Former GOP congressman's staffer indicted for election fraud

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At least half a dozen of Republican Scott Taylor's staffers were part of a scheme to forge signatures to get a third-party spoiler candidate on the ballot in the 2018 midterms.

Former Virginia GOP congressman Scott Taylor lost his seat in the midterms, but the fallout from his sleazy campaign continues. On Monday, a grand jury in Virginia indicted one of Taylor's staffers on two counts of election fraud for her role in a petition forgery scheme.

During the 2018 campaign, staffers for Taylor circulated petitions trying to get a third-party candidate on the ballot to siphon away votes from the Democrat in the race. There was one big problem — those staffers forged many of the signatures.

When the scheme came to light, a judge in Virginia ordered that the third-party candidate, Shaun Brown, be removed from the ballot. Taylor went on to lose his election to the Democrat, Elaine Luria.

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The signature forgeries were concerning enough that a special prosecutor was asked to look into the matter, and the investigation led to the felony indictment of Taylor staffer Lauren Creekmore Peabody. Peabody was one of six to eight Taylor staffers implicated in the scheme.

However, the special prosecutor, Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell, noted that he wasn't able to get to the bottom of things because he was stonewalled by the campaign: "What actually happened within the campaign headquarters is still a subject of investigation due primarily to the lack of cooperation of key individuals." He also seemed to imply that some investigation may be continuing: "The full explanation of what happened will hopefully be answered in the months to come."

In a very Trumpian fashion, Taylor is now crowing that this turn of events — an indicted staffer, an investigation thwarted by lack of cooperation — is actually proof that he is innocent and was unfairly targeted. Taylor got to this counterintuitive conclusion by focusing narrowly on one part of Caldwell's report, which found there was no evidence that Taylor's team specifically colluded with Brown to get her to run as a third-party candidate.

While that may indeed be the case, it doesn't absolve Taylor or his campaign of the forgeries. More to the point, the investigation did conclude that after Brown made an independent decision to run, Taylor's staff met and decided to use their campaign resources to get Brown on the ballot by obtaining signatures.

Taylor also claimed, somewhat implausibly, that he was entirely unaware of the actions of his staff, even though at least half a dozen of his staffers were part of the strategy of falsifying signatures to get Brown on the ballot.

Taylor has tried to characterize his loss as exceedingly narrow, complaining about "dishonest Democrats" spending millions on the race. The loss wasn't narrow at all, though. Luria took home 51.1% of the vote, while Taylor got 48.8%. For context, that 2.3% margin is more than four times the 0.5% margin that Virginia considers a close race warranting a taxpayer-funded recount.

This is yet another instance of Republican-led election fraud, much like that of Mark Harris in North Carolina's 9th District.

For a party so ostensibly concerned with the integrity of elections, the GOP should do a better job policing its own candidates.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.