WASHINGTON—It is time to stop referring to the “fired U.S attorneys scandal” by that misnomer, and call it what it is: a White House-coordinated effort to use the vast powers of the Justice Department to swing elections to Republicans.According to McClatchy::
This is no botched personnel switch. It is not even a political spat between the fired U.S. attorneys and Bush administration officials who deemed some of them insufficiently zealous in promoting the department’s law enforcement priorities. Connect the dots and you see an insidious effort to corrupt the American electoral system. It’s Watergate without the break-in or the bagmen.
The emerging picture is one in which widespread Republican claims of “voter fraud”—unsubstantiated in virtually every case examined closely by law enforcement officials, local journalists, state elections officials and academics—were used to stymie Democratic-leaning voter registration groups and create a taint around Democrats. The Justice Department’s own statistics show that only a handful of people were convicted of voting illegally since it began a “voter integrity” initiative in 2002. Its top election crimes official, a career prosecutor, has told the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that the proportion of “legitimate to illegitimate claims of fraud” hasn’t changed.
The “voter fraud” claims that White House political adviser Karl Rove promoted before last year’s congressional elections were in battleground states such as New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with closely contested races. He also has complained about alleged fraud in hotly competitive states such as Washington, Florida and Missouri. Curiously, states where elections often are decided by wide margins—New York, for instance—don’t turn up on his lists.
WASHINGTON - Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators.Here's the research on the likelihood that Karl's concerns about voter fraud are justifiable:
In two instances in October 2006, President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, or his deputies passed the allegations on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.
Sampson tapped Gonzales aide Matthew Friedrich, who'd just left his post as chief of staff of the criminal division. In the first case, Friedrich agreed to find out whether Justice officials knew of "rampant" voter fraud or "lax" enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back.
Here's what Karl wanted done to "combat" this "outbreak" of voter fraud Karl was thinking up in his head:
The Fraud about "Voter Fraud"
In an effort to downplay charges that the Bush administration engaged in blatant political manipulation of the Justice Department in firing eight U.S. Attorneys for failing to be adequately “loyal Bushies,” right-wing activists have posited that the reason these federal prosecutors were fired was that they failed to prosecute or investigate rampant voter fraud. Attorney General Gonzales claimed, “The president recalls hearing complaints about election fraud not being vigorously prosecuted.” However, the facts demonstrate that the dismissed prosecutors diligently investigated claims of fraud, and found no evidence to prosecute any crimes. Indeed, the evidence, including statements from Republicans and administration officials, indicates that voter fraud is not a significant problem in our elections.
In 2002, the Bush Justice Department launched the “Voting Access and Integrity Initiative,” which directed Justice Department attorneys, including those in the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, to prioritize investigations of alleged voter fraud. Despite being a top priority, the initiative resulted in only 24 convictions for illegally voting nationwide from 2002 to 2005, compared to the hundreds of millions of votes cast during that period. Republican former U.S. Attorneys and other Justice Department officials agree:
* Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Washington stated that he conducted a “very active” review of allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington, and testified under oath that “there was no evidence of voter fraud or election fraud.” When the Republican Party in Washington brought its own suit regarding this election, the judge rejected every claim, stating that he found no evidence of fraud.
* The long-time director of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, Craig Donsanto, concurred with McKay that no federal crimes had been committed in that election. Furthermore, he has stated that “the number of election fraud related complaints has not gone up since 2002.”
* Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, who was one of only two U.S. Attorneys to start a voter fraud task force in 2004, stated that, “After reviewing more than 100 complaints of voter fraud, I felt there was one possible case that should be prosecuted federally. … As much as I wanted to prosecute the case, I could not overcome evidentiary problems. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. did not disagree with my decision in the end not to prosecute.”
* Even FBI Director Robert Mueller concurs. At a Senate hearing on March 27, 2007, Senator Charles Schumer asked, “Since 2001, have there been any FBI investigations related to election fraud which you believe should have resulted in an indictment but did not?” Mueller responded, “Not to my knowledge … and nothing has come to my level.”
Virtually every academic study of voter fraud concludes that it is not close to being a substantial problem, if it exists at all. For instance, in states where alleged voter fraud was used as the justification for restrictive voter ID requirements, the supporters of voter ID have made the following admissions:
* The State of Indiana, and its Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita, in defending the state’s voter ID law in court documents, admitted that it could not find one single instance of voter impersonation fraud in the history of the state. Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20321 (S.D. Ind. 2006).
* The Republican Governor of Missouri, who had formerly been the Secretary of State (and run Missouri’s elections), admitted that elections in Missouri were “fraud-free,” before unsuccessfully defending the restrictive voter ID laws in court. Weinschenk v. Missouri, 203 S.W.3d 201 (Mo. 2006). Missouri’s current Secretary of State agrees, noting in a recent report that “As in previous elections, the absence of reports of voting impersonation or voting fraud in the 2006 election in Missouri was notable.”
* The State of Arizona and its counties, in defending their restrictive voter registration laws and voter ID laws, admitted that, of the over 2.7 million registered voters in Arizona, not one had been convicted of registering to vote illegally, and not one instance of voting by an ineligible non-citizen had led to a conviction.
This is the legal testimony of those who have the greatest incentive, and the greatest obligation (in order to justify the burdensome restrictions they impose on voters), to prove the existence of real fraud. And yet, they cannot prove it exists.
More evidence emerges every day that the myth of widespread ‘voter fraud’ was cooked up by Republican strategists (Do you smell a Rove?) as an excuse to pass restrictive measures like voter ID laws that disenfranchise eligible voters in vulnerable communities - voters who, quite frankly, are not likely to vote overwhelmingly Republican (minorities, the poor, the disabled, students and the elderly).Now, doesn't it look really funny that the only "real" voter fraud was taking place in the district and race where Rove's little buddy, Pat, won by less than a hundred votes?
* Policies that erect barriers to voting.
* The politicization of the Justice Department’s voting rights section,
* The pressuring of U.S. attorneys to investigate civic organizations and campaigns that register voters in poor and minority communities,
*The subsequent firing of several U.S. attorneys who refused to engage in the voter fraud witch hunt.
All of these are part of a plan to keep certain voters from the polls and make sure the playing field is unevenly skewed to the Republicans’ advantage in 2008.
Voter suppression: political operatives associated with the Bush administration, led by Karl Rove, are the best in the biz. And they have used government agencies to turn it into a national, coordinated effort since they came into power. Attorney General Gonzales has been a primary enabler (cleaning up the DOJ is critical to ensuring fair elections). But even fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico said of the firing scandal, “I think all roads lead to Rove.”
Short of the president and vice president themselves, Karl Rove is about as high up in the Bush administration as you can go. Who else in the White House was involved, not only with the U.S. attorney firings, but with the ongoing concerted effort to fix elections via disenfranchisement and the misuse of the Justice Department? This is a question we must keep asking – for the health of our democracy, those involved must be held accountable.