Role Of Consulting Firm Becomes Key Issue In RNC Poll Watching Case

Bill Clark/CQPHO

The role a consulting firm hired by the Republican National Committee emerged as a key issue in court docs filed Thursday in the legal action Democrats brought against the Republican National Committee for allegedly engaging in poll watching activities that violated a consent decree.

The Democratic National Committee claimed in a filing that the RNC should be held liable for the activities of poll observers in Nevada who had been hired by Stampede Consulting, LLC, as the RNC had a contract with the firm. But the RNC countered that it has not hired Stampede for any work in Nevada and should not be implicated by the alleged activities of Stampede’s poll watchers there.

The latest round of court filings were focused on affidavits provided by Democratic poll watchers early this week alleging that they met other observers at early voting locations claiming to be working for the RNC. The Republicans dismissed the evidence as “hearsay,” and in their own investigations into the claims, found that two of the five GOP observers cited by Democrats were actually working for Stampede Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm that offers field operations for campaigns unable to organize grassroots efforts of their own.

(The other supposed GOP poll observers the RNC said it had trouble tracking down.)

The RNC in a footnote admitted that it contracted with Stampede but only for get-out-the-vote activities – but not in Nevada.

The Democrats had made an argument in their briefs filed Thursday that Stampede’s activities should be covered by the consent decree, given a $1.3 million contract the RNC had with the firm.

The case concerns the consent decree the RNC agreed to in the early 1980s limiting the types of “ballot security” activities it can engage in at polling sites on Election Day. The decree is set to expire December 2017, but the DNC, with its claims of a violation, is asking the court to extend another eight years, while holding the RNC in contempt.

The RNC also filed an affidavit from Holly Turner, Stampede’s CFO. In it, Turner acknowledges that firm had hired two of the poll observers mentioned in the Democratic affidavits. However, she said the firm’s work there was not a part of its contract with the RNC, and that the RNC had not hired Stampede to do any ballot security activities in general.