“Voter suppression is simply class war by other means.” —Greg Palast
What do timber interests, nuclear power, and off-shore drilling have in common with voter-suppression in Georgia? Greg Palast lays it out, following the money and naming the names, in his new book, “How Trump Stole 2020: The hunt for America’s Vanished Voters,” which was released this week, and is available at gregpalast.com.
Starting with W’s theft of the election in 2000, he paints a picture of graft, theft, and malice, in which Republicans steal national office from Democrats, and Democrats steal their own party from their own progressive wing. As with Palast’s writing in general, it achieves that all too rare combination of being both informative and entertaining. The tome is chock full of statistics and facts, all studiously researched and well-supported, and punctuated regularly with punchlines for comic relief.
It also includes a comic book pull-out by Ted Rall, which provides an invaluable Cliff Notes version of voter suppression tactics.
Greg Palast is an investigative journalist who has written for the Guardian, BBC Television, Democracy Now!, Rolling Stone, and more. In 2001, he exposed how Florida was stolen from Al Gore, and since then, one of his main focuses has been voter suppression in the US. On this topic, he has few peers and has unearthed numerous scandals that deserve greater attention.
I interviewed Palast on July 15th, and we discussed the moneyed interests behind voter suppression, including the Koch brothers, Paul “the Vulture” Singer, Georgia Pacific (the logging company), Georgia Power (the utility). We also went into the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013; how exit polls showed widespread voter suppression in 2016; and the problems with mail-in voting.
What follows is a partial transcript, edited for clarity. You can listen to the entire interview here.
Sonnenblume: I got a copy of your book from Seven Stories and I had a chance to read it ahead of time and a lot of it I already recognized, from previous writing of yours but it was amazing to have it all together in one place. The scope of the theft and the graft is just breathtaking, honestly.
Palast: That’s one of the things that makes it difficult, too. My fellow journalists don’t want to look at the actual numbers of the vote theft. They stop short of going after the real information of the numbers because it’s so shocking.
Sonnenblume: That’s kind of the $64,000 question, isn’t it? That not only the media but the Democratic establishment basically ignores this scandal.
Palast: Yes. You’re asking two questions. Where’s the media? Where’s the Democrats?
Number one, the media is there. Just not the American media. Remember that Greg Palast is a reporter for The Guardian, a British paper, and I was BBC Television investigative reporter when I first got into this topic. I was living in London. So the story [was] that George Bush had stolen Florida. My investigation covered that they had removed tens of thousands of Black men from the voter rolls before the election of 2000. That’s in the book. They said they were “criminals” who couldn’t vote. (At the time, in Florida, if you had a record you couldn’t vote.) It turns out their only crime was voting while Black. There wasn’t a single ex-con in that pile.
Sonnenblume: So there’s a whole list of people and we’re getting rid of them because they’re felons, but then they’re not.
Palast: Yes. About 58,000 of them. I know they were black because it said “BLA” next to their names in the voting records. I’m the only journalist who actually asked for the list.
Palast: All these other stations, like CBS, and the Palm Beach Post, they were all saying, “They found all these ex cons on the voter rolls.” But no one actually asked for the list. I did. We started going through the list and went to the attorney general and said not one of these people is an illegal voter.
Now why am I bringing up that story from 20 years ago? One, that story was on the front page of virtually every newspaper on the planet except the United States. It bounced off the electronic Berlin Wall. People say, “How come your stuff isn’t in the mainstream press?” It is. The New York Times is not the mainstream press. That’s the backwater press. The mainstream is the Guardian, the BBC—these are worldwide, world-standard news outlets. In America you’re kept in the dark.
Thank God for Counterpunch, by the way. It’s important. What we call “alternative media” is “the news” in the rest of the world.
Now you get to that other group, called the Democrats. Oh. My. God.
So, there is a chapter in “How Trump Stole 2020” called, “The Silence of the Democratic Lambs.” Anyone’s guess why the Democrats don’t defend Democratic voters. Let’s say, which Democratic voters. It’s not just anyone who’s losing their vote. If you read the book, this is about Jim Crow. This is the new, sophisticated Jim Crow operation. The Democratic Party does not defend voters of color. You say, “Yeah, but it’s their voters!” They don’t defend voters of color. There’s all kinds of reasons and one of them is simply the current Democrats wouldn’t be in charge of the party. They’d lose their primaries. You would have a very different Democratic party…
I was talking to Noam Chomsky last night and his favorite chapter is “California Reamin’” which is about the theft of this last primary. I calculated very carefully—I used to teach statistics—I went through the records and Bernie Sanders was shafted out of half a million votes. This is what Chomsky was focusing on, was that the Democratic Party has their hands dirty too. They have voter blood on their hands. It’s pretty hard for one thief to call out another thief. While it’s true that the Republicans stole the White House, the Democrats stole their own party from their own voters.
So that’s what’s going on there. We have a see-no-evil media and a Democratic Party which will allow the theft of the White House as long as they can keep control of their own party. This is the kind of thing I’m busting [in] “How Trump Stole 2020.”
Sonnenblume: You also talk about the money behind some of this and that’s what I hadn’t quite caught before. I hadn’t known about the connection between the Koch brothers and the 2013 Supreme Court case which brought down part of the Voting Rights Act.
Palast: Thank you! That’s why I appreciate Counterpunch. You guys follow the money. You’re one of the first people to bring this up.
You don’t steal votes to steal elections, you steal votes to steal the money. This is vitally important. For example, we heard that the Koch brothers were #NeverTrumpers. They actually opposed Trump in 2016. So where did Trump get his money? How I say it in “How Trump Stole 2020” is, Donald Trump is not a billionaire. I can tell you that for certain. But he plays one on TV. So he’s a glove puppet billionaire. But who’s fingers are in the gloves? That’s what I was also trying to lay out in the book, was to follow the money.
So, for example, while the two Koch brothers were #NeverTrumpers—David and Charles—the third Koch brother, Billy Koch, was the first billionaire to put in really big bucks for the Trump campaign. Now Billy Koch, the third and rarely noted Koch brother, who is worth about $7 billion—as I note in the book—he used to get a little tipsy and call up a reporter—me at the Guardian in London—and rat out his brothers, David and Charles Koch, on all their crimes—felony crimes—in detail. I had my recorder on and you get some of that in the book.
But why does Billy Koch need to buy a president? None of the Koch brothers are Republicans, just so you know this; they’re libertarians and they don’t trust the Republican party. So why would they support a Republican? Because of the money. Billy Koch needed the Xcel pipeline because he runs a company called Oxbow Carbon. They take the carbon sludge out of the Xcel pipeline, which is taking tar sands oil from Canada down to Texas. What do you do with the tar? It dries out and becomes this filth which is petroleum coke, which is like coal made from oil sludge. It’s so filthy you can’t burn it in America but you burn it in China and you still warm the planet.
Billy Koch needed this planet-destroying stuff. Trump was hostile Xcel pipeline because it is, after all, foreign oil coming into America, but he got a lot less hostile when he got a big, big check from Bill Koch.
Sonnenblume: So what you’re saying is that ideology is the wrong way to look at it?
Sonnenblume: It also stood out for me when you mentioned Georgia Pacific, the logging company, because I spent a good amount of time in the Pacific Northwest and was involved in forest defense out there, and George Pacific is on my hate list.
Palast: There you go. Georgia Pacific is a very important player in this story. The theft of the 2020 election was taken for a test drive in Georgia in 2018, when a 2020 Supreme Court decision allowed Brian Kemp—then the Secretary of State of Georgia—to wipe out, the purge the voter rolls, of half a million voters. Half a million! Now understand, he wiped out half a million of voters while he is running for governor of Georgia. Even the Wall Street Journal said it was unethical.
Golly gee, whose voters does he remove? An awful lot of voters of color. Once again, I’m the only journalist who actually said, “I want those lists.” He wouldn’t give them to me. I sued him in federal court, won in federal court, got the list, went through it name by name with a very sophisticated computer program, and we proved that 340,134 voters had been wrongly removed. A third of a million voters! Now that’s one state.
Remember, you were talking about Georgia Pacific. How does this come up?
Who’s behind Brian Kemp for governor? Vote thieving is not cheap. Who’s behind this trickery? Georgia Pacific. Who’s Georgia Pacific? They’re your toilet paper company. They clearcut forests for pulp and turn it into toilet paper. They have a gigantic building in Atlanta. Why do you need a gigantic 40 story office building to sell toilet paper? The answer is that the toilet paper is the cover-up. [laughs.] The toilet paper is on the outside. On the inside, it’s Koch Industries. David and Charles Koch own Georgia Pacific. The Devil needed another financier so it’s only Charles left and he owns Georgia Pacific and they could not have Stacy Abrams as governor because they need to clearcut and Stacy Abrams—the black woman running for governor—said, “No, we’re not going to eat Georgia alive so you can turn it into toilet paper.”
Koch Industries also wanted to drill off-shore. This is post-Deepwater Horizon, like we’ve learned nothing. Stacy Abrams was against this. Stacy Abrams was also against spending billions of dollars to complete a completely insane nuclear power plant in Georgia. That’s Georgia Power. Georgia Power needed billions of dollars from the public to finish this crazy nuclear plant, which would raise electric rates for the average Georgia family by about $300/year.
Stacy Abrams said no, so Georgia Power had to go out against her. Again, I’m explaining: it’s not that they had to stop a black woman; they had to stop a candidate who said “no” to offshore drilling, “no” to clear-cutting, “no” to nuclear plants. The elites of Georgia got together and said, “We’ve got to stop this woman,” but they had a problem: there weren’t enough white guys to elect Brian Kemp as governor, so they had to remove the non-white guys.
Same with Agent Orange, our president. There’s not enough white guys to elect him—or to have elected him in the first place—so they’ve got to remove the non white guys. You’ve gotten to the heart of it: it wasn’t about stopping Stacy Abrams or Hillary Clinton, they were doing it for the money. Race is merely the weapon because it’s easy to wipe out Black voters. Who’s going to raise their voice?
Sonnenblume: A lot these things were illegal before the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, and you tell the story how that case got brought to the Supreme Court, and that the Koch brothers were behind that too.
Palast: Yes. 2016 was the first presidential election we had post-Voting Rights Act. Without that case, Trump would not be president.
So, who brought that case? Shelby, Alabama. Where does Shelby get the millions and millions and millions of dollars to back this court case? They got it from Donors Trust, which is a cut-out for the Koch family interests. So it was Koch money behind taking apart the Voting Rights Act and they did that in coordination with a guy named Paul “the Vulture” Singer. A guy I’ve been investigating. I flew to the Congo to investigate this guy. I flew to South America. I flew to the Arctic. I’ve been hunting this guy all over the planet. He’s not called “the Vulture” because of his friendly business practices. The Vulture is a vicious financier marauder, whose activities are illegal in most of the world. I will actually take a bow here; after I did some investigations of him, laws were passed in England, Germany and China to stop this guy. But not in the United States, because he bought himself a political party called the Republicans. He got George Bush to back off taking action against him.
On the other hand, God forbid a politician he didn’t buy gets elected, so Paul “the Vulture” Singer, through his hit squad called the Manhattan Institute, a supposed think tank, [was] pushing legislatively to stop the Voting Rights Act from being voted back into law. Understand that what the Supreme Court did, it gutted the Voting Rights Act, but it did say Congress has the right to restore it. And Congress didn’t restore it. Why not? Paul “the Vulture” Singer.
So you’re right: follow the money.
Listen to the entire interview here.