A Tale of Two Clerks: What’s Really Behind the Brooklyn Voter Purges?
With so much corruption and money flowing in politics, it’s just about impossible to connect a particular dollar to a specific evil or trace the precise whispered order that leads to tomorrow’s headlines.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the recent New York primary. Voter rolls missing over a hundred thousand voters, many of whom tried to actually, you know, VOTE on Tuesday. Polling places moved at the last minute, primary reminder mailers with wrong dates or no dates at all.
The focus of this mayhem was Brooklyn. And the Grand Poobah of this FUBAR was Diane Haslett-Rudiano, the Chief Clerk of the New York City Board of Elections.
Haslett-Rudiano has been suspended without pay, pending investigation. Try not to worry about her, though, she’s pretty flush with cash. More on that in a bit.
In the world according to the Hillary-endorsing NY Daily News, it was all just a big screw-up. Haslett-Rudiano was a Republican holdover on her way out anyway, due to incompetence, we are told. We are also assured by Hillary-endorsing and suspected-campaign-finance-law-flouter, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, that this massive purge was likely not an intentional act of voter suppression targeting Bernie supporters. And Hillary Super Delegate, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer has opened an audit of voting procedures in his city. He says he will recuse himself if he runs into any conflicts of interest, so we can all rest easier on that count.
Some, like the New York Post, are trying to make the case that Haslett-Rudiano is being scapegoated. She was only in charge of the Republican voter registration rolls, they assert. Another woman, Deputy Clerk Betty Ann Canizio-Aqil, says the Post, is the likely culprit.
Betty Ann Canizio
It seems reasonable to suggest that she either did the purging, or should have noticed when those Dem voter rolls under her Cerberus-like protection, got about 8% shorter. Might have been worth a looky-loo, at least. Maybe?
According to Heavy.com,, Canizio-Aqil defended herself on her Facebook page against the allegation that she deliberately purged the rolls.
I can’t find that post on her page currently, but is she a Bernie supporter? From her FB page, she certainly does not seem to be. She is obviously a Democratic apparatchik, pics of Democratic office-holders, candidates and events populate her FB page. She notes that she has been the district leader of the 49th Assembly District since 2010, all easily verifiable facts.
On March 7, she changed her profile photo to this rather difficult-to-parse image:
What the hell is this saying? “Yes we can” stop Hillary, but who is “we”? That’s a woman’s patriotic spiked heel. Bernie rarely wears spiked heels. And the original image is hosted on the rather unDemocratic conservatives4palin.com. “Yes we can,” of course, was Barak Obama’s slogan. Was this her attempt to show her support for Bernie?
If you scroll through her Facebook posts you will see a definite Hillary Democrat, at best. Tough on guns, supportive of women’s rights and abortion rights, but also strongly pro death penalty, demanding voters must prove they are not illegal aliens, a petition to stop a tax on plastic bags because it exempts the poor. At one point she even praises Fox news.
Let’s agree to call her a longtime Democrat with rather confused politics. Fair enough?
There’s also this, from the NY Post:
Canizio is an ally of Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio. She has a long history as a borough district leader of rubber-stamping his candidate nominations and political appointments. Seddio used his political muscle to help Canizio, 68, secure her $120,000-a-year post (at the Board of Elections), sources said.
Seddio is a big supporter of Hillary Clinton, and is actively campaigning for her. That’s right, Canizio’s close ally and benefactor, and the man for whom she allegedly rubber stamps political appointments, and the man who got her the $120k per year job she enjoys failing at, is an active and enthusiastic Clinton supporter. And something about her makes me think she is very unlikely to bite that particular hand that feeds her.
The only thing that we can say Canizio is guilty of for certain is not doing her job. After all, statistically speaking, because Clinton received more votes than Sanders, then as many or more of her supporters should have been cut from the rolls as Sanders supporters. It should have been a wash, unless, of course, they had a list of Sanders supporters to work off of.
This is why the data breach from December of 2015 is troubling. The Sanders team noticed that they were able to access data from the Clinton campaign, as one company hosts the databases for all the Dem candidates. They had reported this issue before, but this time were rewarded for their efforts by being locked out of their own database for over a day.
Does the timeline of all this suggest there could be a relation? Seddio tried to push the timeline back all the way back to November 2014, perhaps in an attempt to protect Canizio, but The New York Times said:
Mr. Seddio, a longtime friend of Ms. Canizio who pushed her appointment to the deputy clerkship, said this particular voter purge occurred before Ms. Canizio arrived in 2014. But that contradicted the time frame supplied by Michael J. Ryan, the board’s executive director, who said in an interview this week that approximately 125,000 voters were removed from the rolls since fall 2015. (Some 63,000 were added in the same period, he said.)
That timeline has the purge starting in the fall of 2015, just a couple months before the data breach. And since the purge was not noticed until this month, it is entirely possible the bulk of the purge happened after the breach.
It should, I think, be possible for Sanders folks to get a list of those who were purged and cross reference against their own databases, to see if a higher proportion of the purged voters were considered “leaning Sanders” according to their campaign data. I hope they’ll do that, though this sort of thing never seems to get contested.
That same New York Times article above gives us what will be our last word from Canizio, a strange sort of non-denial:
Reached by phone, Ms. Canizio said she could not comment on what happened, but added, “I didn’t sign off on anything.”
What I can’t believe, however, is the New York Post’s view that Chief Clerk Diane Haslett-Rudiano was a complete scapegoat in this affair. While it appears to be true that Canizio would be the caretaker of the Democratic voter lists, this was not just updating a few files. This was a massive purge, preceded by mailings and cross checked against recent voter histories (part of the absurd process in use by many states in which voters who have not voted recently enough get dropped from the rolls). This would have taken computer resources and a lot of data entry. I don’t see how it could be possible that the Chief Clerk could not be aware this was happening, no matter the official division of labor.
And by the way, why didn’t this happen to Republican voters in Brooklyn? And why is Brooklyn the only borough that was affected by this purge? I have seen no real explanations for either of those questions so far.
The Post quotes an anonymous source as saying that a deal must have been cut:
“It sounds like they cut a deal to make the Republican the scapegoat and protect Betty Ann,” said an elected Brooklyn official who’s a Democrat.
Who cut this deal? Why would she go so quietly along with it? Why has she not come forward and argued, like the Post has, that she was not even in charge of the Dem rolls?
This brings me back to my opening paragraph. The problem with Clintonian Democracy, is that so many candidates are so beholden to so many financial interests that really one can never prove which quid led to what quo.
Nevertheless, it is uncontested that Haslett-Rudiano received a mighty fine quid indeed back in September of 2014. It all started with a brownstone apartment building that Haslett-Rudiano purchased for $5000 in 1976.
Haslett-Rudiano was not keeping up the place and it was falling apart. It had become such an eyesore that neighbors even created a Facebook page to pressure her to fix it up or sell it.
This article from the New York Press gives a fairly detailed account of the efforts to deal with this now famous bit of urban blight. We learn, for example, that Haslett-Rudiano had been reluctant to sell, offering different reasons at different times.
“Sometimes it was ‘I’m attached to the building because it was my husband’s building,’ and sometimes it was, ‘I’m getting a broker,’ and I said, ‘well can I have the name of the broker?’” said (Manhattan Borough President) Brewer. “She never gave me the name of the broker. So you can see this went on and on and on.”
Because of Haslett-Rudiano’s position on the Board of Elections, Brewer tried to go the political route:
Adding to the intrigue, Haslett-Rudiano is the chief clerk with the city’s Board of Elections in Brooklyn, and has ties to the city’s Republican Party establishment. Simon said in addition to other forms of pressure, like calling the New York Daily News, which did a story on the building last year, she tried a more political tack by contacting a prominent Brooklyn Democrat to reach out to his colleagues across the aisle to see if something could be done.
“The politics on this from day one have just been mystifying,” said Simon. “[The Brooklyn Democrat] called the Republicans he knew, I called the Republican club she was involved with, we called just about the entire world that meant anything to this whole project.”
Nothing she tried worked.
Brewer was surprised to learn that when Haslett-Rudiano did sell in September of 2014, she cited the pressure from Brewer as the reason, despite the fact that Brewer had given up the fight back in December of 2013.
The building sold for a cool $6.6 million dollars, which is why I suggested you should not be too worried about Haslett-Rudiano if she is permanently fired.
The broker for the deal explains Haslett-Rudiano’s motivation to sell this way:
(Real estate broker Mike) Sieger said he first contacted Haslett-Rudiano 20 years ago, when he was first starting out in real estate. As for why she chose now to sell, and anointed Sieger to handle the transaction, he said, “I got her a very good price.”
Who was willing to pay this “very good price”? I will get to that, but there is an interesting side mystery to this deal that apparently involves Haslett-Rudiano. Unless it doesn’t. No one really seems to know.
In the New York Press article above, Brewer refers to another eyesore building, the sale of which was somehow related to Haslett-Rudiano’s decision to sell.
But both Brewer and Simon alluded to another reason Haslett-Rudiano chose now to sell, one that isn’t quite understood by anyone who spoke to the West Side Spirit. At one point Haslett-Rudiano owned another neglected property on West 73rd Street that recently changed hands a number of times.
Simon said the ownership battle over the building on West 73rd Street had something to do with the sale of the West 76th Street building, but she doesn’t know what exactly. “It’s one of those things where you can’t quite figure out the pieces,” she said.
City records indicate that property, at 44 West 73rd Street, is now owned by a company called Kojo Global Property Development and has been placed on the market.
This is not correct. The property is actually now owned by a mysterious company called “Community Preservation Neighborhood, Inc.” who managed to buy the multi-million dollar building two years ago for just over $200,000. Kojo turns out to have the bad habit of creating fake deed transfers of buildings and their deed of transfer was ruled invalid by a judge.
But it gets a lot stranger. This article in the New York Press gives all the details, and it reads just like the behind the scenes real estate shenanigans in the Netflix series Daredevil. It’s worth reading for the mystery as a whole, but what’s completely unclear to me is how it relates to the sale of the first building, as Gale Brewer suggested. She was aware Haslett-Rudiano no longer owned it.
“She doesn’t own it outright, I know that Diane [Haslett-Rudiano] does not own it,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told the Spirit recently. “She lost it a while ago.”
A brief history of her involvement: Haslett-Rudiano was the lawyer who represented her future husband in buying the place in 1965. It was sold at some point after that. She turned around and bought it herself in 1975 when it was in foreclosure and sold it to one Lois Voyticky in 1977. That seems to be the end of her involvement, and it is completely unclear to me why her name comes up in association with the building at all.
Let me tidy this up a bit. Dianne Haslett-Rudiano, the Chief Clerk overseeing the largest voter purge in New York City history, sold one building in fall of 2014 she’d been refusing to sell for years despite rather intense neighborhood pressure, because she got a “very good price.” This sale was somehow tied up with the sale of another building she had not owned since 1977 and which now belongs to a company with no traceable history, who bought it for way under market value three years ago.
But what do shady real estate deals have to do with voter purges? The New York Post, remember, quoted one Democrat insider who speculated that an undefined “they” had cut a deal to protect the Democratic assistant clerk, and to scapegoat Haslett-Rudiano. But if Haslett-Rudiano had no control over the Democratic lists (her Republican voter rolls experienced no issues, apparently) then why would she go along with it? Why allow her name to be dragged through the mud? What’s in it for her?
Quo, meet quid. Now this could all be coincidence, but it just looks bad. You see, the developer who bought the building from Haslett-Rudiano is a is an enthusiastic Hillary supporter and the daughter of a Clinton super delegate.
The buyer of the property was an investment group, Holliswood 76 LLC, headed by Dana Lowey Luttway, a developer and daughter of U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D, N.Y.).
I want to pause again and say that this proves nothing. It’s being passed around social media among Sanders supporters, but there’s just no smoking gun that proves that two years ago, someone from a prominent Democratic family paid a “very good price” to receive favors in the primary two years later. And further, this is what Dana Lowey Luttway does for a living. She looks for precisely these kinds of properties and fixes them up.
Her mother, US Rep. Nita Lowey, has served over 20 years in the House of Representatives and is a staunch Hillary supporter who made it clear that, even had Sanders won New York, she would not switch her super delegate vote from Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton is Congresswoman Lowey’s friend, colleague and her constituent, and she is behind her 100%,” (Lowey chief of staff Elizabeth) Stanley added.
But at the very least, we can call this another example of how the Democratic Party’s super delegate system just stinks up the place like a roadkill skunks on a Southern summer night. It taints everything.
Also consider how problems with the voting lists were not unique to New York. This had already been a big issue in Arizona, particularly with voters finding their party affiliation switched for no reason, rendering them ineligible to vote in the Democratic primary.
“We’ve been getting calls all day from lifelong Democrats who have been registered as independents,” Enrique Gutierrez, communications director for the Arizona Democratic Party, told US Uncut. “One woman even said she’d been registered as a Libertarian.”
By the time all this gets sorted out, if it ever does, it will likely be too late to affect the primary results, though there is some hope that the provisional ballots will be counted, though who knows how many people just didn’t bother to vote at all when first turned away.
And voter fraud, should fraud this be, is best accomplished in little slices, here and there, so as to be less detectable. So even if Brooklyn by itself was not enough to make a significant difference in the outcome (though if the purge was targeted, it would have shaved Hillary’s lead for sure) we have to ask what else is going on. Why is the Sanders campaign the only campaign making a fuss about the denial of thousands of people’s right to vote in Arizona, New York and elsewhere? Why do all these “snafus” seem to go against him?
It’s possible one of these two clerks knows the answer. But for now, neither one is talking.