Wow, this is really compelling. If you can’t watch it, be sure to read the entire transcript. I had no doubt the Republicans stole Ohio in 2004, and now I’m positive:
AMY GOODMAN: So now let’s go back to Ohio, in fact, Ohio and SMARTech. This is the one chance you ever had to question Karl Rove about that.
CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. And I met Karl Rove in Alabama, and I asked him. And he said, “SMARTech? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
Well, SMARTech is a high-tech company in Chattanooga. And what you see with Rove’s methodology is he manages to have things happen in his benefit, and there are no fingerprints. But I traced the ownership of SMARTech and its precursors, and the original company was funded by two—its precursor, rather, was funded by two Republicans named Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds. Mercer Reynolds was finance chairman of the Republican Party. In ’04, he raised about a quarter of a billion dollars for the Bush-Cheney campaign. And in the ’80s, they had bailed out George W. Bush in his oil ventures, DeWitt and Reynolds had. So they were very, very close to him.
And this company started off as a very legitimate high-tech company in Chattanooga during the dot-com boom. It later reformed under a different name and different ownership, but by then it had become very much a political operation. So, this was a highly, highly partisan Republican high-tech company. It hosted—its biggest clients included the Bush-Cheney campaign, it included Jeb Bush, it included the Republican National Committee. It streamed live the convention, the Republican convention.
And somehow or other, in 2004, in the state of Ohio, which was the single most crucial state in the Electoral College, when it came to the actual voting, the secretary of state of Ohio, a guy named Ken Blackwell—and the secretary of state’s job is to—part of it is to ensure fair, nonpartisan elections—happened to be co-chair of the Bush campaign. Now, there’s no conflict there. And he gave a contract to host the fail oversight for the Republican—rather, for the votes in 2004, to none other than SMARTech. And this is where things went a little crazy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how was that allowed to happen even? I mean—
CRAIG UNGER: Well, I mean, I think it is a huge conflict of interest on the face of it for the secretary of state of a party to be affiliated with one campaign or the other. And we saw it, of course, in Florida in 2000 with Katherine Harris.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, 2004, election night, tell us the story.
CRAIG UNGER: Right, Well, about at 11:14 p.m., things started to happen, exactly 11:14 p.m. And as the votes came in, it was clear it was going to be an all-nighter in terms of the results. And around 11:00, Florida was called for Bush, and that meant the entire fate of the election hinged on Ohio. So, suddenly—excuse me—the servers for the secretary of state’s computers were flooded with queries.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio secretary of state.
CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. And they needed to lock into the fail oversight in Chattanooga with SMARTech. And this is where the results went a little crazy. And suddenly, an enormous number of irregular returns came in, and the votes shifted. The exit polls had shown Kerry winning Ohio, and therefore the election. And it looked like he had won the presidential election. I remember that day vividly because I was getting reports from the exit polls, and I went around telling people it looked like Kerry had won. But there was a 6.7 percent difference between the exit polls and the actual results. And as a result, the election ended up going to Bush. And that was the entire story.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In writing about what happened in Ohio as well as in Alabama, one of the things that you say about Rove is that a case can be made that for the last three decades he’s been putting a systematic attempt to game the American electoral system by whatever means necessary. What kind of vision does Karl Rove have for the Republican Party and for American politics?
CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, I don’t think he’s an ideologue. I think he’s about winning. And he’s often been compared to a guy named Mark Hanna, who more than a century ago was the political mind behind President William McKinley. He was a senator from Ohio, but he was also a political operative who put McKinley in the White House and forged a realignment. There’s always been this talk of a permanent Republican majority that Rove is trying to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Republican. And, in fact, I think that’s Rove’s line, and I don’t buy it.