TALLAHASSEE -- Nathan Sproul was hardly unknown when his firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, was hired over the summer to register voters for the Republican Party.
In 2004, employees with his previous firms were accused of a wide assortment of infractions: destroying voter registration forms of Democrats, duping college students into registering as Republicans, refusing to register Democrats or independents. Nevada, Oregon and Arizona opened investigations but closed them without charging anyone.
On Tuesday, new details emerged that Strategic Allied Consulting knew of problems in Florida earlier than reported in what is now a case of possible voter registration fraud in a dozen counties.
Top Democrats are saying the GOP should have known better.
"I have grave concerns not just about the Republican National Committee’s decision to retain this company, but also about what the company has allegedly done," said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland in a statement to the Herald/Times. "Contrary to a ’zero-tolerance’ policy, it appears that the RNC knew exactly what it was doing when it hired this company as the only one it uses to conduct this kind of work across the country."
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking that Sproul make himself available for an Oct. 12 interview and provide copies of correspondence with state and national Republicans. Sproul’s firm was the only vendor hired by the RNC to register voters in seven battleground states and was paid $3 million.
Sproul, 40, and his associates say Democrats are bound to criticize his work, which he claims has signed up 500,000 voters since 2004. But Republicans aren’t standing by him, either. The state Republican Party in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia fired the firm Sept. 25, and the Republican Party of Florida filed an election fraud complaint last week that is now part of a criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Up until this summer, RPOF ran an in-house voter registration program that used paid staff to collect voter registrations. The RNC goal was a national voter registration effort targeting key states like Florida. The RNC already had an arrangement with Strategic Allied Consulting, so the state party says it followed the national party’s lead.
Company representatives have said they kept Florida Republicans informed once they were alerted of questionable registration forms in Palm Beach County and fired the employee responsible on Sept. 18. Republicans say they didn’t hear about the flawed forms until a week later when told about them by a Palm Beach Post reporter.
But Cheryl Johnson, Lee County’s voter registration director, told the Times/Herald on Tuesday that she noticed some odd applications that came quite a bit earlier, on Aug. 28. It looked like someone had checked Republican for a number of party registration boxes that didn’t match the rest of the applications. Four of the forms appeared to have been filled out by the same person.
Johnson called the person who dropped them off, a Strategic Allied Consulting employee named Danielle Alvarez. On Sept. 6 — 12 days before they learned about the Palm Beach forms — Johnson met with Alvarez and a man who said he was with the Republican Party of Florida.
"They said they were shocked," Johnson said. "They told me that they fired someone and it wouldn’t happen again."