Was the Fake Signature Gatherers Story a Setup by the DNC?

Was the Fake Signature Gatherers Story a Setup by the DNC?
Liam Sturgess | May 31, 2024

By Liam Sturgess, Investigative Reporter, The Kennedy Beacon

A May 9 New York Times

But a closer look at the story reveals that a DNC-aligned petitioning company may have tried to set the Kennedy campaign up, and The New York Times just happened to be there to report it.

Within nine minutes of the article’s publication, Lis Smith, whom the Beacon has identified as a “Democratic operative and master of the smear,” amplified the article in a multi-post thread on X (formerly known as Twitter). This strongly suggests she and her employer, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), had foreknowledge of the piece and prepared their media campaign in advance.

The “newspaper of record” has a history of being used to push politically-motivated narratives, as previously covered in The Kennedy Beacon. And this time, it appears individuals tied to the Democratic Party may have played a role in creating the story for the Times to report, which apparently even fooled one of their own reporters.

As the Beacon has also reported, Smith is spokesperson for the DNC’s anti-third party and independent candidate task force, announced by NBC News in March 2024, taking particular aim at Kennedy’s efforts to get on the 2024 presidential ballot in all 50 states. Smith’s work was the subject of a glowing piece in the Times earlier this month, which celebrated her role in “handling the public-facing effort to take down Mr. Kennedy and his kind.”

The DNC’s attacks have thus far involved weaponizing the court system to block RFK Jr.’s candidacy. Indeed, as noted in the Times article, any improper signature-gathering activities could “be used as fodder for court challenges.”

But some Times readers were quick to point out that, of the half dozen or so people whose alleged encounters were described in the article, two happened to be Times reporters, while another two admitted they “worked in Democratic politics,” as noted by the Times itself.

Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, RFK Jr.’s campaign manager and daughter-in-law, isn’t buying the story at all. “Our volunteers, decked out in Kennedy hats and buttons, are collecting tens of thousands of signatures in NY, no problem,” she wrote in a May 11 X post. She revealed that the accused canvassers worked for a subcontractor, Meridian Strategies. Fox Kennedy remarked that of the campaign’s “entire fifty state operation,” Meridian “is the only subcontractor that has ever been accused of misconduct.”

Meridian had published a job posting on April 19 for a “canvassing opportunity” on a subreddit called NYCJobs, offering “$30 an hour to collect petition signatures for independents and democrats,” between April 16 and May 21. Since the Meridian canvassers were being paid by the hour, there was no obvious financial incentive to increase the number of ballots collected by cutting corners.

Meridian was founded in January 2019 by two 19-year-olds, Justin Chae and Evan Sheaffer, according to a profile by New York University’s Washington Square News. Its early clientele mostly consisted of Democrat candidates seeking local office.

But almost a year into the declared COVID-19 pandemic, Meridian was hired to help run New York City’s Test & Trace Corps. When COVID-19 vaccines were rushed to market, Meridian’s canvassers became vaccine salespeople. “We spent nine months going door to door persuading people to get their first shot,” Chae told Crain’s New York. Meridian’s website boasts that “over 142,000 vaccine-hesitant NYers were signed up by our team.”

As noted by The New York Times in its May 2021 article about the Test & Trace Corps, the companies hired “to do door-to-door outreach and talk up the vaccine on street corners” had “little public health experience.”

According to Fox Kennedy, Meridian was contracted on the “unabashed endorsement” of Joe Reubens, a long-time Democratic Party strategist and partner of The Parkside Group.

Listed on Meridian’s clients page is Sheinkopf Communications, a firm run by Hank Sheinkopf, described by City & State New York as Meridian’s “senior advisor.” As discovered by Fox Kennedy, Sheinkopf told The Hill in June 2023 that the Democratic Party should “get in behind the scenes” of the Kennedy campaign “and take him apart.” He added, “attacks from groups that are not directly affiliated with Biden might be more effective.”

It’s not just the Kennedy camp raising the alarm.

“Democratic Party operatives are on the streets in New York carrying petitions for the @DrJillStein and RFK campaigns,” wrote congressional candidate Jason Call in a May 14 post on X. Call is running to represent Washington State’s 2nd District on behalf of the Green Party. “They are trying to prevent us from being on the NY ballot using dirty tricks they know can tie us up with legal challenges.”

A former public school teacher, Call previously held state-level office as a “Bernie-wing” Democrat. But like Kennedy, he left the party in 2023 over its “disgustingly undemocratic” policies and practices. According to Call, the questionable signature gatherers were caught carrying petitions for both RFK Jr. and Jill Stein, an illegal practice that Green Party petitioners are trained not to engage in.

Fox Kennedy stated that the campaign had alerted law enforcement of Meridian’s apparent misconduct. Call similarly suggested the Green Party would take legal action “if anything becomes an issue in actuality.”

As to the potential effect on the campaign, Fox Kennedy confirmed that the campaign had excluded Meridian’s “contaminated petitions” to preempt any legal challenges, and stated that with “more signatures than we need already collected, Kennedy will be on the ballot in New York.”

On May 28, the campaign turned in 135,519 signatures, as reported in the Beacon, far exceeding the required number of 45,000.

Liam Sturgess is an investigative reporter for The Kennedy Beacon. He is also a writer for the Canadian Covid Care Alliance and founder of White Rose Intelligence. He was the founding co-host and producer of the Rounding the Earth podcast, and publishes a Substack series called Microjourneys.

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