Editorials, Opinion

Warner’s ‘secret’ and ‘nefarious’ meeting

Secretary of State Mac Warner claims “there was nothing secret or nefarious about” the February meeting of select Republican top election officials hosted by the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks. 

Then why did Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at Heritage and one of the event’s moderators and presenters, tell a Texas official, “This is not a public event. It is a private, confidential meeting of the secretaries. I would rather you not send out a press release about it.”  

“Confidential,” by the way, means “secret.” So there’s one false statement from Warner. He also repeated false claims about the 2020 election that we’ve addressed in the past (DP-1-16-22) and added a couple new ones, which we wish we had the space to address. 

While the descriptor “nefarious” is subjective, we can make a strong case the secret meeting was, in fact, nefarious — largely because of the extremism of its panelists and moderators, not all of whom can be named here.  

There was Jason Snead of the Honest Elections Project (one of the conference’s three sponsors), which spent millions on anti-mail-in voting ads that also implied Democrats would cheat during the 2020 election. And Trump’s former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli, who is the national chairman of Election Transparency Initiative. ETI, by the way, joined with two other conservative activist groups to mobilize opposition in West Virginia to the For the People Act of 2021, which would have expanded voter registration and early voting nationally.  

There were multiple speakers from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a “public interest law firm” that harassed states and counties by falsely claiming they had more registered voters than eligible voters and threatening to sue them unless the voter rolls were aggressively purged. PILF, by the way, was the third event sponsor. 

Which brings us back around to von Spakovsky: Not only does he work for Heritage, he is also on PILF’s board of directors. von Spakovsky got himself onto Trump’s failed voting fraud commission by saying that appointing “mainstream Republicans” would ensure its failure.  But before that, in 1997, he wrote an article that became the roadmap for purging thousands of legitimate voters from Florida’s rolls right before the 2000 election. 

Then there was the keynote speaker: Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state. Blackwell was one of the earliest supporters of Trump’s election fraud claims, going all the way to 2016. And Blackwell’s tenure in Ohio politics was notorious for conflicts of interest, restrictive voting policies and two massive gaffes that first saw his office post 1.2 million Ohio voters’ Social Security numbers on the secretary of state’s website, then distribute voter lists with 5.7 million people’s SSNs. 

That’s who Warner wanted to learn election “security” from?  

Warner said the federal government should stay out of election administration, but his attendance at this secret meeting illustrates he has no problem letting special interest groups dictate how West Virginia’s elections should be run.