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.”