than three decades apart, two political riots influenced the outcome of U.S. presidential elections. In 1968, protests at the Democratic
National Convention in Chicago hurt Democrat Hubert Humphrey and helped
Republican Richard Nixon eke out a victory. On Nov. 22, 2000, the
so-called Brooks Brothers Riot of Republican activists helped stop a
vote recount in Miami -- and showed how far George W. Bushs supporters
were ready to go to put their man in the White House.
But the government reaction to the two events was
dramatically different. The clashes between police and Vietnam War
protesters in 1968 led the Nixon administration to charge seven anti-war
radicals with conspiring to cross state lines with the intent to incite
a riot. The defendants, who became known as the Chicago Seven, were
later acquitted of conspiracy charges, in part, because the protests were
loosely organized and because solid documentary evidence was lacking.
After the Miami Brooks Brothers Riot named
after the protesters preppie clothing no government action was taken
beyond the police rescuing several Democrats who were surrounded and
roughed up by the rioters. While no legal charges were filed against the
Republicans, newly released documents show that at least a half dozen of
the publicly identified rioters were paid by Bushs recount committee.
The payments to the Republican activists are
documented in hundreds of pages of Bush committee records released
grudgingly to the Internal Revenue Service last month, 19 months after the
36-day recount battle ended. Overall, the records provide a road map of
how the Bush recount team brought its operatives across state lines to
stop then-Vice President Al Gores recount efforts.
The records show that the Bush committee spent a
total of $13.8 million to frustrate the recount of Floridas votes and
secure the state's crucial electoral votes for Bush. By contrast, the Gore
recount operation spent $3.2 million, about one quarter of the Bush total.
Bush spent more just on lawyers $4.4 million than Gore did on his
The new evidence was submitted by the Bush recount
committee to the IRS under an extended deadline for disclosures of
soft-money spending by so-called 527 committees, which are not
directly related to a candidates campaign. Bush lawyers had argued that
they were not obligated legally to disclose how they had raised and spent
The Bush committee finally reversed itself and filed
the records on July 15. The records were released to the public on the IRS Web
site in late July. Gore's committee submitted its records in line with the
original IRS deadlines.
The documents show that the Bush organization put on
the payroll about 250 staffers, spent about $1.2 million to fly operatives
to Florida and elsewhere, and paid for hotel bills adding up to about $1
million. To add flexibility to the travel arrangements, a fleet of
corporate jets was assembled, including planes owned by Enron Corp., then
run by Bush backer Kenneth Lay, and Halliburton Co., where Dick Cheney had
served as chairman and chief executive officer.
Only a handful of the Brooks Brothers rioters were
publicly identified, some through photographs published in the Washington
Post. Jake Tappers book on the recount battle, Down and Dirty,
provides a list of 12 Republican operatives who took part in the Miami
riot. Half of those individuals received payments from the Bush recount
committee, according to the IRS records.
The Miami protesters who were paid by Bush recount
committee were: Matt Schlapp, a Bush staffer who was based in Austin and
received $4,276.09; Thomas Pyle, a staff aide to House Majority Whip Tom
DeLay, $456; Michael Murphy, a DeLay fund-raiser, $935.12; Garry Malphrus,
House majority chief counsel to the House Judiciary subcommittee on
criminal justice, $330; Charles Royal, a legislative aide to Rep. Jim
DeMint, R-S.C. $391.80; and Kevin Smith, a former GOP House staffer,
Three of the Miami protesters are now members of
Bushs White House staff, the Miami Herald reported last month. They
include Schlapp, who is now a special assistant to the president; Malphrus,
who is now deputy director of the presidents Domestic Policy Council;
and Joel Kaplan, another special assistant to the president. [See Miami
Herald, July 14, 2002]
The Bush committee records show, too, that Bushs
operation paid for the hotel where the Republican protesters celebrated
after the Miami riot at a Thanksgiving Day party. At the party, the
activists received thank-you phone calls from Bush and Cheney, and were
serenaded by crooner Wayne Newton, singing Danke Schoen, German for
thank-you very much. [Wall Street Journal, Nov. 27, 2000; Consortiumnews.com's
"W's Triumph of the Will"]
The IRS records show that the Bush recount committee
paid $35,501.52 to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
where the party was held.
The House of Masquerades
A number of miscellaneous expenses, reported by the
Bush recount committee, also appear to have gone for party items, such as
lighting, sound systems and even costumes. Garrett Sound and Lighting in
Fort Lauderdale was paid $5,902; Beach Sound Inc. in North Miami was paid
$3,500; and the House of Masquerades, a costume shop in Miami, had three
payments totaling $640.92, according to the Bush records.
The Brooks Brothers Riot carried live on CNN and
other networks marked a turning point in the recount battle. At the
time, Bush clung to a lead that had dwindled to several hundred votes and
Gore was pressing for recounts. The riot in
Miami and the prospects of spreading violence were among the arguments
later cited by defenders of the 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dec.
12, 2000, that stopped a statewide Florida recount and handed Bush the
Backed by the $13.8 million war chest, the Bush
operation made clear in Miami and in other protests that it was ready to
kick up plenty of political dust if it didnt get its way.
A later unofficial recount by news organizations
found that if all legally cast ballots in Florida had been counted
regardless of which kinds of chads were accepted, whether punched-through,
hanging or dimpled Gore would have won Florida and thus the
presidency. Gore also won the national popular vote, defeating Bush by
more than a half million votes, making Bush the first popular-vote loser
in more than a century to be installed in the White House. [Consortiumnews.com's
Did Steal the White House"]
Across State Lines
The evidence also is clear that the Bush campaign
organized the transportation of Republican activists across state lines
into Florida. As early as mid-November, the Bush campaign called on
activists to rush to Florida and promised to pay their expenses. We now
need to send reinforcements, the Bush campaign said in an appeal to
Republicans on Nov. 18, 2000. The campaign will pay airfare and hotel
expenses for people willing to go. [See Tappers Down and Dirty.]
These reinforcements many of them Republican
staffers from Capitol Hill added an angrier tone to the
dueling street protests already underway between supporters of Bush and Gore. The new
of Republican activists injected venom and volatility into an already
edgy situation, wrote Tapper.
This is the new Republican Party, sir! Brad
Blakeman, Bushs campaign director of advance travel logistics, bellowed
into a bullhorn to disrupt a CNN correspondent interviewing a Democratic
congressman. Were not going to take it anymore!
Around the country, the
conservative media apparatus, led by talk show host Rush Limbaugh and
pro-Bush pundits, rallied the faithful with charges that a hand recount
was fraudulent and amounted to "inventing" votes.
Bush himself did nothing
to temper the inflammatory rhetoric. Nor did he urge his supporters to
respect the legally sanctioned vote counting.
Instead, Bush's recount
representative, James Baker, and Bush himself denounced the Florida
Supreme Court, which had ordered that recount results be included in the
official vote tallies. Bush accused the
court of abusing its powers in a bid to "usurp" the
authority of the legislature.
The Battle of Miami
On Nov. 22, 2000, after learning that the Miami canvassing
board was starting an examination of 10,750 disputed ballots that had
previously not been counted, Rep. John Sweeney,
a New York Republican, called on Republican troops to shut it down,
according to Down and Dirty. Brendan Quinn, executive director of the New
York GOP, told about two dozen Republican operatives to storm the room on
the 19th floor where the canvassing board was meeting, Tapper reported.
Emotional and angry, they immediately make their
way outside the larger room in which the tabulating room is contained,
Tapper wrote. The mass of angry voters on the 19th floor swells
to maybe 80 people, including many of the Republican activists from
News cameras captured the chaotic scene outside
the canvassing board's offices. The protesters shouted slogans and banged
on the doors and walls. The unruly protest prevented official
observers and members of the press from reaching the room. Miami-Dade
county spokesman Mayco Villafana was pushed and shoved. Security officials
feared the confrontation was spinning out of control.
The canvassing board suddenly reversed its decision
and canceled the recount. Until the demonstration stops, nobody can do
anything, said David Leahy, Miamis supervisor of elections, although
the canvassing board members would later insist that they were not
intimidated into stopping the recount. [Down and Dirty]
A Sample Ballot
While the siege of the canvassing board office was
underway, county Democratic chairman Joe Geller stopped at another office seeking a sample ballot. He wanted to demonstrate his
theory that some voters had intended to vote for Gore but instead marked
an adjoining number that represented no candidate.
As Geller took the ballot marked sample, one of
the Republican activists began shouting, This guys got a ballot!
In Down and Dirty, Tapper writes: The
masses swarm around him, yelling, getting in his face, pushing him,
grabbing him. Arrest him! they cry. Arrest him! With the help
of a diminutive DNC aide, Luis Rosero, and the political director of the
Miami Gore campaign, Joe Fraga, Geller manages to wrench himself into the
Rosero, who stays back to talk to the press, gets
kicked, punched. A woman pushes him into a much larger guy, seemingly
trying to instigate a fight. In the lobby of the building, a group of 50
or so Republicans are crushed around Geller, surrounding him.
The cops escort Geller back to the 19th floor, so
the elections officials can see whats going on, investigate the
charges. Of course, it turns out that all Geller had was a sample ballot.
The crowd is pulling at the cops, pulling at Geller. Its insanity! Some
even get in the face of 73-year-old Rep. Carrie Meek. Democratic
operatives decide to pull out of the area altogether. [Tappers Down
Despite the use of
intimidation to influence actions by election officials, Bush and his top
aides remained publicly silent about these disruptive tactics. The
Washington Post reported that "even as the Bush campaign and the
Republicans portray themselves as above the fray," national
Republicans actually had joined in and helped finance the raucous
protests. [Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2000]
The Wall Street
Journal added more details, including the fact that Bush offered
personal words of encouragement to the rioters in a conference call to a
Bush campaign-sponsored celebration on the night of Thanksgiving Day, one
day after the canvassing board assault.
highlight was a conference call from Mr. Bush and running mate Dick
Cheney, which included joking reference by both running mates to the
incident in Miami, two [Republican] staffers in attendance say,"
according to the Journal. [Nov. 27, 2000]
The Journal also
reported that the assault on the canvassing board was led by national
Republican operatives "on all expense-paid trips, courtesy of the
Bush campaign." After their success in Dade, the rioters moved on to
Broward, where the protests remained unruly but failed to stop that count.
The Journal noted
that "behind the rowdy rallies in South Florida this past weekend was
a well-organized effort by Republican operatives to entice supporters to
South Florida," with DeLay's Capitol Hill office taking charge of the
About 200 Republican
congressional staffers signed on, the Journal reported. They were
put up at hotels, given $30 a day for food and "an invitation to an
exclusive Thanksgiving Day party in Fort Lauderdale," the article
The Journal said
there was no evidence of a similar Democratic strategy to fly in national
party operatives. "This has allowed the Republicans to quickly gain
the upper hand, protest-wise," the Journal said.
The Bush campaign also
worked to conceal its hand. "Staffers who joined the effort say there
has been an air of mystery to the operation. 'To tell you the truth,
nobody knows who is calling the shots,' says one aide. Many nights, often
very late, a memo is slipped underneath the hotel-room doors outlining
coming events," the Journal reported.
On Nov. 25, the Bush campaign issued
talking points to justify the Miami protest, calling it fitting,
proper and blaming the canvassing board for the disruptions.
The board made a series of bad decisions and the reaction to it was
inevitable and well justified, the Bush campaign said. [Down and
Still, other recounts in
Broward County whittled down Bush's lead. Gore was gaining slowly in Palm
Beach's recount, despite constant challenges from Republican observers.
To boost Bush's margin
back up, Republican Secretary of State Harris allowed Nassau County to
throw out its recounted figures that had helped Gore. Then, excluding a
partial recount in Palm Beach and with Miami shut down, Harris certified
Bush the winner by 537 votes.
Bush partisans cheered
their victory and began demanding that Bush be called the president-elect.
Soon afterwards, Bush appeared on national television to announce himself
the winner and to call on Gore to concede defeat.
said, "we must live up to our principles. We must show our commitment
to the common good, which is bigger than any person or any party."
To many Gore supporters, the aborted recount in Miami
changed the course of the Florida events, preventing Gore from narrowing
Bushs small lead or possibly edging ahead.
The Brooks Brothers Riot
also represented an escalation of tactics, demonstrating the potential for
spiraling political violence if the recount battle dragged on. The
Republicans were putting down a marker that they were prepared to do what
was necessary to win, regardless of what the voters had wanted.
After the Florida Supreme Court ordered a statewide
recount to determine who won the state and thus the presidency, Bush sent
his lawyers to the U.S. Supreme Court where five Republican justices
decided on Dec. 9, 2000, to stop the counting of votes. Then, on Dec. 12,
the same five Republicans blocked a resumption. The disruptions in
November had played out the clock so a slim majority on the U.S. Supreme
Court could effectively award the White House to Bush.
Unlike the Chicago Seven case three decades earlier,
no one faced charges for disrupting the Miami recount.
Chicago Seven case, the jury acquitted all defendants of conspiracy
charges, though finding five defendants David Dellinger, Tom Hayden,
Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin individually guilty of
inciting a riot, charges that later were reversed on appeal. Separate
government investigations also faulted the Chicago police for using excessive
violence to quell the 1968 protests.
Ironically, the kind of documentary evidence that
might have proved valuable in tying up the loose ends of the Chicago Seven
conspiracy is present in the new filings that the Bush recount committee
made to the IRS. The evidence is clear that the Bush committee organized
the movement of protesters across state lines, paid for their lodging,
moved them into a position for the riot, and then defended their actions.
After the incident, Bush personally thanked some of
the participants at a celebration paid for by Bushs organization. Since
taking office, Bush has further rewarded some of the participants with
high-level government jobs.
But the biggest reason for the very different
government reactions to the Chicago Seven case and the Brooks Brothers
Riot is obvious: the ultimate beneficiary of the Miami riot is now
president of the United States.