The Dismantling of the Justice Department under George Bush
The Nation has a great piece, Justice, Bush Style, that the rest of the media reporting on ACORN should read. The article will read more like a review for many of us at ePluribus since we devoted a lot of attention to the politicization of the DOJ. But are we hearing anything about the near destruction of the Civil Rights Division from the press who is in a frenzy to cover the alleged voter fraud by ACORN?
A startling flurry of inspector general reports--including one released September 29 focusing on the US Attorney firing scandal--along with the testimony of former Justice staffers interviewed at length by The Nation, paint a detailed picture of how a once-proud government department came to teeter on the brink of a nervous breakdown. With the presidential election looming, the consequences of pervasive politicization could be profound, as the department's rules of engagement in the electoral process have been completely remade to allow a much greater degree of direct interference.
"They have destroyed the internal culture of the Justice Department as a restraint on the executive branch," said Bruce Fein, a prominent Washington constitutional lawyer who cut his teeth at Justice during the Watergate scandal and later served as a political appointee under Reagan. "There's no professional insistence on treating law and politics separately. It's all one."
The author covers the changes that took place from Ashcroft through the unraveling in 2007. So where does this leave the nation as we face the elections of 2008?
Nagging questions remain, however. The Republicans have literally rewritten the rule book on pursuing election-related prosecutions. It used to be a matter of professional honor never to make any move or announcement that risked affecting the outcome of a vote. But the new rules, issued last year, merely caution prosecutors "in most cases" to hold off from launching fraud-related investigations until an election is over--in other words, leaving the judgment to the discretion of individual US Attorneys.
The new rules also leave open the possibility of election-eve inquiries into voter registration drives, and they declare open season even on isolated instances of individual voter fraud--a problem once viewed as too insignificant to be worthy of federal involvement.
All this is an invitation to election-tampering by Justice staff come November. As Gerry Hebert put it, "One can easily imagine cases in 2008 where individual voters are indicted in the days just before the election and the indictments are highlighted with a DoJ press release, and immediately followed by a press release of a political party championing the indictments." This is, in fact, exactly what happened in 2006 in Kansas City. Schlozman indicted voter registration activists from ACORN, the low-income advocacy group, just days before the election, and the episode was immediately seized upon by the state Republican Party, which was fighting tooth and nail to hold on to Jim Talent's Senate seat. It wasn't enough to win the Republicans the election, but that was clearly its intent.
Several of the former career staffers said they expect to see widespread challenges to voter registration groups in the run-up to November, and to individual voters on election day in Democrat-heavy precincts--and suspect that some of those challenges could be backed by the Justice Department. ACORN is taking no chances this time--checking and rechecking the validity of the registration forms it collects, intensifying fieldworker training and sitting down with local election officials to avoid needless antagonism.
But it's also a question of what the department doesn't do. If it does nothing to deter voter intimidation, or to thwart attempts to suppress the minority vote through caging and other techniques, that could be as damaging as launching prosecutions, according to Kristen Clarke, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's political participation group. "We've seen [these tactics] in the past," she said. "We can expect to see them again in November." She worries that if Justice cuts back the number of staffers sent to the Deep South, say, or if it sends in federal prosecutors on the lookout for voter fraud rather than lawyers from the civil rights division charged with protecting the right to vote, that could send a strong signal to those seeking to suppress the black vote.
"There is absolutely a role for the department to play to prevent the potential disenfranchisement of voters," Clarke said. "But it's unclear at this point what the department will do."
So spread the word. The media will continue to push the Republican story of fear that the Democrats, via ACORN, are stealing the election while neglecting to report on how the Republicans have dismantled the "the division that, for close to fifty years, had been dedicated to erasing the legacy of Jim Crow and protecting the rights of minority voters."
Related stories, past and current:
Related stories regarding Hans Von Spakovsky:
- Hans Von Spakovsky: Right choice for FEC Commissioner?
- Civil Rights Division to "Throw Tanner Under the Bus" to save Hans von Spakovsky’s FEC nomination
- Chickens Come Home to Roost for Hans
And here's an interesting array of other pieces regarding voter fraud/voter suppression tactics and some other DoJ machinations:
- Connell, Rove and the GOP Boys, Positioned for McCain?
- McCain Calls for Investigation of Voter Fraud in Battleground States
- Will Mike Connell Avoid Testifying on Cyber Rigging?
- Ohio Election Officials Whistle Past the Graveyard of 2004
- Updated - Matching Finger Prints: Amassing the Evidence of Electronic Vote Manipulation in Ohio 2004 and Florida 2000
- Ohio Secretary of State Opposes Opening Lawsuit Alleging Theft of 2004 Election
- Bush Whackers Now Whacking for McCain
- Voter Rights: Is Robert Popper the Fox Guarding the Henhouse?
- Ohio Wins Poll-Worker Training Funds, Voting Problems Persist in Cuyahoga County
- Voter Suppression
- Voter Caging: Is this Tool still in the RNC Arsenal?
- CO state worker sells voter data to GOP, Sec. of State investigating
- BREAKING, UPDATED: Bogus VA voter calls point to Allen campaign
- Ohio's Brunner, SOSers File Brief to Supremes Against Indiana Voter ID Law