Gonzalez and Schlozman and Griffin may be gone, but the long-term politicization and damage at the DoJ was done and institutionalized long ago. The usual suspects --- Thor Hearne, Hans von Spakovsky, Joe Tanner, et al. --- are still plying their insidious anti-democracy trade with all of the tools of big Republican government at their disposal.
If you Dems think "nothing could possibly go wrong in 2008," you'd better think again. As Steve Rosenfeld at AlterNet reports, the Republicans aren't taking '08 lying down. Not by a long shot.
Earlier this year, the DoJ sent another round of threatening letters to 10 key battleground states, threatening to sue them if they do not purge their voter rolls. Yes, the Republicanists have found a "legal" way to use the DoJ to do the illegal vote-caging work the party and their phony well-funded "grass-roots" used to have to do. No wonder Thor's American Center for Voting Rights was able to go "out of business."
The DoJ is the new ACVR.
"They want more people showing up on Election Day and not finding their names," former DoJ Voting Section attorney David Becker, now of People for the American Way (PFAW), tells Rosenfeld. "They want people not voting."
If you don't haven time to read Rosenfeld's entire in-depth investigative report (which should have been on the front page of the NY Times) here are a few of the key grafs...
Voter Fraud zealot Bradley Schlozman takes his do-over concerning testimony he gave last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning his assertion (made 10 times in all), that it was Craig Donsanto of the Election Crimes division at the DoJ's Public Integrity unit who gave him the go ahead to bring voter fraud charges in Missouri days before last November's election. The indictments were in strict violation of the DoJ's written policies --- written by Donsanto, in fact --- that bar such indictments at times that they may have an impact on an election.
Says Schlozzie, in his freshly-filed and obviously-forced about face: "I want to be clear that, while I relied on the consultation with, and suggestions of, the Election Crimes Branch in bringing the indictments when I did, I take full responsibility for the decision to move forward with the prosecutions related to ACORN while I was the interim U.S. Attorney."
To which Sen. Leahy --- who pressed Schlozman hard on this precise point in a memorably heated exchange during the hearing (see angry video at left)-- says: "It is deeply troubling that after weeks of preparation Mr. Schlozman appears to have misled the Committee and the public about his decision to file an election eve lawsuit in direct conflict with longstanding Justice Department policy."
Also related...Hans von Spakovsky, Schlozman's GOP "voter fraud" partner at DoJ, comes before the Senate tomorrow for a hearing concerning his appointment as chair of the FEC. He had been previously recess-appointed to the position by Bush, but his Get Out of Jail Free Card is now up, and tomorrow he'll finally face questions on his role in gutting the Voting Rights Act at the DoJ against the advice of the decades-long experience of civil rights attorneys in the Voting Unit there. Five of those former DoJ staffers have written a letter to Congress urging them to reject von Spakovsky's nomination.
As you'll recall, the point we focused on when we covered Gordon's article was the apparent attempted strong-arming, suggested by the emails, of U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) chair Paul DeGregorio. Von Spakovsky was attempting to influence the EAC's reports and positions on GOP claims of massive "voter fraud" and the effects of legislation for Photo ID restrictions at the polls.
Von Spakovsky was concerned about the EAC's position and the "proper balance" (code word) being brought to bi-partisan reports on "voter fraud" and Photo ID, both of which eventually failed to give evidence of GOP claims of massive Democratic voter fraud. Such claims were being used by Bush's operatives at DoJ and out in the "grass roots" by their boy Thor Hearne and his "non-partisan" front group, the American Center for Voting Rights to game elections and media, and push for Photo ID laws (which have been found to be unconstitutional time and again.)
BRAD BLOG readers will also recall the many reports filed here concerning the partisanship and/or incompetence of the EAC, the White House controlled federal body which supposedly oversees our nation's electoral system. These emails highlight many of the claims we've made about inappropriate influence by the White House on the failed commission.
One thing which catches our eye in the emails right away is that von Spakovsky's emails were sent to the Republican members of the commission including DeGregorio, Donnetta Davidson (now EAC chair), and Tom Wilkey (EAC Exec Dir.), but not to the Democratic members. (Ed Note: See 5/24/07 UPDATE at bottom of article on this point.) We've covered both Davidson and Wilkey, and the failings of each, in some detail here at The BRAD BLOG in the past.
The notes were also sent to Republican aides of Sen. Christopher Bond in Missouri (home of the ACVR's Hearne), as well as Doug Lewis of the Election Center, a voting machine industry front group, which "the Dean of the DC press corp," WaPo's David Broder, recently referred to in a column as his favorite expert on elections, forgetting to mention that he's an industry/Republican shill. Can someone please put Broder out to pasture at this point?! And can the media stop quoting Lewis as if he's a disinterested, non-partisan "expert" on elections?!
Little time for the moment to report on the new specifics found in the emails, so we'll encourage you to give them a quick read (just 5 pages) and leave your thoughts here in comments. As time allows, we'll update this item with our own thoughts if possible.
But one quick point that we haven't highlighted enough lately: Voter Fraud is the term used to describe voters gaming the system on a retail level by voting twice, etc. It's extremely rare, as bi-partisan reports have shown time and again, despite GOP claims (that includes the EAC's own buried and altered reports that von Spakovsky hoped to influence).
Election Fraud, on the other hand, is the defrauding of elections through the administration of those elections, from inappropriate voter roll purges to gaming of voting equipment, etc. Evidence strongly suggests that the GOP's unevidenced claims of a "voter fraud" epidemic by Democrats may well have been forwarded after 2004 in order to deflect from the now-well-documented evidence showing GOP election fraud in Ohio and elsewhere.
Hope that reminder helps to clarify.
UPDATE 5/24/07: McClatchy's Greg Gordon writes to say that he believes that all of the commissioners, not just the Republican ones, were CC'd on the emails in question, but that those CC's somehow ended up on a second page and didn't get included when they created their PDF's of the actual emails. Due to the holiday weekend, unfortunately, he won't be able to try to find them in order to check for sure until next week at earliest. But he wanted us to note that there is a question about whether or not all of the EAC commissioners were actually CC'd, and to note his recollection that they were, at least on some of the notes. We'll update further if we can learn definitively one way or the other.
McClatchy Newspaper's excellent Greg Gordon moves the ball forward again on the Bush White House's insider politicization of the DoJ to achieve electoral advantages via gaming of phony "Voter Fraud" claims and the pursuit of voter suppressing Photo ID laws at the polls.
His article covers the inside moves of the Bush-appointed operative Hans von Spakovsky after he was assigned to the DoJ's voting rights unit, and the games he played in the post, including an anonymously published essay on "Voter Fraud" and Voter ID laws; overriding of career civil rights attorney recommendations against a Georgia Voter ID law (while refusing to recuse himself, despite his past service as a Georgia official), a law which was later found by a federal judge to be unconstitutional and akin to a Jim Crow-era poll tax; and attempts to influence the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC)'s studies on Voter Fraud and the effects of Photo ID at the polls.
Last year, Von Spakovsky was recess-appointed by Bush to head the FEC, though he will face what could be an interesting Congressional confirmation hearing in the Senate on June 13.
Aside from the many familiar faces (at least to BRAD BLOG readers) who come into play in the story, from Georgia to Arizona to Missouri, one aspect of Gordon's report is a bit of a surprise and so particularly catches our notice...
The most valuable takeaway from the entire U.S. Attorney Purge scandal will likely prove to have been the exposure of the long-perpetuated GOP "voter fraud" scam. The scheme has been been so pervasive for so long, but the coverage of it has been largely contained to blogs like ours.
In the interim, the MSM coverage of the issue had been given over to the well-funded Republican propaganda machine which had detailed the phony claims of "voter fraud" as if they were legitimate.
The result, as designed, were calls for restrictive Voter ID legislation at the polling place, an effort that was successful in a number of states. After all, as the Republican snakeoil salesmen oft-repeated, "you need an ID to get on a plane, to cash a check, why not to vote?"
It was a difficult line to refute on its face, but it was built on lies, disinformation, and attempts by this White House and this Republican party to wage an unprecedented effort to keep any portion of the 10 to 30 million Americans (mostly Dem-leaning) without photo ID's (many even without birth certificates!) from being able to cast a vote.
The U.S. Attorney Purge scandal has helped to reveal the insidious scheme, opening it up for everyone to see by helping to expose the slimy, well-funded campaign for what it really is: little more than a broadly-waged, party-funded, voter suppression ploy.
Scores of MSM articles and columns over the past week or two have finally helped expose this scam to the public, and the likes of vote-suppression operative Thor Hearne's well-financed, systematic, White House-run "non-partisan" American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) has, for now, slithered back underground.
Much of the MSM coverage to date has repeated what BRAD BLOG readers already know since we've been covering it for so long. But there are a couple of notable must-read exceptions recently which move many of these inter-related stories forward several moves...
In both cases, the career attorneys at DoJ had written lengthy memos opposing the new laws --- 4 out of 5 of them in the GA case, 8 out of 8 in the TX case --- only to be overruled by Bush's political cronies. Dan Eggen of The Washington Post broke both of those stories, with some exemplary reporting, after obtaining the leaked memos.
Later, the DoJ mandated that no such written opinions would be allowed in the future.
Eggen, on Page A1 of Monday's WaPo, now has more on the fallout and allegations of politics being played with the VRA within DoJ, as Bush continues to dismantle as many American Values as he can before leaving office...Here's some highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be)...
The U.S. Senate convenes two weeks from now. George W. Bush could not wait and had to "recess appoint" the three latest additions to the Federal Elections Commission. You know how he is about those things. Hates to wait. And hates that whole annoying "Congressional oversight", "check and balances", blah, blah, blah stuff.
Robert D. Lenhard, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.
Steven T. Walther, of Nevada, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.
Hans Von Spakovsky, of Georgia, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.
We had more previously on these characters when they were first nominated last month, including details on Bush crony von Spakovsky as well as Lenhard, who happens to be the husband of Vivica Novak (she, not just coincidentally, of TIME Mag/RoveGate fame). Novak will likely be testifying in some fashion concerning crimes surrounding the Bush Administration's alleged outting of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Now, it seems, Novak will have to decide whether or not to give damaging testimony against her husband's boss.
Aside from being a key player in the 2000 Florida Election Boondoggle, a member of the extremist Federalist Society and a former Republican Party Chairman in Georgia, von Spakovsky was Bush's political appointee at the DoJ who recently made the papers as well. He was revealed to be behind the overriding of opinions given by career DoJ attorneys in the Voting Rights division concerning the Georgia Photo ID requirement laws and the Texas redistricting pet project of indicted former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay. 4 out of 5 attorneys said the Georgia law would disenfranchise minority voters. While 8 out of 8 unaminously found the new Texas congressional map to be in violation of the law for similar reasons. Both of those decisions were overriden with the help of von Spakovsky and resulted in an effective gutting of the very heart of the 40 year-old Voting Rights Act of 1965 as we reported in early December. Who better to sit on the Federal Elections Commission?!
The Georgia law has since been found unconstitutional by two Federal courts and the Texas law is headed to the Supreme Court where still more Bush appointees will likely be sitting in judgement.
One party rule. America rocks! Except for this whole "Decade of Shame" thing we seem to be in the middle of...Lady Liberty weeps...More encouraging news on other matters tomorrow...
Hans von Spakovsky. A German industrialist? A compatriot of artist Hieronymus Bosch? No. He is an attorney who is presently the head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section. He is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society, and joined other Bush cronies in the Florida recount battle in 2000, and he is President Bush's newest recipient of a crony-nomination.
According to an article in today's Washington Post, von Spakovsky was nominated to the Federal Election Commission on Friday.
The nomination of von Spakovsky, a Republican, has already raised the hackles of some Democrats. According to WaPo:
In a letter to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) wrote that he is "extremely troubled" by the von Spakovsky nomination. Kennedy contends that von Spakovsky "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."
WaPo added this:
Career Justice Department lawyers involved in a Georgia case said von Spakovsky pushed strongly for approval of a state program requiring voters to have photo identification. A team of staff lawyers that examined the case recommended 4 to 1 that the Georgia plan should be rejected because it would harm black voters; the recommendation was overruled by von Spakovsky and other senior officials in the Civil Rights Division.
Before working in the Justice Department, von Spakovsky was the Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Ga., and served on the board of the Voter Integrity Project, which advocated regular purging of voter roles to prevent felons from casting ballots.
It is clear that von Spakovsky had the ear of another "crony nomination" recipient, Alberto Gonzales, when it came to making decisions on the Georgia Voter ID issue and Texas redistricting, both of which had been recommended against by the Justice Departments' career professionals in the Voting Rights Division, but were given acceptance by the DoJ anyway.
The Georgia law has since been found unconstitutional as a "Jim Crow-era Poll Tax" by two Federal courts, and the Texas redistricting, concerning which former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay now faces indictments, has just been agreed to be looked at by the United States Supreme Court.
One other very notable point here. A Democrat, Robert D. Lenhard, has also been nominated to the FEC by Bush. As pointed out by Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake: "He's the husband of [Time Magazine reporter] Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case."
As well, Lenhard was "quite helpful to the 1600 Crew as part of the legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law," according to Jane.