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Sens. Kennedy and Whitehouse Send Letter to DoJ Inspector General's Office Seeking Probe into RNC Voter Supression Tactics
Inquiry Into What Justice Officials Knew About Griffin's Vote Caging Activities When He Was Named as US Attorney for Arkansas
By Brad Friedman
on 6/18/2007, 4:28pm PT
Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding a probe by the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility into "allegations that the Republican National Committee engaged in 'vote caging' during the 2004 elections."
The letter, sent today to Gonzales, also requests an investigation into "whether any Department officials were aware of allegations that Tim Griffin had engaged in caging when he was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and whether appropriate action was taken."
The complete letter and a press release sent along with it are posted in full at the end of this article.
"The Republican Party has a long and ignominious record of caging – much of it focused on the African American community," Kennedy and Whitehouse explain in their letter which gives details of the RNC using voting caging tactics to suppress minority voters in both 1981 and 1986. After both incidents, the GOP had signed consent decrees that they would not engage in the activity in the future.
Nonetheless, email evidence has shown that in 2004, Tim Griffin created and sent caging lists on behalf of the Bush 2004 campaign as originally reported by the BBC to little American media fanfare, prior to the election. Griffin, who became an aide to Karl Rove, was later appointed by the Bush Administration as the US Attorney from Arkansas after they had fired Bud Cummins. Griffin has since resigned from the post in the wake of the scandal.
In recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the now-resigned DoJ liason to the White House, Monica Goodling, admitted that now-resigned Deputy Atty General Paul McNulty was less than forthcoming in his sworn Congressional testimony concerning his knowledge about Griffin's involvement in vote caging during the 2004 campaign.
In her testimony, given under a grant of immunity from prosecution, Goodling said that McNulty "failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote 'caging' during his work on the President's 2004 campaign."
Reporter Greg Palast, who initially covered the story for the BBC and charged that the lists were meant to target minority voters --- many of whom were serving in the armed forces overseas in Iraq --- has opined on Goodling's admissions in an exclusive to The BRAD BLOG filed just after her testimony. Yesterday, in another BRAD BLOG exclusive, Palast discussed the recent firing of Griffin and a recent teary-eyed speech given last week in Arkansas.
"This is all made up of whole cloth," Griffin told the assembled crowd during a Q&A session after a speech punctuated by tears. "I didn’t cage votes," he claimed. That, despite the emails he sent in 2004 with spreadsheets listing voters attached along with the subject line "Re: caging."
"Caging is a reprehensible voter suppression tactic, and it may also violate federal law and the terms of applicable judicially enforceable consent decrees," the senators charge in their letter.
"It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging," write the senators. "Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce."
The letter from the senators, both of whom are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating elements of the U.S. Attorneys Purge, concludes, "At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice."
The press release from Kennedy and Whitehouse, along with their complete letter to Gonzales today, follows in full below...
UNITED STATES SENATE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 18, 2007
Senators Demand DOJ Investigation Into Voter Suppression Allegations
Laura Capps/Melissa Wagoner (Kennedy), 202-224-2633
Alex Swartsel (Whitehouse), 202-228-6293
Kennedy, Whitehouse Ask Whether Justice Officials Knew Former Rove Aide Allegedly Engaged in Illegal “Vote Caging” Before Naming Him Interim U.S. Attorney
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today called for a Justice Department investigation into allegations of illegal voter suppression tactics by Republican political operatives, including former Karl Rove aide Tim Griffin, during the 2004 elections. Griffin is now serving as interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
“At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice,” the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The letter cites voter suppression incidents by the Republican Party in the 1980s. During the 2004 elections, e-mail evidence suggests that Tim Griffin, then a political operative at the Republican National Committee, knew and approved of a program to “cage” voters – sending a political campaign mailing to targeted voters and challenging the right to vote of those whose mail was returned undelivered – in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Florida. Last year, Griffin was appointed interim U.S. Attorney without Senate confirmation, displacing a federal prosecutor who has testified he was told he was fired to make the job available for Griffin.
Today, Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse demanded an investigation by two DOJ watchdog agencies to determine whether Griffin may have violated the Voting Rights Act or other federal laws, and whether Justice Department officials knew of Griffin’s potentially unlawful activity when he was named U.S. Attorney.
Kennedy and Whitehouse are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the unprecedented firing late last year of several U.S. Attorneys. Senator Kennedy, a longtime champion for voting rights, will chair a Judiciary Committee hearing this Thursday on oversight of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Whitehouse served as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island from 1994-1998.
“It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce.”
The full text of the letter is below.
June 18, 2007
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Gonzales:
We write to request that the Department of Justice promptly investigate allegations that the Republican National Committee engaged in “vote caging” during the 2004 elections. We also ask that you investigate whether any Department officials were aware of allegations that Tim Griffin had engaged in caging when he was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and whether appropriate action was taken. Caging is a reprehensible voter suppression tactic, and it may also violate federal law and the terms of applicable judicially enforceable consent decrees.
Caging is a voter suppression tactic whereby a political campaign sends mail marked “do not forward” to a targeted group of eligible voters. A more aggressive version involves sending mail to a targeted group of voters with instructions to sign and return an acknowledgment card. The campaign then creates a list of those whose mail was returned undelivered and challenges the right of those citizens to vote – on the ground that the voter does not live at the registered address. There are many reasons why registered mail might be “returned to sender” that have nothing to do with a voter’s eligibility. A voter might be an active member of the armed forces and stationed far from home, or a student registered at his parents’ address. Even a typographical error during entry of the voter’s registration information might result in an address that appears invalid.
The Republican Party has a long and ignominious record of caging – much of it focused on the African American community. For example, in 1981 the RNC sent a mass mailing into predominantly African American neighborhoods in New Jersey and used the resulting 45,000 letters marked “undeliverable” to challenge those voters’ eligibility. In 1986, the RNC used similar tactics in an effort to disenfranchise roughly 31,000 voters, most of them African American, in Louisiana. These tactics led to litigation and the RNC’s eventual signing of two consent decrees, still in effect, which bar the RNC from using “ballot security” programs ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud as a tactic to target minority voters.
In 2004, however, allegations of caging by Republican officials arose again – this time over an effort to suppress votes in Florida. Emails sent in August 2004 by Tim Griffin, then Research Director and Deputy Communications Director of the RNC, demonstrate his knowledge and approval of a spreadsheet listing caged voters in predominantly African American neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Florida. (See attached.) Two years later, Mr. Griffin was appointed, without Senate confirmation, as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Such actions appear plainly to violate the consent decrees signed by the RNC in 1981 and 1986. We ask that you investigate whether in these circumstances Mr. Griffin or others may also have violated the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the mail fraud statute, or any other federal statute.
It also appears that high-ranking officials in the Department knew of Mr. Griffin’s involvement in caging. Monica Goodling recently testified to the House Judiciary Committee that she discussed concerns about Mr. Griffin’s involvement in caging with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty during a session to prepare for Mr. McNulty’s Congressional testimony. It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging.
Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce.
We, therefore, ask the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct an investigation to determine who in DOJ knew about Mr. Griffin’s potentially unlawful activity before he was named interim U.S. Attorney, and whether appropriate action was taken on that knowledge, and to recommend whatever action is appropriate.
At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice.
Edward M. Kennedy
United States Senator
United States Senator
Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General
Alice S. Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division
Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General
H. Marshall Jarrett, Director, Office of Professional Responsibility
Reader comments follow below ad...
READER COMMENTS ON
"SENATORS DEMAND JUSTICE DEPT. INVESTIGATION INTO TIM GRIFFIN, RNC 2004 VOTE CAGING ALLEGATIONS"
(18 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink]
said on 6/18/2007 @ 8:00 pm PT...
Suppression of dark skinned or low income voters is a well practiced technique of the Republican Party to block Democratic voters from the ballot box,..
When the Former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a Young College Republican he was a rabid "poll watcher" in Arizona to limit the legal votes of Hispanics and American Indians. That despicable and illegal conduct did not hamper his ability to climb the ladder of success, power and upward mobility. That fascist became the leader of the highest court in the land.
As Rehnquist did so in his youth and got off scot-free, KKKarl Rove repeated and expanded the Democratic Party voter suppression - in an effort to attain his dream of 100 year Republican Party - majority rule.
If this illegal conduct is not clearly identified and the perpetrators severely punished - expect to see in the future voter disenfranchisement and suppression - rather than an occasional exception - but the standard procedure and customary practice/rule of Republican Party conduct during elections.
These fascists will stop at nothing to put a Nazi in the White House.
COMMENT #2 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 2:09 am PT...
Excuse me, OldTurk, they already have put two Nazis in the White House: Bush and Cheney.
COMMENT #3 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 2:55 am PT...
Ultimately the Republican Party may be outlawed in the US, just as the National Socialist Party was outlawed in Germany. The violation of this consent decree is a very serious crime, as is the extensive use of RNC e-mail accounts to circumvent the Presidential Records Act, and the effort, coordinated at the highest levels, to staff the Justice Department from top to bottom with loyal Party members, not to mention a thousand other subversions of the law. The Republican Party has so grossly abused its privileges that it should be expunged as a political entity.
COMMENT #4 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 4:10 am PT...
Rigging elections, yet another infringement on our rights by the gov't. Add it to the ever-growing list of violations:
They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov't.
Support Dr. Ron Paul and end this madness.
Last link (unless Stark County District Library caves to the gov't and drops the title):
America Deceived (book)
COMMENT #5 [Permalink]
Paul 4 Paul
said on 6/19/2007 @ 5:18 am PT...
Petition to have Ron Paul put on the Repulican ballot in you state for Primary elections.
Ron Paul...America's Last Hope.
COMMENT #6 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 6:55 am PT...
Oooohh, they wrote a "letter". Big Whoop.
And who did they write the letter to? To the very people who should be investigated! They might as well have written a letter to Al Capone to investigate bootlegging.
Screw your God-damn letter! Just subpoena their asses!All you've done is signal what you know and what they should start destroying evidence of. Which they've already started.
This is just more of the dog and pony show. A carrot to hang in our faces as the bullshit marches on. Today Rice was "supposed" to appear before Waxman and finally answer questions about what she knew about the intelligence leading to the illegal invasion of Iraq. It was postponed. Supposedly because new evidence has been uncovered and they want to hear it first. As if after FIVE FUCKING YEARS they don't already have enough evidence to put these scumbags in jail for the rest of their lives!
Bullshit, and more bullshit!!!
COMMENT #7 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 10:38 am PT...
Mean ol' Democrats.
Don't they know they're gonna make Tim Griffin cry again?
COMMENT #8 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 12:27 pm PT...
Voter caging is racism. Racism has given this administration the power to do what they want anywhere in the world and to Americans. The power of racism is that we don't admit it's there. Voter caging is a big secret that nobody wants to admit to. This toothless "letter" asking for an investigation is almost like saying, "okay boys, keep up the good work". We'll cry and moan about impeaching, but we promise not to do it.
COMMENT #9 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 12:47 pm PT...
It seems pretty logical that, if someone's mail is returned ("no such address" or "Recipient Unknown"), it's likely that the person using that same name and address on voting records might at least be asked for an explanation.
This is nothing compared to Rahm Emanuel's 1996 scam to register illegal aliens at breakneck speed so they could vote democratic.
Both parties are corrupt, true. But keeping the voter lists clean fights corruption, it doesn't compound it.
COMMENT #10 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 1:06 pm PT...
COMMENT #11 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 1:47 pm PT...
All is true. But the cons think they are saving our way of living. Misguided and brainwashed just like the religious right. No hope anymore except to have a revolution and throw out anyone who won't obey the law! Burn them all! But we must hang together or surely we will hang apart.
COMMENT #12 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 2:26 pm PT...
... Chris Inwien said...
"It seems pretty logical that, if someone's mail is returned ("no such address" or "Recipient Unknown")..."
... that their address of residence is in a predominately black neighborhood and they are in the military. And etc. and etc. for college students and the homeless. At least according to Palast the caging lists were that specific in their targeting.
COMMENT #13 [Permalink]
Off the Grid
said on 6/19/2007 @ 3:49 pm PT...
Those wacky dems, might as well have sent it to Santa Claus. What planet are you on? Hey, I have an idea, I'll ask the bank to pay my mortgage this month.
How 'bout you send it to every registered voter nationwide. How 'bout sending AG, GWBumblefuck, Dick, and KKKarl a grand jury indictment, followed by a short trial, and a shorter execution for treason during a "time of war"(W's words).
Where the fuck are all the people who are supposed to be in "law enforcement." Oh, I see one now, he's taken' a joint away from that old lady with cancer.
COMMENT #14 [Permalink]
said on 6/19/2007 @ 7:37 pm PT...
And like a good, honorable, honest compliant citizen, Alberto the patriot, will comply.
I have a wonderful bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sale to Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse, does anyone have their telephone number?
COMMENT #15 [Permalink]
said on 6/20/2007 @ 6:30 am PT...
Certainly investigate but the Palast story doesn't make any sense.
In the first place, some states (like my own of Massachusetts) have enacted laws that require registrars of voters to send letters to registered voters to verify addresses. Those voters whose verification letters are returned as undeliverable are removed from the voter registry by law. This legal requirement (in at least some states) is suddenly supposed to be "illegal"?
In the second place, how are the challenged voters removed from the voter registry? The only people who are able to remove a voter's name from the registry are registry personnel and in Florida, last time I looked, every single county registry was headed up by a Democrat. Why would Democrats act on information supplied by Republicans and not independently verified by registry personnel?
Finally, since members of the armed services are overwhelmingly Republican, whether people of color or not, why would Republicans want to have them removed from the voter registry?
I don't know what the email was all about but a little knowledge of electoral laws and a little common sense applied to the motivations of Republicans and Democrats would both indicate that Palast's charges are without substantive merit.
Nonetheless, we should investigate. Perhaps there is a Republican hacker somewhere who can bust into local registry files, who can determine racial information from name lists, and who is so stupid he/she would try to remove the names of armed services members from voting lists.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
COMMENT #16 [Permalink]
said on 6/20/2007 @ 7:35 am PT...
Surely what the Republicans did must be legal... that's why the RNC had to sign a consent decree in front of a judge swearing that they'd never do it again...
Hint: You've confused what you know of local procedures with what the RNC actually did.
COMMENT #17 [Permalink]
said on 6/20/2007 @ 8:40 am PT...
Thank you for working on this story. As a Civil Rights historian I know the hard work that went into the Voting Rights Movements of the '60s. For any group of people--let alone people working in the highest levels of the U.S. Justice Department--to attempt to work around the law to remove the vote from qualified citizens, and then to try to deny their actions, shows a truly unpatriotic streak which seems to run throughout the many offices of the current presidential administration. Keep up the good reporting.
COMMENT #18 [Permalink]
said on 6/20/2007 @ 4:36 pm PT...
"These fascists will stop at nothing to put a Nazi in the White House."
So ... do we not recognize the past and they have put a Nazi in the White House ... or do we not recognize the future and they want to put a Nazi there?
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