After Donald Trump lost his re-election bid, Republicans settled on a predictable strategy: tell the public there was widespread "voter fraud." All they'd need is some proof.
And while that may have seemed like a straightforward task, producing evidence of a systemic problem that does not exist is quite a bit tougher than it sounds. To that end, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) announced seven weeks ago that he'd be willing to pay up to $1 million as a reward to those who could produce proof of fraud.
At the outset, this appeared to be unwise. As we discussed last month, the Texas Republican was effectively arguing that he and his party assumed there was widespread fraud, but they couldn't prove it, so he hoped financial rewards would produce evidence Republicans couldn't find on their own. Patrick was basically telling the public, "We can't back up our talking points, so I'll pay you to help."
But now there's a related problem: Patrick's counterpart in Pennsylvania has uncovered real-world evidence of Trump voters committing fraud, and he wants the Texan to pay up. The Houston Chronicle reported:
All John Fetterman wants for Christmas is the $3 million he says Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick owes him. The Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania has been trolling his Republican counterpart for weeks to collect on the $1 million Patrick offered in November for evidence of fraud in the Nov. 3 election. Three supporters of President Donald Trump have now been charged in separate voter fraud schemes in Pennsylvania. Fetterman says they should all count for bounty purposes.
The landscape has to be discouraging for those inclined to believe baseless Republican conspiracy theories about the election. For all the hysterical rhetoric, only a handful of legitimate allegations have been raised, and some involve Republicans casting illegal ballots for Trump on behalf of dead relatives.
In fact, this is exactly what Fetterman found in Pennsylvania, which is why the Democratic lieutenant governor wants Dan Patrick to pay the reward. (Fetterman has vowed to donate proceeds to local food banks.)
Fetterman explained to the Chronicle that he's pushing the issue in part to discredit baseless Republican smears against the elections. "While it's undoubtedly and undeniably hilarious these cases involved Trump voters and their dead mothers, it's irrelevant because it documents how truly rare voter fraud is and how impossible it is to truly pull it off," the Pennsylvania said.
For his part, a spokesperson for Patrick replied, "It is not clear why Lt. Gov. Fetterman continues on this topic since Democrats don't believe in voter fraud — unless it's the Russians."
It's an unfortunate response. For one thing, Democrats "don't believe in" systemic voter fraud because systemic voter fraud doesn't exist. It's kind of the whole point of this exercise.
For another, no one's accused Russia of engaging in voter fraud -- at least not in the United States -- so much as the Kremlin launched a military intelligence operation in the hopes of putting Donald Trump in power. That's not just a "belief" among Democrats; it's also been confirmed by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, which documented the fact that Trump's campaign chairman was in direct, frequent, and secret communication with a Russian intelligence officer throughout his time on the Trump campaign in 2016.
As officials really ought to know by now, there is a clear, bipartisan consensus that Vladimir Putin's government targeted U.S. elections for the express purpose of helping elevate Donald Trump to power. The evidence has proven that Trump's operation sought Russian assistance, embraced Russian assistance, capitalized on Russian assistance, lied about Russian assistance, and took steps to obstruct the investigation into Russian assistance.
As for why Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor "continues on this topic," I think it's because Fetterman wants Dan Patrick to honor his commitments.