GOP political operative defends embattled firm from voter registration fraud claims

Eric Shawn reports from New York


The owner of a firm facing allegations it facilitated voter registration fraud in Florida defended the embattled company in an exclusive interview with Fox News, predicting the company will be exonerated.

“We did a very good job,” owner Nathan Sproul, a veteran Republican political operative,  insisted. “We have an exceptional record.”

The firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, is at the center of claims that fraudulent and tampered voter registration cards were turned in to election officials in Florida.

"We registered almost 100,000 voters, hired nearly 5,000 workers, and when you hire that many people and do that large of a project, inevitably there's going to be a few people who try and cheat the system," Sproul said. "When that happens, we fire those folks and turn them over for prosecution. That's what happened here," he said.

The company also has faced suspicion for its work registering voters in other states. But Sproul, a former chairman of the Arizona Republican party, blamed fewer than 10 workers for any problems. He said they not only violated company policy but also the law.

"When law enforcement looks into this situation, what they will find is that our company had a systematic effort of quality control," he said. "The handful of people who we caught cheating the system were fired and turned over to investigators for prosecution."

The Florida Democratic party has branded the company’s work as “illegal third party voter registration activities.”

“With the voter registration deadline fast approaching, the public has a right to know: what did the Republican Party of Florida know and when did it know it?” Scott Arceneaux, the Florida Democratic Party's executive director, said.

The first batch of questionable forms were found by elections officials in Palm Beach County, and there are reports that similar problems have cropped up in nine other counties. Out of roughly 50,000 registration cards in Florida, the company says questions have been raised about only 150.

Sproul's firm also had contracts with the Republican Party to register voters in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

In Colorado, a 20-year-old worker was fired after her first day on the job after being caught on a video claiming that she was registering voters for the County Clerk's Office, not Sproul's firm.

In North Carolina, Sproul said five cards that appeared suspicious were turned over to authorities, out of 15,000 that were collected.

Sproul said his firm maintains rigorous oversight procedures, including teaching workers on the lawful and correct way to sign up voters, but that the method and goals of his firm have been distorted by "rumor and innuendo" in the media and on the Internet.

"I think it is a sexy news story, 30 days out from a presidential election, to scream the word ‘fraud,’ and it’s unfortunate," he said. "The personal attacks that go on without having the facts are an unfortunate byproduct of the way our country, at times, gets its news."

Brad Friedman, of the voter issue website Bradblog.com, has been especially pointed about Strategic Allied Consulting’s  work.

"They are filtering out Obama supporters. They are keeping potential Democratic voters from being able to register at all," Friedman charged. "I find this deeply offensive."

In 2004, Sproul's former company was accused of a variety of questionable tactics, such as destroying registration forms for Democrats and tricking people into signing up for the GOP. Multiple investigations never brought any charges. Sproul says the allegations were proven to be untrue.

"In all four of those cases, they came back and gave our company a clean bill of health," he said.

But Friedman said he has video of company workers "actually lying to potential registrants, telling them they are there taking a poll and asking, ‘Do you support Romney or Obama?’ If they say Obama, they say, ‘Great, thank you for taking our poll.’ If they say ‘Romney,’  they say, ‘Great, can we register you to vote?’"

Sproul said his firm "registered anyone who wants to register," including Democrats, which he estimates made up 10 percent of the registrations his company collected.

"We registered several thousand people during this program that are Barack Obama supporters, because if someone wanted to register as a voter we registered them, and we turned in their voter registration card. We honor the integrity of the electoral process."

The allegations of fraud in voter registrations echo the scandal that helped bring down the activist group ACORN after the last presidential election.

Dozens of ACORN workers pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to voter registration fraud, and ACORN itself pleaded guilty to a felony charge in an illegal voter registration scheme in Nevada.

Countless voter registration forms turned in by ACORN workers were found to have been forged and falsified. ACORN workers in Washington State, for example, went to jail in 2007 after admitting that they plucked names out of the phone book at the Seattle Public Library. One ACORN worker told prosecutors that since that was too much work, he simply went home to fill out the forms "and smoke marijuana."

Friedman says the current voter registration case is worse than ACORN because there are allegations that the addresses of real voters have been changed, which could make it harder for them to cast their ballot, and that party affiliations allegedly were switched to Republican.

"This could seriously disenfranchise a lot of folks across the state of Florida and in the four other states where this Republican firm was operating," he said.

Sproul said like in some of ACORN's cases, his firm also reported wrongdoing to authorities. He said ACORN should have been commended for doing that.

"That takes a lot of courage, and I've been in that situation before," he says. "They should have been applauded by Republicans and not condemned."

And it turns out that the forms from Sproul's firm are not the only ones under investigation in Florida.

The Florida Secretary of State has announced three other cases of potentially irregular voter registration activities, involving the Latino activist group National Council of La Raza, the Florida New Majority Education Fund and the Florida Democratic Party.

The controversy over Strategic Allied Consulting has left Sproul thinking about abandoning the paid voter registration process.

"Registering voters is critical to the success of our country and to the electoral process," he said. "Unfortunately, there is such a toxic climate associated with it now, that I doubt very few other people will attempt to do paid voter registration efforts ever again."

"I don't think our company will ever again do a paid voter registration effort," he said.

If you suspect voter fraud or problems at the polls where you live, tell us: voterfraud@foxnews.com

Fox News' Kathleen Foster contributed to this report.

Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV