Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rove's Sticky Wicket Continues To Unwind

Ill: Signs of the World Burns Times

Update: Next in line to testify
It's dizzying trying to keep track of all of them, but stay tuned. Today The Legal Times reported that former attorney in the Civil Rights Division Bradley Schlozman will soon be called to testify in the ongoing occupation of the Department of Justice scandal. Seems that the only civil rights Bradley was interested in looking out for was those of long overlooked & neglected poor persecuted rich white GOP persons.
"In 2003, when Schlozman became a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division overseeing the voting section, he took charge of hiring, a responsibility historically handled by career attorneys. 'At that point there was no transparency, you didn’t know how hiring was done,' says Joseph Rich, who spent 37 years in the Civil Rights Division and was chief of the voting section from 1999 to 2005. 'You just knew the front office in the Civil Rights Division was handling all the hiring.'
"An investigation by The Boston Globe last year showed that Schlozman’s hiring in the voting section, which oversees changes to election laws in states with a history of discrimination, changed markedly from that of his predecessors. That investigation, based on Freedom of Information Act requests, found that seven of the 14 career lawyers hired under Schlozman belonged to either the Republican National Lawyers Association or the right-leaning Federalist Society. In the previous two years, according to the Globe, none of the section’s eight hires had such backgrounds.
"In addition to his hiring policies, Schlozman is also expected to be grilled by senators on the division’s stance in a number of controversial cases. In 2003, an eight-person team from the voting section’s career staff universally recommended that the Justice Department oppose a controversial Texas redistricting plan backed by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). That recommendation was overruled by political appointees, and Republicans won five additional Congressional seats in Texas in 2004. (In a 5-4 decision last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the redistricting plan.)
"In 2005, the department signed off on a voter identification law in Georgia that much of the Justice Department’s career staff ... believed would have a discriminatory effect on minority voting. A federal judge in Georgia would later issue an injunction blocking the new law from taking effect.
"Schlozman also pushed for the Justice Department to bring a civil suit against the state of Missouri for failing to force local officials to strike the names of ineligible voters from voter rolls in a number of counties. Graves, then the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Missouri, had chosen not to pursue it.
“'I had reservations about the case,' Graves told Legal Times last week. 'I just absented myself from the whole situation.' Democrats have suggested that Graves’ firing was linked to his decision in the voter fraud case...
Schlozman's " suit was eventually dismissed by a federal court in Missouri this spring. In her April 13 decision, Judge Nanette Laughery of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Missouri noted the Justice Department had 'not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote . . . Nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred.'
"Schlozman is also certain to be queried about a voter fraud indictment he brought during the closely fought 2006 U.S. senate race in Missouri. Those charges, against four registration workers for a Democratic-leaning group, were announced less than a week before the election — a departure from the Justice Department guidelines discouraging such charges so close to an election.
Update: Another Resignation
Last Thursday, Tim Griffin, infamous Karl Rove protege who went to the head of the class (otherwise unaccountably) for the position of US attorney in Arkansas, & whose promotion displaced a sitting US attorney who maybe wasn't such a "loyal Bushie," has abruptly resigned after BBC (yes, BBC, the British news outfit), obtained some emails that seem to indicate why Karl Rove was so insistent that Griffin get the position: Griffin was instrumental in carrying out an underhanded scheme to purge certain voters from the rolls during the presidential election. Congressman John Conyers sat up & took notice, & met with the journalist to review the email. He may as well, because he seems to get nowhere with the same endeavor in our own country.
British correspondent Greg Palast "obtained a series of confidential emails from the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. In these emails, Griffin, then the GOP Deputy Communications Director, transmitted so-called ‘caging lists’ of voters to state party leaders.
"Experts have concluded the caging lists were designed for a mass challenge of voters’ right to cast ballots. The caging lists were heavily weighted with minority voters including homeless individuals, students and soldiers sent overseas.
"Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee investigating the firing of US Attorneys, met Thursday evening in New York with Palast. After reviewing key documents, Conyers stated that, despite Griffin’s resignation, 'We’re not through with him by any means.'
"Conyers indicated to the BBC that he thought it unlikely that Griffin could carry out this massive ‘caging’ operation without the knowledge of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rove.
"Griffin has not responded to requests by BBC to explain this ‘caging’ operation. However, in emails subpoenaed by Conyers’ committee, Griffin complains to Monica Goodling, an assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, about the BBC reporter’s reproduction of caging lists in his book, 'Armed Madhouse.'
"In the email dated February 5 of this year, Griffin stated that the purpose of ‘caging’ was to identify 'fraudulent' voters. This contradicts one explanation of the Bush campaign to BBC that the lists were of potential donors and not in any way created to challenge voters.
"Griffin confidentially wrote: 'The real story is this: There were thousands of reported illegal/fake voter registrations around the country, so some of the Republican State Parties mailed letters welcoming new voters to the newly registered voters. … The Republican State Parties ultimately wanted to show that thousands of fraudulent registrations had been completed.”
Caging is the euphemistic term for the practice of sending letters with instructions that they not be forwarded, to registered voters. If for some reason the voter had moved, was homeless, a student, or was abroad in the miltary, the letter would be returned to the sender, taken as evidence that the voter's registration was fraudulent, & the name removed from the voter registration rolls.
In another wrinkle, "Monica Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee that Gonzales’ Deputy Paul McNulty, recently resigned himself, 'failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote ‘caging’ during his work on the President’s 2004 campaign.'

"Goodling’s testimony prompted Conyers’ request to the BBC for the Griffin emails.
Last night Palast showed Conyers a Griffin email from August 2004 indicating that Griffin not only knew of ‘caging,’ but directed the operation."
* * *
It shouldn't be news when "lifelong Republicans" in politics begin to display shreds of a conscience extending beyond the drive to win at all costs, by hook or by crook, but it is ~ & also a stunning lesson in how far off the tracks America has been driven by political operatives & blind party hacks.

Packing local courts with Republican judges & U.S. Attorney posts with loyal operatives to provide the appearance, if not the substance, of legitimacy is something we are all too willing to believe occurs in Third World dictatorships. The fact that it's been happening in American politics has taken years to come to light.

Case in point: the Alabama governorship. When incumbent Democrat Siegelman announced he would run again, & won, Karl Rove allegedly swung into action & fixed things with the help of some ambitious & friendly US prosectors. There was also a highly suspicious "abrupt turnaround" in the vote count, giving the election to Republican Riley, even though Democrat Sielegman won the election at first blush. He pressed for a recount; now he's the former governor of Alabama & faces time behind bars on what his defense lawyers claim are trumped up & bogus charges. A federal court dismissed the charges; a local court was persuaded to take them seriously. (Time article, title bar.)

"Now Karl Rove, the President's top political strategist, has been implicated in the controversy. A longtime Republican lawyer in Alabama swears she heard a top G.O.P. operative in the state say that Rove 'had spoken with the Department of Justice' about 'pursuing' Siegelman, with help from two of Alabama's U.S. attorneys.

"The allegation was made by Dana Jill Simpson, a lifelong Republican and lawyer who practices in Alabama. She made the charges in a May 21 affidavit, obtained by TIME, in which she describes a conference call on November 18, 2002, which involved a group of senior aides to Bob Riley, who had just narrowly defeated Siegelman in a bitterly contested election for governor. Though Republican Riley, a former Congressman, initially found himself behind by several thousand votes, he had pulled ahead at the last minute when disputed ballots were tallied in his favor. After the abrupt vote turnaround, Siegelman sought a recount. The Simpson affidavit says the conference call focused on how the Riley campaign could get Siegelman to withdraw his challenge.
"[William] Canary, [of the Republican National Committee] said 'not to worry — that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman,' the Simpson affidavit says.

"Both U.S. attorney offices subsequently indicted Siegelman on a variety of charges, although Leura Canary recused herself from dealing with the case in May 2002. A federal judge dismissed the Northern District case before it could be tried, but Siegelman was convicted in the Middle District on bribery and conspiracy charges last June.

"William Canary called the allegations 'outrageous' and 'the desperate act of a desperate politician.' Terry Butts [also present during the conference call], 'I do not recall this telephone conversation — this whole story must have been created by a drunk fiction writer.' A White House spokesman told TIME that since the case of former Governor Siegelman remained before the courts, it would have no comment.
"In an interview with TIME, Simpson confirmed that the 'Karl' cited in her sworn statement was Karl Rove. 'There's absolutely no question it was Karl Rove, no doubt whatsoever,' she said. She also said she has phone records to back up the date and duration of her phone calls.
"In her interview with TIME, Simpson said the participants in the conference call expressed growing concern that Gov. Siegelman would refuse to give up his challenge to the vote count. According to Simpson, Rob Riley [son of the Republican candidate] said, 'Siegelman's just like a cockroach, he'll never die, what are we going to do?' At that point Canary offered reassurance by citing Rove's news from Justice Department.

To her everlasting credit, Dana Simpson "said she had long been troubled by the conference call conversation, and even consulted an official of the Alabama State Bar Association to determine whether she could disclose it publicly without violating her obligations as a volunteer working for the Riley campaign. She was told, she said, that she was free to speak of the matter.

"Simpson said she grew more concerned about the matter after Siegelman's conviction last June. She says she told several friends about the conference call; one of them, Mark Bollinger, a former aide to a Democratic attorney general in Alabama and in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, has given his own affidavit, obtained by TIME, swearing that Simpson had told him of the conference call and Rove's alleged statements.

"The federal investigation of Siegelman culminated in a criminal prosecution that became public not long after Siegelman announced that he would run again for governor of Alabama in 2006. Partly because of the investigation, Siegelman failed in his bid for the Democratic nomination.

"Siegelman, together with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, was convicted on bribery and conspiracy charges and faces sentencing June 26. Lawyers for Siegelman and Scrushy told TIME they were considering whether to use Simpson's affadavit in expected motions to dismiss charges against their clients, or in some other phase of what is likely to be a protracted appeals process.

"Siegelman was convicted of appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for a $500,000 contribution to a campaign for a state lottery to fund education. Defense lawyers have argued that Siegelman drew no personal financial benefit from Scrushy's donation to the lottery campaign, and they note that Scrushy had served on the hospital regulatory board under three previous governors, before Siegelman reappointed him. The reappointment, they have argued, offered little of value to Scrushy except more work."

Not to mention that if appointing foxes to guard henhouses in handing over government regulatory agencies to the very industries they should be policing ~ a very odd practice when one actually thinks about it ~ Democrats who do so are indeed infringing on a Republican patent. Perhaps that's the real "crime."

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