves out as people who actually understand the world and have an honest critique of it. Then we have this party where the candidate has run twice on the platform of grassroots democracy without even polling the grassroots. I understand that would be difficult, but then they poll the leadership, and they lose 5 to 3, and they decide to go ahead with it anyway.
I’m definitely seeing division in the party. Some people are very much getting on board with the recount, and they’re spinning this however we can. They frame election integrity as “Do you love kitties and puppies?” If you don’t support the recount, you’re kicking kitties and puppies.
Voting integrity does not rise or fall on vote counting and/or Wisconsin and/or Michigan. There is voter suppression in the Carolinas, in communities all over the United States. There are issues that have been discussed and litigated, which aren’t even being touched here. Most weren’t even alluded to in Stein’s petition. Instead Stein chose the spectre of foreign interference, which was a big Clinton campaign issue in the primaries and at the Democratic National Convention. I’m certain we’re going to find out the source of the funding, along with the coordinated campaign by MoveOn and others, which will show us what this really is.
So what we’re talking about in terms of a split in the party is whether we’re going to act as the baby brother or sister of the Democratic Party, or start doing what the right-wing parties do and claim power at the margins, which has been moving the whole political spectrum to the right. Going back to 2000, for example, when we were accused of losing the election for Al Gore, instead of saying yes, we did it, and we’re going to do it again, we ran away from that. So we end up in 2004 with David Cobb saying let’s run a Safe States strategy, then supporting a recount for John Kerry in Ohio. Let’s not be the cause of the Democrat losing. That Safe State approach had a constituency in the party in 2004, and it still does. In 2004 they challenged the result, when the Republicans won. In 2008, they didn’t challenge, in 2012 they didn’t challenge. In 2016, they say let’s go challenge again. There is a split in the party between those who want to use the party as an adjunct of the Democratic Party, and those who don’t want to, and believe it’s not.
So this is a replay of David Cobb’s disastrous Safe States campaign of 2004. Will anyone be able to take the Green Party seriously as a challenge to the two corporate parties if elements of the party’s leadership won’t get on board with taking the party’s independence all the way?
That question answers itself.
Part 2 of this interview will dwell on the deep social crisis that forms the backdrop for this affair, and the political/social instability that threatens us all.
2-Cautionary Tales by Jeff Roby
4-The Democratic Party is the More Effective of Two Evils by Rose Roby and two others
5-Hands Off Syria! by Jeff Roby
6-50 Shades of Green by Jeff Roby