-by Bill Berkowitz

September 29, 2011- "As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election," Ari Berman recently wrote in Rolling Stone magazine, "Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008." Amongst the methods being put forward in Republican-controlled state houses across the country are initiatives making registering to vote a much more difficult and laborious process.

In a piece titled "The GOP War on Voting," Berman reported that "Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering [while] Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters [and] Maine repealed Election day voter registration."

According to Berman, "legislation to impose new restrictions on voter registration guides run by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters," has been introduced in six states. The most egregious piece of legislation was passed in Florida where, "anyone who signs up new voters [must] hand in registration forms to the state board of elections within 48 hours of collecting them, and to comply with a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements." The submission of late forms would be subject to a $1,000 fine and "possible felony prosecution."

None of these barriers, however, appear to be of particular concern to the folks running United in Purpose, a newly-minted conservative organization that claims to be non-partisan, and which aims to register tens of millions of conservative Christian voters in time for the 2012 elections.

Team United in Purpose

United in Purpose is a non-profit group founded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists, and run by CEO Bill Dallas and COO Reid Rutherford. Its major project is called Champion The Vote.

Bill Dallas' story is sort of Chuck Colson-lite: He, "lost his thriving real-estate business when he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in San Quentin State Prison," his official bio states. Unlike Colson, who formed a prison ministry and has become fully redeemed in the eyes of his conservative Christian brethren, Dallas re-entered the world of private enterprise.

"After his release in August 1995, he founded Church Communication Network (CCN), now the world's largest satellite-based training network for churches. Dallas co-hosts Solutions, a weekly satellite program with Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, and he is the coauthor, with George Barna, of Lessons from San Quentin: Everything I Needed to Know about Life I Learned in Prison."

Rutherford's story has a more traditional Silicon Valley ring to it. He founded several Silicon Valley finance and technology companies, including: eFinance Corporation, a pioneer of online credit delivery services; Concord Growth Corporation, a large independent California commercial finance company; and Research Applications for Management, a provider of decision support software for transit agencies throughout North America.

Rutherford is also the CEO of Photon Energy, which is, according to its website, "a turn-key developer of distributed and utility scale solar-electric generation plants." It was recently announced that Photon was one of several companies to win "solar development contracts" with the U.S. Navy, which, Rutherford said, was the company's "largest contractual award to date."

"Photon is pleased to have been recognized by the Navy as having the proven expertise to develop third-party financed solar projects," said Rutherford. "Solar is becoming more competitive yearly. Our innovative solar finance structures offer the Navy an excellent way to save money while reducing reliance on international energy sources."

While "most of its financial supporters remain anonymous," the Los Angeles Times reported, "one of its main backers is technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, a generous Republican donor," and a friend and contributor to Donald Wildmon's vigorously anti-gay American Family Association. Eldred, the Times reported, "founded companies such as Ariba Technologies and Inmac, [and] has donated $1.1 million to Republican candidates since 2005, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, and is now raising money for Perry's presidential bid."



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