Joseph D. Rich, chief of the voting section in the Justice Department’s civil rights division from 1999 to 2005, writes in the LA Times today on “Bush’s long history of tilting Justice”. In what has to be yet another card falling from the GOP/BushCO house, Rich reveals the all too familiar pattern of Bush’s political appointees interfering with the work of long term civil servants for political gain.
I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.
Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
How many times have Democrats and Progressives tried to point out that voter fraud has become the trademark of GOP election success?
It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.
At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats
In his testimony to Congress today, Kyle Sampson , former chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales, made this dumbfounding assertion:
“The distinction between political and performance-related reasons for removing a U.S. attorney is, in my view, largely artificial,”
Mr. Sampson, does the difference between performance-related reasons based on political actions in violation of the Hatch law, and performance related reasons based on policy constitute a ‘natural’ distinction? I could understand that difference. I can also understand why Rich, many US Attorneys and civil servant attorneys are upset about what has been going on in the DoJ for six years.
Rich continues the history of justice tilting in favor of the GOP.
This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman’s central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.
Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.
This is particulary striking because Delay’s redistricting added 5 house seats into the GOP lead. Just about the number of votes that several pieces of critical legislation passed on. The damage gets worse. Just like FEMA and other agencies in the Federal Government that rely on highly professional experts who are willing to work at government pay, not to mention the onmnipresent accusations of incompetence, the DoJ has lost many of those dedicated employees.
Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.
Who could disagree when Rich notes,
As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.
On top of the tilting of journalism to the GOP for the past six or more years, we have had more of the Justice Department than the Supreme Court interfering with the American vote. I have said before and repeat: the Democrats have done a very impressive job of getting elected and maintaining the margins in Congress that they have. At least the people interfering in the election did not succeed in keeping the American voters from getting oversight back to Congress. Maybe we can get out of this nightmare.
Update: In the NYT yesterday, more on the BushCo history of political appointees interfering with the department experts.“Report Says Interior Official Overrode Work of Scientists”