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A voter fraud conspiracy theorist called Philly election officials corrupt. He didn’t like the pushback.

Polls are narrowing, rhetoric is heating up, and Philadelphia’s city commissioners are in a familiar dustup with vote-fraud conspiracy theorists.

City Commissioner Al Schmidt during a public hearing on voting machines in January 2019.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt during a public hearing on voting machines in January 2019.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Clout’s election calendar shows a presidential cycle unfolding as anticipated — polls are narrowing, rhetoric is heating up, and Philadelphia’s city commissioners are in a dust-up with vote-fraud conspiracy theorists.

Meet J. Christian Adams, a lawyer who specializes in election year alarmism. He penned a screed for the conservative local website Broad & Liberty last week that leaned hard into the notion that the commissioners, who oversee elections, are corrupt. His reason: They accepted a $10 million grant from a Chicago nonprofit to pay for mail-ballot drop boxes, early voting, and raises for poll workers.

Adams was light on evidence and heavy on Mafia references. He later tweeted that commissioners took “a cash payout from the ‘Chicago family’ to build structural bias into” the election.

Clout hears that City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the lone Republican on the three-member board, told people he was exploring options, including a libel suit.

And then Adams shifted to an all-too-common partisan tactic — playing the provocative victim. It goes like this: Say something outrageous to get attention, then whine about the pushback.

Adams deleted his tweet and lamented nobody understood his “satire.” His screed is tagged on Broad & Liberty under “election law.” The website does not have a comedy section, though parts of it are unintentionally hilarious.

Also funny is the way Schmidt’s staff went after Adams. “JABRONI ALERT! Man upset with voting accessibility spreads LIES about Philadelphia elections officials,” one tweeted. Another called his insinuations “disgusting and false” while suggesting Adams “go f—” himself.

That last comment prompted Broad & Liberty cofounder Linda Kerns to contact Clout about “the use of profanity in a public forum by a city employee.”

Kerns also has history with the commissioners. She and Adams filed a federal lawsuit against the election officials before in 2016 that a judge said included “an incorrect recitation” of federal voting law so problematic that he mulled sanctions. They lost that case and turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where a three-judge panel called their claims a “game of statutory Twister" and a “blatant misrepresentation.”

Kerns said Adams' post on her website added “a humorous element" that “brought to light the absurdity and ridiculousness of the situation.”

Adams doesn’t see the humor now, calling Clout “a ridiculous shill” for Schmidt. He did not say if he meant it as satire or he just felt salty.

» READ MORE: The Green Party’s presidential candidate is off the ballot in a big win for Pa. Democrats

Clout asked questions about a ‘Democrats for Trump’ billboard in Roxborough. Then it went away

Clout spotted complications in the brief life of a “Democrats for Trump” billboard on Ridge Avenue at the southern end of Roxborough last week.

First, the disclaimer — required by state and federal law — said the local Republican ward put up the money, not Democrats who are fans of President Donald Trump.

Second, Walt Vogler, the Republican leader of the 21st Ward, said he had nothing to do with it. Even though the billboard read, “Paid for by 21st Ward GOP” — his ward’s political action committee.

“Absolutely not,” Vogler said. “I know nothing about it.”

Adding to the mystery, the billboard vanished after Clout starting asking questions. By Saturday, it had been replaced with an ad about blood pressure.

Vogler said the billboard was “absolutely” a violation of state law requiring accurate attribution for political advertising.

Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard owner, did not respond to requests for information.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the ward, 67% to 19%. Trump won 27% of the vote there in 2016.

Lou Agre, the Democratic ward leader, smells shenanigans.

“If there is really a Democrat for Trump in the 21st Ward, he’s the only one,” Agre said.

Maybe someone felt envious of the Republican Voters Against Trump effort, reported recently by Clout: 130 billboards across Pennsylvania with Republicans explaining why they are voting for Joe Biden.

» READ MORE: Tom Ridge to Trump: You’re wrong about voter fraud

60 Minutes’ casts shade at State Sen. Jake Corman

The CBS News magazine 60 Minutes aired a story Sunday about mail ballot use in Pennsylvania dubbed “The Battle for the Ballot.”

Correspondent Bill Whitaker, while noting false claims Trump makes about mail ballot fraud in the state, also cast shade on State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Centre County Republican, for trying to have it both ways.

He showed Corman, speaking before the state Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of the Democratic Party in an elections case, saying mail ballots are secure. Corman called rhetoric to the contrary “noise” but declined to comment on Trump’s rhetoric.

Whitaker noted that Republicans like Corman, who had been working with Democrats to improve mail ballot use after the primary, changed course after Trump started attacking it in public and in court.

“After the ruling, Senate Majority Leader Corman told us he’s now concerned about the security of mail-in ballots and that Senate Republicans are preparing to fight the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court," Whitaker said.

A spokesperson for Corman on Thursday said his concern was about the court’s decision, not the security of mail ballots.