Tags: Foreign | Election | Observers | Defend | Florida | Democrat's | Leading

Foreign Election Observers Defend Florida Democrat's Leading Role

Friday, 08 October 2004 12:00 AM

Although the OSCE members present at the press conference insisted that Hastings would not be involved in observing the election on November 2, at least one member did concede that Hastings has influenced the process by playing a role in the selection of OSCE Vice President Barbara Haering, a Swiss parliamentarian who will lead the observer operations on Election Day.

Olszewski told CNSNews.com that the appointment of Haering means that Hastings will stay separate from the actual observation process.

But Peyton Knight, executive director of the conservative American Policy Center (APC) dismissed what he said were the OSCE's and Hastings' attempts to distance themselves from each other.

"That is quite a different tune that [Hastings] was playing two months ago," Knight told CNSNews.com.

"As the parliamentary president, Hastings often declared that he would get to pick the observers that would be observing this election," Knight said.

In August, the APC objected to Hastings' role with the OSCE, partly because of his questionable ethics. Hastings was impeached in a bribery and perjury scandal when he was a federal judge.

Hastings became Florida's first African-American U.S. District Court judge in 1979, nominated by then President Jimmy Carter. But nine years later, the U.S. House impeached Hastings for taking bribes from the federal bench and for perjury. The U.S. Senate subsequently convicted Hastings on the charges and removed him from office.

Hastings in 1992 ran for the Florida's predominantly black 23rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he still serves.

According to APC, which refers to Hastings as a "disgraced federal judge," Hastings' comments about the Bush administration, including a comment that the president's re-election team would "try to steal this election," jeopardize his impartiality.

Hastings also is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group still smarting over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stop Florida's presidential ballot recount in 2000. The ruling effectively gave the election to George W. Bush.

The Black Caucus's attempt to stop the Senate's Electoral College certification in January 2001 was featured in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Knight said the APC's objections to OSCE go beyond Hastings' affiliation with the group.

"The OSCE is totally biased," Knight said. He noted that OSCE observers are in the U.S. "at the behest of the most leftist Congress member on Capitol Hill, and that is who they are going to get their marching orders from." Knight was referring to members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others.

"The OSCE monitoring of our elections is an insult to America and that is exactly what the few Democrats and internationalists in Congress want it to be - an insult. That was the goal," Knight said.

"The other goal was to give false credence to claims that Republicans stole the election in 2000," he added.

When CNSNews.com asked if Hastings' role in the OSCE would at least give the appearance of a conflict of interest, Olszewski of the OSCE responded, "Not in this case. I think we have to understand that the OSCE is an intergovernmental organization. There are people of different nations involved in different positions."

Asked if any Republican elected officials currently held any positions in the OSCE, Olszewski responded, "I don't know. I am not aware of that."

Olszewski attempted to calm American voters who might be concerned about an international body coming to observe U.S. elections.

"There is nothing really special, nothing to be concerned about. We have been to many big and important countries," Olszewski said, following Thursday's press conference.

"I think that people should not be concerned with our bias approach, because we are not biased, we see things in a bigger perspective," he added.

A spokesman for Hastings, David Goldenberg, told CNSNews.com on Thursday that Hastings' affiliation with OSCE did not "pertain to election observation - he has no role in that."

Goldenberg cited the rules of the OSCE, which do not allow citizens of a country to observe that country's elections.

Goldenberg reminded opponents of the OSCE that they should blame the U.S. State Department, not Hastings, for permitting foreigners to observe U.S. elections.

"Let me simply remind anybody who is following this closely that it was Secretary of State Colin Powell that invited [the OSCE] to come, not the Congressman Alcee Hastings; and so if the American Policy Center or anybody else has a beef that they are here, they should lodge it with the State Department who made the invitation," Goldenberg said.

Knight of the APC agreed , and chastised the State Department for its role in the matter.

"The U.S. State Department caved into the ridiculous demands of a minority of liberal members of Congress," he said.

"This goes beyond this year's election. What happens in subsequent years? Will the OSCE be back in 2008? Will they have more authority? Are they going to become a fixture in our electoral proceedings? These questions need to be answered. They need to be thought about by Congress and the State Department," Knight said.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, warned about the violation of America's national sovereignty, and accused the OSCE of having a "terrible record" when it comes to observing elections.

"In Bosnia in 1996, for example, the OSCE gave its seal of approval to parliamentary elections despite the fact that an impossible 107 percent of the possible voting-age population had voted," he wrote in August.

"This year, the OSCE approved the election of Mikheil Saakashvili in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia with a Saddam Hussein-like 97 percent of the vote! There are dozens more similar examples," Paul wrote in an article on the Truth News website.

When CNSNews.com asked representatives of the OSCE about Rep. Paul's charges, Barbara Haering of Switzerland responded by explaining that democracy was an "ongoing process."

"I think what we all learned throughout all of these observation missions that we are carrying out is that democracy is an ongoing process, and you never really reach the end of this process because you are always faced with new questions," Haering said.

The OSCE already has expressed concerns regarding the November 2 presidential election, ranging from potential voter intimidation to voting machine irregularities to widely varying state and local election procedures.

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Although the OSCE members present at the press conference insisted that Hastings would not be involved in observing the election on November 2, at least one member did concede that Hastings has influenced the process by playing a role in the selection of OSCE Vice President...
Friday, 08 October 2004 12:00 AM
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