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With His New Film, Greg Palast Races to Save the 2016 Election Before It’s Stolen (Video)

Posted on Sep 21, 2016

By Kasia Anderson

  In this still image from “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits,” Greg Palast, left, has some questions for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Vimeo)

For many Americans, the contested 2000 election still looks, in the rear-view mirror, like a confusing mess of hanging chads, “spoiled” ballots and shady backroom deals that somehow conspired to catapult a candidate who lost the popular vote clear into the White House.

For investigative journalist Greg Palast, 2000 was only the beginning, not exactly serving as a safeguard to ensure that similar trouble (and more) won’t happen again. Far from it. Instead, it’s been seen by some enterprising agitators, Palast claims, as a starting point to build upon in developing newer, craftier methods to swindle the voting public this time around.

It seems that when Donald Trump said the fix was in on the 2016 election, he wasn’t alone in harboring those concerns, although the motives and evidence behind the Republican presidential nominee’s statement contrast sharply with Palast’s own. (For starters, as The New York Times’ editorial board spelled out in an extended commentary on Monday, some high-level GOP operatives admit that fear-mongering about voter fraud is itself a kind of fraudulent activity—but that’s apparently beside the point.)

For his part, Palast has culled plenty of evidence to back up his allegations, as well as a lengthy track record on the topic. After all, it was due to the seasoned reporter’s prior efforts that concerns were raised about our democracy being mugged in the muggy state of Florida in 2000, and the roles of key figures like former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris were closely examined after the fact. In short, Palast is well-versed in the intricacies of recount-era American politics.

But it’s not in the interest of flexing his expertise that he keeps pursuing those same themes and leads 16 years later. Instead, he won’t leave them in the past because, he says, they still represent active threats. The methods may have altered in keeping with technological and legislative shifts that have occurred since George W. Bush took office, but like some marauding, disenfranchising hydra, it’ll take more than one hit to take this monster out, and meanwhile, it’s busy producing new heads.

So, what does it look like now? Palast has taken the trouble to carefully describe the menace as he sees it with the help of visual storytelling methods in a new documentary, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits.” Since explaining crucial topics like voter suppression can often prove logistically thorny, if essential to understanding the stakes and factors involved in the current political landscape, Palast and his collaborators punched things up with the help of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” cartoonist Keith Tucker and cameos from Willie Nelson, Rosario Dawson, Will Durst, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ice-T, Shailene Woodley, Ed Asner and Richard Belzer.

That assortment of characters, along with accomplice Ms. Badpenny, are all in league with Palast, who doubles as the film’s creator and protagonist as he tracks down electoral malpractice across the U.S. in his gonzo-noir thriller. One of the film’s villains, and the subject of one of its biggest reveals, is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whom Palast pegs as the mastermind behind the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. That scheme was ostensibly created to beat back the scourge of rogue balloters trying to game elections by registering to vote in more than one state. But as Palast and other journalists have charged, the actual result has been to purge citizens from different states who share the same name (give or take a middle name or initial, in some cases) from the voter rolls.

Here’s more bad news: According to Palast’s investigation, the vast numbers of names being flagged by the computerized system operating in 29 states tend to belong to minorities. As it happens, those minorities also tend to favor Democrats at the polls. But worst of all, when combined with the Supreme Court’s staggering 2013 decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which functioned to block discriminatory voting practices, plus SCOTUS’ 2010 Citizens United ruling that brought money into elections on an unprecedented scale, critics consider the Crosscheck program to be part of a bigger picture that looks a lot like Jim Crow 2.0.

If this already seems confounding, that could be by design. Palast explains how the pieces fit together this video primer:


From that clip, it’s clear that Palast thinks Kobach is working closely with other like-minded members of the GOP elite to secure a win for their candidates on Nov. 8. But before that can happen, Palast is releasing his film—slated to open in New York on Sept. 23 and in Los Angeles on Sept. 30—as both an exposé and an intervention.

Palast recently sat down with Truthdig’s Kasia Anderson to talk about his project and the looming democratic emergency that compelled him to make it. Below is a series of video excerpts from the interview, followed by a trailer for “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.” (Editor’s note: Transcripts are posted after each clip.)

Background: Greg Palast describes how he became an investigative reporter, and why he couldn’t take on certain stories for U.S. outlets.


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