Former US Attorney in DoJ Voting Section Reveals Pattern of Bush Interference on Political Cases

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 β€” particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies β€” 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:

β€œThe 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”

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6 Responses to Former US Attorney in DoJ Voting Section Reveals Pattern of Bush Interference on Political Cases

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    Phrasing your final thought another way, this administration has done an impressive job of making people mad enough to finally demand their government back. In anything less than a land slide vote, there’s no telling who would be sitting in Congress today.

    I believe that King George may once have had visions of extending his reign, but months and months of low approval numbers and having to finally deliver real answers to Congress seem to have taken all of the fun out of it for him. I just don’t think that his fragile ego can handle that much disapproval.

  2. Ginny Cotts says:

    Yup, I keep hoping this lesson will really stay in the minds of every voter for the rest of their lives. So a lot of generations to come will be hearing about it as well as learning from their history classes.

    George does seem to have lost his smirk. He had it on at the news gathering he and Rove attended last night and even then it seemed strained. And today he had to go back to more bad news. Fredo ‘was not accurate’. Gee, does that mean he lied???

    I feel like playing that new PSA radio commercial – where the kid is supposed to be playing his violin with a banana. It’s really obnoxious.

  3. Ginny

    There was a piece in the Boston Globe today from about this whole mess and ’08. Seems Ted Kennedy has figured out the scam:

    Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday accused President Bush of using the Department of Justice to further his administration’s “right-wing ideology,” saying that veteran prosecutors were replaced by political operatives in key states to ensure that “reliable partisans” are in place in time for the 2008 presidential election.

    Kennedy noted that the recent rash of firings among US attorneys put new top prosecutors in place in several presidential swing states, including Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Arkansas.

    At least two of the eight US attorneys fired by the administration refused to investigate spurious claims of voter fraud that were initiated by Republicans, Kennedy said. Two of the new US attorneys, meanwhile, had documented records of pursuing GOP goals, one as a Justice Department official and the other as a top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, he said.

  4. Adding to my last comment… I say IMPEACH THEM ALL at this point. IMPEACH THEM ALL!

  5. Zog The Obvious says:

    So how do we get this story (and the Ted Kennedy story as well, Pamela) out to the mainstream? The MSM has been doing a very good job (for once) of reporting on this scandal (although they continuously back away from the WORD “scandal”) but they still haven’t covered some of these more damning details, at least not that I’ve seen. Getting folks outraged is the key – until we do that, we can shout “impeach the bastards!” all we want, but it won’t go anywhere.

    Why don’t we democrats have a version of Fox News tailored for us?

  6. Ginny Cotts says:


    As always, you can write your newpapers and any other to run the LA Times piece.

    As far as a FOX for Democrats. First you have to have a Democrat who is rich enough to underwrite the station long enough to make it solvent. I don’t remember how much or how long FOX was kept alive, vaguely think 5 years in the hundreds of millions.

    A liberal is also not going to be as blatantly tilted either. It is the essence of liberal thinking to hold new ideas as opportunities to rethink your own. To check your premises, assumptions and facts. Especially in an age when the doubling of human knowledge is now less than two years.