By their sitcom references, we shall know them.

Last week, in an interview on a Washington, D.C., conservative talk radio show, voter fraud zealot J. Christian Adams uttered what he thought was the ultimate put-down of Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Adams blames Dunlap for the recent collapse of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, on which both Adams, a Republican, and Dunlap, a Democrat, had seats.

“He played the role like Colonel Hogan” (from the renowned 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes”), Adams told WMAL radio Monday, referring to Dunlap’s lawsuit against the commission that arguably led President Trump to disband the group earlier this month.

Dunlap, to be sure, was a pain in the commission’s derrière. He had the gall, for example, to ask repeatedly for a copy of the commission’s meeting schedule.

But Col. Hogan?

“You know,” groused Adams, “burrowing out and blowing things up and sabotaging the work of the commission instead of actually trying to address the real issues.”

Interesting analogy.

Col. Robert Hogan, those of a certain age will recall, was the good guy. Humorous, quick-witted and cunning, he was also a prisoner in fictional Stalag 13, where he and his fellow POWs wreaked constant havoc on their German captors.

And the voter fraud commission? Under Adams’ tortured comparison, that would be Hitler’s Third Reich.

All of which reminds me of the scene from “Hogan’s Heroes” in which Hogan approached the ever-bumbling Col. Wilhelm Klink with a complaint on behalf of the Allied prisoners.

“Really?” said a skeptical Klink. “A complaint. Not sufficient entertainment, perhaps.”

“No,” deadpanned Hogan. “You’re funny enough.”

Back in May, when he first accepted an invitation to join the commission from its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Dunlap took considerable heat on his left flank.

From the get-go, critics called the commission a sham and decried Dunlap as nothing more than Democratic window dressing on a solution (see: liberal voter suppression) in search of a problem (see: perpetually unproven conservative claims of widespread voter fraud).

They were right about the sham part: As Dunlap noted in an interview Friday, the commission leaders “were so committed to getting a product that they tried to find a way around the process.”

Yet, the naysayers were wrong about Dunlap. Three weeks after the commission went kaput, he’s still suing in federal court for access to documents – from internal communications, to so-called research papers, to items as pedestrian as meeting schedules – that he was routinely denied with no explanation whatsoever.

Even Dunlap, of course, saw this coming when the commission met for the second and final time in New Hampshire.

“That was on Tuesday, Sept. 12,” he recalled. “Not that it’s burned on my memory or anything.”

It was there that Kobach, in the wake of a column he’d written a few days earlier for Breitbart.com, charged that fraudulent votes had “likely” swung New Hampshire’s presidential and Senate races to the Democrats in 2016.

Kobach’s “proof”: Of the 6,540 voters who used out-of-state licenses to register on Election Day, only 1,014 went on to obtain New Hampshire licenses.

Dunlap, along with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, cried foul. New Hampshire law, they noted, doesn’t require that a person be a state resident to vote, but only that a person be “domiciled” there (as in, out-of-state college students) in order to cast a ballot.

“It was after that they started walling me off,” Dunlap recalled. “I stopped getting any information.”

So, he sued. And in mid-December, a federal judge ordered the commission to fork over any and all working documents and scheduling information to Dunlap.

Two weeks later, lamely blaming states (including Maine) that had refused to hand over voter registration data, Trump deep-sixed the commission.

Kobach, meanwhile, pinned the demise directly on Dunlap, Gardner and the commission’s two other Democratic members. Dunlap called that “a bunch of balderdash.”

But, commission or no commission, the lawsuit lives on. Dunlap still wants his documents.

“Rather than ever try to back it up and try to fix something, they just keep clamping down harder,” Dunlap said last week. “To where we are today, which is they utterly, categorically refuse to give me the information.”

To quote the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Last summer, explaining his decision to join the commission, Dunlap described Kobach as a “good guy,” a fellow sportsman for whom Dunlap had once set up a family hunting trip to northern Maine.

What say he now?

“I don’t think he’s going to give me a hug the next time I see him,” Dunlap conceded.

Still, he added, “I don’t think I was naïve. What I was characterizing was what I regarded as normal. This is how people normally work together. You build relationships. You come to build trust with each other. And if you have any sense of character, you don’t do anything to betray a trust. You don’t work behind people’s backs.”

Back when he came under fire for even sitting on the commission, Dunlap promised to be a “bullhorn” should things go awry.

Now, he’s a national figure, belittled by Kobach and Adams for taking a seat at the table and “throwing his food in the air,” yet lauded by his onetime detractors as the guy who stood fast for fairness in our elections.

“I like to think I’ve done some pretty important things,” Dunlap said, looking back on two decades as a legislator and secretary of state. “And oddly enough, what’s given me my 15 minutes of fame is asking for a schedule.”

He’s too modest. In reality, a la Col. Hogan, Dunlap succeeded in derailing a runaway train.

Reminds me of the time Hogan, bargaining with Col. Klink, suggested Klink release two Allied prisoners from the Stalag 13 cooler.

Fumed Klink, “Those prisoners are to be released over my dead body!”

Replied Hogan, “It’s a deal!”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

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