Analysis: Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys have 'partisan records'
President George Bush and the Justice Department, in selecting U.S. Attorney appointments, have emphasized the prosecution of alleged voter fraud by Democrats in electoral battleground states, a report by McClatchy Newspapers finds.
"Bush, Karl Rove, the president's deputy chief of staff, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the 'growing problem' of Democratic election fraud since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court," write Greg Gordon, Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor for McClatchy.
They continue, "Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division when it was rolling back long-standing voting rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters."
The report adds that a newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin of Little Rock, Ark., was accused of suppressing Democratic votes during the 2004 election while working as the research director for the Republican National Committee. Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo.com was among the first to raise questions about Griffin's appointment in January. The BBC's Greg Palast also recently explored the Griffin appointment.
Bush's appointments seem to also have been electorally targeted.
"Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association," McClatchy reports. "He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in 2008. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired."
Rove later thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected" and added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs."
Excerpts from the McClatchy Newspapers article, available in full at this link, follow...
Now the Bush administration's emphasis on voter fraud is drawing scrutiny from the Democratic Congress, which has begun investigating the firings of eight U.S. attorneys - two of whom say that their ousters may have been prompted by the Bush administration's dissatisfaction with their investigations of alleged Democratic voter fraud.
Bush has acknowledged hearing complaints from Republicans about some U.S. attorneys' "lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases," and administration e-mails have shown that Rove and other White House officials were involved in the dismissals and in the choice of an aide to Rove to replace one of them. Nonetheless, Bush has refused to permit congressional investigators to question Rove and others under oath.
Taken together, legal experts and other critics say, the replacement of the U.S. attorneys and the changes in Justice Department voting rights policies suggest that the Bush administration may have been using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes.
The department's civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."