Do You Really Want to Talk About U.S. Attorneys, Righties?

When I went to bed last night, conventional wisdom was that Chris Christie was on the ropes. But now I see the Noise Machine magicians have pulled a distraction out of a hat:

CNN, likely reporting on an email received last night from Reince Priebus:

Paul J. Fishman, the U.S. attorney tasked with looking into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge controversy, has donated to several Democratic politicians and organizations, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Most notably, Fishman – who was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama in June 2009 – donated to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign on June 30, 2007. At the time of the contribution, Clinton was battling then-Sen. Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Fishman donated $2,300 to Clinton, according to the FEC.

Steve M says,

You know how this will be spun on the right, don’t you? Eric Holder’s Justice Department is now investigating Christie after refusing to investigate blah blah blah blah blah. Now the right has a liberal enemy in this matter. Game on

Because there’s nothing righties love more than painting themselves as the innocent victims of evil liberal oppression. Yesterday, the baggers saw Christie as a RINO. Within a few hours he’ll be Holy Saint Martyr Christopher of Blessed Persecution, or something.

But do indulge me as I take a little trip in the wayback payback machine to an item in the Maha Archives:

Further into the Kirkpatrick & Rutenberg article we find:

In New Jersey, Mr. Rove helped arrange the nomination of a major Bush campaign fund-raiser who had little prosecutorial experience.

That would be Christopher J. Christie.

Mr. Christie has brought public corruption charges against prominent members of both parties, but his most notable investigations have stung two Democrats, former Gov. James E. McGreevey and Senator Robert Menendez. When word of the latter inquiry leaked to the press during the 2006 campaign, Mr. Menendez sought to dismiss it by tying Mr. Christie to Mr. Rove, calling the investigation “straight out of the Bush-Rove playbook.” (Mr. McGreevey resigned after admitting to having an affair with a male aide and the Menendez investigation has not been resolved.)

Christie’s name popped up in another post from 2007, which led me to this NY Times editorial:

The Justice Department has been saying that it is committed to putting Senate-confirmed United States attorneys in every jurisdiction. But the newly released documents make it clear that the department was making an end run around the Senate — for baldly political reasons. Congress should broaden the investigation to determine whether any other prosecutors were forced out for not caving in to political pressure — or kept on because they did.

There was, for example, the decision by United States Attorney Chris Christie of New Jersey to open an investigation of Senator Bob Menendez just before his hotly contested re-election last November. Republicans, who would have held the Senate if Mr. Menendez had lost, used the news for attack ads. Then there was the career United States attorney in Guam who was removed by Mr. Bush in 2002 after he started investigating the superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. The prosecutor was replaced. The investigation was dropped.

Of course, if you point these inconsistencies out to righties they curl up into a fetal position and play the martyr well enough to make Joan of Arc at the stake look like a slacker.

BTW, the investigation into Menendez was closed by the Justice Department in 2011, but not in a way that made Christie look any less like a bully. Menendez had been collecting rent from a nonprofit community activist organization and had also helped the group secure a lot of federal grant money, so there was an appearance of quid pro quo. This was the matter that triggered the subpoena. But the rental arrangement had been pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee, so it’s not clear to me what Menendez was doing that warranted a subpoena, or that couldn’t have waited until (ahem) after the election.

BTW, the U.S. attorney who was originally assigned the Menendez case was Paul Fishman. But the newly appointed Fishman recused himself because Senator Menendez had backed him for the post.

Rules and Republicans

OK, here’s the deal with U.S. Attorneys. Usually they are appointed to four-year terms by a new president. When their terms are up, and if they are not re-appointed, they are to remain in their positions only until a new U.S. Attorney is confirmed to replace them. Those are the rules.

Once again, we see that Republicans don’t think the rules apply to them. Loyal Bushie Mary Beth Buchanan, a U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, says she will not leave her position.

Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

“It doesn’t serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time,” she said yesterday. […]

Asking for the old attorneys to submit resignations is a courtesy, as far as I can tell. If she doesn’t resign that doesn’t mean she can keep her job. If a new Attorney is appointed and confirmed by the Senate for her position, she’s out, whether she resigns or not.

Usually if a president is re-elected to serve a second term, he doesn’t bother about replacing his own appointees, although he could if he wanted to. When a new president is elected, he can choose to replace most or all of the attorneys by appointing new ones. The GOP ginned up a phony scandal when Bill Clinton replaced the old U.S. Attorneys in 1993, even though Reagan had done the same thing with Jimmy Carter’s appointees, and Bush II would do the same thing to Clinton’s appointees when he took office.

Rightie blogger Stephen Brainbridge claims to be a law professor at UCLA:

A lot of people got very worked up when George Bush fired some US Attorneys for political reasons. Now some of those same people are exercised over the refusal of a Bush-appointed US Attorney to resign so that Obama can replace her.

I don’t think you can have it both ways. Either the US Attorney job is a political one or not.

Some people are born stupid, and some people choose to be stupid. If Bainbridge got through law school I will be charitable and assume the latter. He refuses to acknowledge the reasons Bush’s firing of U.S. Attorneys was scandalous.

The tradition of having US Attorneys resign when a new president takes office emerged so that the new president could make political appointments of the key personnel that would be enforcing the new administration’s legal priorities. Firing US Attorneys for failing to advance those priorities differs neither in degree nor kind.

The “priority,” of course, was that the fired attorneys refused to “help” Republicans get elected by bringing bogus charges against Democratic candidates right before an election. Like I said, some people choose to be stupid.

Political Prisoners

You must read this story by Adam Cohen in today’s New York Times:

Paul Minor is the son of Bill Minor, a legendary Mississippi journalist and chronicler of the civil rights movement. He is also a wealthy trial lawyer and a mainstay of Mississippi’s embattled Democratic Party. Mr. Minor has contributed $500,000 to Democrats over the years, including more than $100,000 to John Edwards, a fellow trial lawyer. He fought hard to stop the Mississippi Supreme Court from being taken over by pro-business Republicans.

Mr. Minor’s political activity may have cost him dearly. He is serving an 11-year sentence, convicted of a crime that does not look much like a crime at all. The case is one of several new ones coming to light that suggest that the department’s use of criminal prosecutions to help Republicans win elections may go farther than anyone realizes. …

…Mr. Minor, whose firm made more than $70 million in fees in his state’s tobacco settlement, suspects it was his role in the 2000 Mississippi Supreme Court elections that put a target on his back. The United States Chamber of Commerce spent heavily to secure a Republican, pro-business majority, while Mr. Minor contributed heavily to the other side.

The Chamber of Commerce was particularly eager to replace Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. on the state Supreme Court. After Justice Diaz was re-elected, the Bush Justice Department hit him with a number of fraud, bribery, and tax evasion charges, none of which stood up in court. Justice Diaz, acquitted, is still serving on the bench.

But Paul Minor was not so fortunate. Although he was acquitted of a number of similar charges brought against him, the feds finally found a jury that would convict Minor on vague allegations of trying to get an “unfair advantage” from a judge.

Mr. Minor’s prosecution, like the others in this scandal, gave a big boost to the Republican Party. The case intimidated trial lawyers into stopping their political activity. “The disappearance of the trial-lawyer money all but wiped out the Democratic Party in Mississippi,” Stephanie Mencimer reports in her book, “Blocking the Courthouse Door.” …

…And there is the matter of timing. The prosecution of Mr. Minor and Justice Diaz came just as Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, was running for re-election against Republican Haley Barbour. The Republicans spent heavily to tie Mr. Musgrove to Mr. Minor, and Mr. Musgrove was defeated.

And then there’s Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, serving more than seven years in prison on dubious charges, and Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin civil servant who was freed after serving four months on baseless corruption charges.

In Wisconsin, Ms. Thompson’s trial coincided perfectly with Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s re-election campaign, and Republicans tried to link Doyle to Thompson. Mr. Siegelman’s prosecution looks like it was timed to prevent him from becoming governor again. It may be that all three of these cases were simply attempts to use the Justice Department to get Republican governors elected.

Ms. Thompson was fortunate to get a good federal appeals court panel, which ordered her released. Mr. Minor and Mr. Siegelman may not be so lucky. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and many other key players in the United States attorneys scandal are gone, but Congress has a lot more work to do in uncovering the damage they have done to the justice system.

Yesterday, Adam Zagorin reported for Time magazine that Karl Rove himself may be linked to the Siegelman case.

A Republican lawyer claims she was told that Karl Rove — while serving as President Bush’s top political adviser — had intervened in the Justice Department’s prosecution of Alabama’s most prominent Democrat. Longtime Alabama G.O.P. activist Dana Jill Simpson first made the allegation in June, but has now provided new details in a lengthy sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee. …

…Simpson said in June that she heard a close associate of Rove say that the White House political adviser “had spoken with the Department of Justice” about “pursuing” Don Siegelman, a former Democratic governor of Alabama, with help from two of Alabama’s U.S. attorneys. Siegelman was later indicted on 32 counts of corruption, convicted on seven of them, and is currently serving an 88-month sentence in Federal prison.

TIME has obtained a copy of Simpson’s 143-page sworn statement to the Judiciary Committee. She recalls conversations in early 2005 with Rob Riley, Jr., son of Alabama’s current Republican governor, over his father’s coming gubernatorial race, in which Siegelman appeared to be the top Democratic challenger. The younger Riley, she says, told her that his father and Bill Canary, the state’s top Republican political operative and a longtime friend of Rove, contacted Rove in late 2004, after which he intervened with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity section to push for criminal prosecution of Siegelman. Months later, in May 2005, Siegelman was indicted, setting off a chain of events that led to his imprisonment and the end of his political career.

When Georgia Thompson’s case was reviewed by an appeals court last spring, one of the judges actually said:

“I have to say it strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin,” federal Appeals Judge Diane Wood told prosecutors. “I’m not sure what your actual theory in this case is.”

Eye Opener

If you looking for something to read, go to and read about “Bush’s Monica Problem.” See also Christy’s comments.

This article clarifies much about the Bush Justice Department that was hazy to me, including the role played by John Yoo. It also reveals there was a major standoff between the Justice Department and the White House over warrantless wiretapping, with as many as 30 top DoJ officials threatening to resign.

I’m only going to quote a couple of paragraphs —

Bush’s role has remained shadowy throughout the controversy over the eavesdropping program. But there are strong suggestions that he was an active presence. On the night after Ashcroft’s operation, as Ashcroft lay groggy in his bed, his wife, Janet, took a phone call. It was Andy Card, asking if he could come over with Gonzales to speak to the attorney general. Mrs. Ashcroft said no, her husband was too sick for visitors. The phone rang again, and this time Mrs. Ashcroft acquiesced to a visit from the White House officials. Who was the second caller, one with enough power to persuade Mrs. Ashcroft to relent? The former Ashcroft aide who described this scene would not say, but senior DOJ officials had little doubt who it was—the president. (The White House would not comment on the president’s role.) Ashcroft’s chief of staff, David Ayres, then called Comey, Ashcroft’s deputy, to warn him that the White House duo was on the way. With an FBI escort, Comey raced to the hospital to try to stop them, but Ashcroft himself was strong enough to turn down his White House visitors’ request.

The morning after the scene at Ashcroft’s hospital bed, the president met with Comey. “We had a full and frank discussion, very informed. He was very focused,” Comey later testified, choosing his words carefully. But it wasn’t until Bush had met with Mueller that the president agreed to take steps (still unspecified, but probably involving more oversight) to bring the eavesdropping program back inside the boundaries of the law. Mueller has never said what he told the president, but it is a good bet that he said he would resign if the changes were not made. Bush could not afford to see Mueller go, nor could he risk losing the rest of the Justice Department leadership over a matter of principle in an election year.

After this, a noticable chill set in between Ashcroft’s team at DoJ and the White House. Over the next few months Ashcroft and several other top DoJ officials decided to spend more time with their families. The article suggests that in Ashcroft’s case this was not entirely voluntary.

Solicitor General Ted Olson was also out, either voluntarily or otherwise. Remember, Olson personally represented Bush in the Bush v. Gore SCOTUS case. He also provided assistance to Paula Jones’s legal team in their case against President Clinton, and was a big public cheerleader for Kenneth Starr and his witch hunts. More recently Olson signed off on Wolfie’s girlfriend’s compensation package. If Olson isn’t a team player, I don’t know who is. Yet even he bailed out of the DoJ.

Update: Emptywheel says the Newsweek story gets the time frame wrong:

The hospital confrontation happened on March 10. The pact to resign may have happened on March 10 or 11 (Comey had a resignation letter dated March 10, but Ashcroft’s chief of staff persuaded him to hold off until Ashcroft could resign at the same time). March 11 was the day of the Madrid train bombings which didn’t, Chuck Schumer made sure to point out, dissuade Comey from resigning. And the discussion between Bush and Comey and, then, Mueller, happened on March 12.

So who cares? Why worry about the dates?

Simply, because by collapsing this two day period into one, you avoid noting one of the most important parts of this story: on his own authority, Bush reauthorized the program without the support from DOJ. The program operated for at least 24 hours without even the promise of changes to satisfy the DOJ.

Maybe this is just sloppy editing. But given that Isikoff had a hand in this article, I find it troubling that a narrative trying to tie all these events together ignores Bush’s clear contempt for the law (it does, however, provide a useful description of Bush’s role in calling Mrs. Ashcroft to get Gonzales and Card admitted into the hospital). It’s not just that Gonzales and Card attempted to override Comey’s acting authority, this story is primarily about Bush’s role overriding the counsel of those paid to offer that counsel.

The Newsweek story also allows a Bushie shill to have the next-to-last word:

Goodling’s only crime was her lack of subtlety, said Mark Corallo, the Justice Department’s chief of public affairs under Ashcroft, and Goodling’s onetime boss. “She probably was a little too overt about it,” Corallo told NEWSWEEK. “But let’s face it—the Democrats do this, too, they all do it. The idea that career employees are above politics is total crap. The so-called career employees are mostly liberal Democrats.” He noted that in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, career employees refused for months to hang portraits of Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft.

Emptywheel questions whether U.S. Attorney’s offices normally feature photos of the vice president. And she asks, “Were career prosecutors objecting to one picture, presumably replacing pictures of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno? Or were career prosecutors objecting to the kind of hagiography that brought down the Soviet Union?”

That’s a story I’d like to hear.

Update 2: Knee slapper du jour — “Seriously, if Ann Coulter had been born a girl, she’d probably look something like Monica Goodling.”

Getting Even

Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers report that

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.

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.

But Friedrich declined to pursue a related matter from Wisconsin, he told congressional investigators, because an inquiry so close to an election could inappropriately sway voting results. Friedrich decided not to pass the matter on to the criminal division for investigation, even though Sampson gave him a 30-page report prepared by Republican activists that made claims of voting fraud.

Friedrich testified in a closed-door session, but a “senior congressional aide familiar with the testimony” described it to McClatchy Newspapers.

After Murray Waas reported yesterday

The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

… I’d say it would be hard for the White House to claim that Karl or somebody was not trying to use the Justice Department to gain advantage in midterm elections. The White House, of course, claims this anyway.

At Salon, Garrett Epps writes that “the assault on voter fraud was a solution looking for a problem.”

Republicans do cherish their little practical jokes — the leaflets in African-American neighborhoods warning that voters must pay outstanding traffic tickets before voting; the calls in Virginia in 2006 from the mythical “Virginia Election Commission” warning voters they would be arrested if they showed up at the polls. The best way to steal an election is the old-fashioned way: control who shows up. It’s widely known that Republicans do better when the turnout is lighter, whiter, older and richer; minorities, young people and the poor are easy game for hoaxes and intimidation.

The latest and most elaborate of these jokes is the urban legend that American elections are rife with voter fraud, particularly in the kinds of poor and minority neighborhoods inhabited by Democrats. In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fraudulent voting would be a major target of the Department of Justice. As the New York Times reported last month, the main result of this massive effort was such coups as the deportation of a legal immigrant who mistakenly filled out a voter-registration card while waiting in line at the department of motor vehicles.

But the administration has remained ferociously committed to suppressing voter fraud — as soon as it can find some.

I like this bit:

As part of the Help America Vote Act, Republicans insisted on creating the Election Assistance Commission, which commissioned studies of the asserted problem. When the studies failed to turn up evidence of fraud nationwide, appointed Republican officials on the EAC insisted that the language say only that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud in elections” — the same approach to inconvenient evidence that’s made the Bush global-warming policy the envy of the world.

IMO the legend that Democrats only get elected because they cheat has been brewing among Republicans for decades. You might remember that the old big city bosses, from William Tweed of New York to Richard Daley (the Elder) of Chicago, were famous for delivering votes for Democrats using less than honest means. But though he’s been dead for more than thirty years, the ghost of Richard Daley, the last of the bosses, still haunts the GOP.

For decades after the 1960 presidential elections Republicans complained that John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon only because Daley stuffed ballot boxes to deliver Chicago (and thereby Illinois) for Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson likewise fixed the vote in Texas. The legend is that Richard Nixon shrugged it off and let Kennedy get away with stealing the election. The truth is that local and national GOP officials investigated allegations of fraud vigorously and challenged results in many precincts in court. As David Greenburg wrote in Slate awhile back, the only tangible result of the several recounts was that Hawaii’s three electoral votes were taken away from Nixon and given to Kennedy. Otherwise, whatever fraud probably occurred wasn’t significant enough to have changed the outcome.

Nevertheless, I noticed through the years that many rank-and-file Republicans nursed a massive grudge about being cheated at the polls. As a result, IMO, they see fraud every time a Democrat wins an election. And they’ve developed a sense of entitlement that it’s OK for them to cheat back.

An article by Phyllis Schlafly written in December 2000 justifies George Bush’s “win” by dredging up the ghost of the 1960 election (“The stuffing of the ballot boxes in Cook County, Illinois and in Texas has been so well substantiated that it is no longer disputed today.”) and implying that William Daley, Gore’s campaign manager, was a vote-stealer like this old man.

See also this “analysis” of the 2000 Florida recount that presents most of the rumors and allegations flying around at the time —

As this is written, we do not know who will be the next president,” the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal declared on Nov. 9, 1960, as the nation awaited results in the presidential contest between Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. The closeness of that 1960 race and the undeniable fraud were followed by the manly response of Nixon. What a far cry that was from the lachrymose Chinese opera now surrounding Al Gore and George W. Bush as history no longer is being repeated but reshaped.

Despite allegations of Democratic election fraud, particularly in Texas and Chicago, where former senator Lyndon Johnson and the family of former mayor Richard J. Daley were past masters at political pilfering, the Nixon campaign surmised that legal challenges would, in the end, be fruitless. The Gore campaign saw the landscape differently. In fact, it produced a “Chad”-aquiddick drama that has cast a cloud over the Sunshine State’s 25 electoral votes — something which may have been foreseen by Gore when he chose Richard J. Daley’s son, William Daley, to be his campaign manager.

The pattern was there. From the hyperactive get-out-the-vote effort launched by the Democratic National Committee and such sympathetic interest groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized labor, the ward-healing Democrats were well ahead of their more inhibited GOP rivals. With Gore unable to gin up enough energy with his policy lectures and high-spirited, pulpit-pounding pronouncements, the party stepped up its effort to scour every county, district and precinct in search of Gore voters who might be bused, wheeled or carried drooling to the polls. Churches, schools, homeless shelters, mental asylums, nursing homes and even prisons were seen as housing potential voters to do their bit for the veep.

I remember at the time encountering a Bush supporter who was absolutely certain the Gore campaigned had bussed thousands of illegal immigrants across the border to vote for Gore. There were also rumors about thousands of convicted felons who had voted for Gore.

I have no idea if Karl Rove himself believes the legends, but I do know that Karl is brilliant at manipulating right-wing resentment and paranoia about “liberals” and Democrats. That’s where the sense of entitlement comes in; the Right long has believed it is literally at war with us, and all’s fair in war. Take, for example, the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” of paid GOP operatives who terrorized the Miami-Dade canvassing board into stopping their vote recount. To us, that was bare-knuckle thuggery. But to righties it was a righteous strike for justice against an evil, powerful oppressor.

At this point I don’t think any amount of hard evidence would dissuade these loons that voter fraud is not the massive problem they think it is and that they are not entitled to cheat back. They see themselves as the peasants storming the Bastille. And yes, they’re nuts. What else is new?

Crumbs on His Face

Murray Waas reports at National Journal:

The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove’s role in supporting Griffin.

In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post. A month later, the Justice Department apologized in writing to the Senate Democrats for the earlier letter, saying it had been inaccurate in denying that Rove had played a role.

The White House denies everything.

Meanwhile, the House has been debating all day, a process that mostly involves yielding minutes to each other. It’s a ceremonial thing, I guess. Now they are about to start three hours of debate on three bills, meaning the vote on the biggie, the Iraq War spending bill, probably won’t take place until early evening eastern time. They’re also going to debate and then vote on the McGovern bill, which would mandate that troop withdrawal from Iraq must begin in three months and be completed in six months. It’s not expected to pass, but it would be nice to see a close vote.

Election Frauds

There’s a must-read article by Charles Savage in today’s Boston Globe about Bradley Schlozman, a loyal Bushie. In March 2006 Schlozman became U.S. attorney to western Missouri, replacing a prior attorney considered too lax on voter fraud cases. Per the new Patriot Act provision, the Justice Department didn’t bother to seek Senate confirmation for Schlozman’s appointment. Less than a week before the 2006 midterm elections, Schlozman announced felony indictments of four workers for the liberal activist group ACORN on voter registration fraud charges.

Republicans, who had been pushing for restrictive new voting laws, applauded. But critics said Schlozman violated a department policy to wait until after an election to bring voter fraud indictments if the case could affect the outcome, either by becoming a campaign issue or by scaring legitimate voters into staying home.

Schlozman is emerging as a focal point of the investigation into the firing of eight US attorneys last year — and as a symbol of broader complaints that the Bush administration has misused its stewardship of law enforcement to give Republicans an electoral edge.

No stranger to election law controversy, Schlozman previously spent three years as a political appointee in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, where he supervised the voting rights section.

There, he came into conflict with veteran staff over his decisions to approve a Texas redistricting plan and a Georgia photo-ID voting law, both of which benefited Republicans. He also hired many new career lawyers with strong conservative credentials, in what critics say was an attempt to reduce enforcement of laws designed to eliminate obstacles to voting by minorities.

“Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division,” said Joe Rich , who was chief of the voting rights section until taking a buyout in 2005, in an interview. “Schlozman didn’t know anything about voting law. . . . All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win.”

If only they showed as much interest in government as they have in winning elections. Anyway, Missouri’s new Dem senator, Claire McCaskill, has requested that Schlozman testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Savage writes that the Bushies took an “interest” in voting laws after the close 2000 elections (seems to me they had already developed an “interest” before the 2000 elections). In May 2003 Schlozman was promoted to deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, which is supposed to oversee redistricting and new election laws to be sure minority voters aren’t getting screwed. In Schlozman’s case, think “fox overseeing henhouse.” In the fall of 2005, he became acting head of the division.

Schlozman and his team soon came into conflict with veteran voting rights specialists. Career staff committees recommended rejecting a Texas redistricting map in 2003 and a Georgia photo ID voting law in 2005, saying they would dilute minority voting power. In both cases, the career veterans were overruled. But courts later said the map and the ID law were illegal.

Bob Kengle , a former deputy voting rights chief who left in 2005, said Schlozman also pushed the section to divert more resources into lawsuits forcing states to purge questionable voters from their rolls. One such lawsuit was against Missouri, where he later became US attorney. A court threw the Missouri lawsuit out this year.

Schlozman also moved to take control of hiring for the voting rights section, taking advantage of a new policy that gave political appointees more control. Under Schlozman, the profile of the career attorneys hired by the section underwent a dramatic transformation.

Half of the 14 career lawyers hired under Schlozman were members of the conservative Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, up from none among the eight career hires in the previous two years, according to a review of resumes. The average US News & World Report ranking of the law school attended by new career lawyers plunged from 15 to 65.

Paul Kiel reported a couple of weeks ago that Schlozman allegedly would ask whether a potential applicant was a Republican before considering interviewing him.

Then in 2006 Scholzman became a U.S. attorney without benefit of Senate conformation and did his best to use his office to help Republicans win the midterm elections. But recently, the Bushies suddenly took a notion to replace Schlozman with someone else. Schlozman now works in the Justice Department office that supervises U.S. attorneys. Grand.

Last week Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers provided some more background about alleged voter fraud in Missouri and made the all-important Karl Rove connection.

Few have endorsed the strategy of pursuing allegations of voter fraud with more enthusiasm than White House political guru Karl Rove. And nowhere has the plan been more apparent than in Missouri.

Before last fall’s election:

-Schlozman, while he was acting civil rights chief, authorized a suit accusing the state of failing to eliminate legions of ineligible people from lists of registered voters. A federal judge tossed out the suit this April 13, saying Democratic Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan couldn’t police local registration rolls and noting that the government had produced no evidence of fraud.

-The Missouri General Assembly – with the White House’s help – narrowly passed a law requiring voters to show photo identification cards, which Carnahan estimated would disenfranchise 200,000 voters. The state Supreme Court voided the law as unconstitutional before the election.

-Two weeks before the election, the St. Louis Board of Elections sent letters threatening to disqualify 5,000 newly registered minority voters if they failed to verify their identities promptly, a move – instigated by a Republican appointee – that may have violated federal law. After an outcry, the board rescinded the threat.

-Five days before the election, Schlozman, then interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, announced indictments of four voter-registration workers for a Democratic-leaning group on charges of submitting phony applications, despite a Justice Department policy discouraging such action close to an election.

-In an interview with conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt a couple of days before the election, Rove said he’d just visited Missouri and had met with Republican strategists who “are well aware of” the threat of voter fraud. He said the party had “a large number of lawyers that are standing by, trained and ready to intervene” to keep the election clean.

Missouri Republicans have railed about alleged voter fraud ever since President Bush narrowly won the White House in the chaotic 2000 election and Missouri Republican Sen. John Ashcroft lost to a dead man, the late Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, whose name stayed on the ballot weeks after he died in a plane crash.

Joining the push to contain “voter fraud” were Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., who charged that votes by dogs and dead people had defeated Ashcroft, Missouri Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, whose stinging allegations of fraud were later debunked, and St. Louis lawyer Mark “Thor” Hearne, national counsel to Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, who set up a nonprofit group to publicize allegations of voter fraud.

The problem is, there is very little tangible evidence of voter fraud in Missouri. The charges filed against ACORN were about some low-level workers who were supposed to be helping people register to vote. Appatently they were being paid a few bucks for every completed voter registration form they could bring in, and some of the workers tried to pad their paychecks a bit by filling out forms with fictitious information.

In this February press release, Schlozman delcares trimphantly that one Dale D. Franklin of Kansas City had pleaded guilty to turning in “a voter registration application on which Franklin forged the signature of the applicant and on which the address and telephone number listed were false.” A voter registration application. As in one fake application. Wow.

Registering fake voters is a crime, but I don’t believe there is evidence that anyone tried to use the fake names to actually vote. Seems to be ACORN was the victim of the fraud, not the perpetrator.

If you want to see real voter fraud, check out what happened during the November 2000 elections:

It’s difficult to capture the emotional debate over the issue of voter fraud in Missouri without considering the Election Day tumult in St. Louis on Nov. 7, 2000. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voters were turned away because their names weren’t on official lists, and many of them converged on the city’s election board seeking assistance.

Responding to the bedlam, Democrats won an emergency court order that kept some polls open beyond their scheduled 7 p.m. closings. That outraged Republicans, and Hearne, the Bush campaign lawyer, in turn won an emergency appeals-court ruling that shut the polls within an hour.

You will not be surprised to find out that the citizens whose names mysteriously disappeared off official lists were mostly African Americans from economically depressed precincts. Not exactly the standard Republican voter base. But the fascinating part of this, to me, is that Republicans used this shameful episode to whip up outrage against the “criminal enterprise” that cost Republican Senate candidate John Ashcroft the election. (You might remember that Ashcroft was defeated by the corpse of Gov. Mel Carnahan.) In the minds of Republicans, African American citizens who are likely to vote for Democrats amount to a “criminal enterprise.”

And I doubt very much that a few fake voter registration forms in Kansas City had much to do with what happened in St. Louis, which is on the other side of the state.

An editorial in today’s New York Times says that the U.S. attorney scandal “is only getting bigger and more disturbing.”

New reports of possible malfeasance keep coming fast and furious. They all seem to make it more likely than ever that the firings were part of an attempt to turn the Justice Department into a partisan political operation. There is, to start, the very strong appearance that United States attorneys were fired because they were investigating powerful Republicans or refused to bring baseless charges against Democrats. There is reason to believe that Carol Lam of San Diego, who put Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman, in jail, and Paul Charlton of Arizona, who was investigating Representative Rick Renzi, among others, were fired simply for their nonpartisan pursuit of justice.


See also: “The U.S. Attorney, the G.O.P. Congressman and the Timely Job Offer.”