ACORN has announced that it's assisting in two lawsuits filed against the New Mexico Republican GOP, alleging voter intimidation. The ACLU and Project Vote -- a group that's been described as an ACORN affiliate -- are filing suit in state court, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is suing in federal court, according to Matthew Henderson of ACORN's New Mexico office*.
News of the suits comes after the party publicly released the names of ten voters it falsely claimed had voted fraudulently, and after TPMmuckraker and others reported claims that a private investigator, who said he was working with state GOP lawyer Pat Rogers, had questioned two Hispanic voters about their eligibility to vote.
We reported Friday that, according to several voting-rights experts, the activities of the private investigator -- and perhaps those who hired him -- may violate federal law. Voting-rights advocates have forwarded reports of the encounters to DOJ voting officials.
In a press release, ACORN's Dana Gallegos said:
These are all minority voters. Many of them are young, and one is a new citizen. ACORN has worked hard to get these types of new voters involved in the democratic process. We will not tolerate attempts by the Republican Party to suppress the Hispanic vote in New Mexico.
* This paragraph has been edited from an earlier version.
Update: Here's the ACLU/Project Vote suit.
Update II: Here's the MALDEF suit, which names as defendants Pat Rogers and private investigator Al Romero.
This is the attitude of a large segment of Clintonites - people who saw idealism as a punchline,[...]
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In an October 27 WashingtonPost article about theKentucky Senate race, staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. uncritically reported that Senate Minority LeaderMitch McConnell asserted:"As a result of being chosen by my colleagues to be the Republicanleader, I've got people all over America who would love to see me lose, sothere's money coming in from San Francisco and Chicago and New York trying totear down your senator." But Bacon did not note that McConnell hasreceived significantly more money from[...]
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"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."
Ronald Reagan may have thought those words to be "terrifying" for ordinary Americans, but for members of the modern Republican Party, those words tickle the ears and raise hope in the heart. The cavalry has arrived for the embattled GOP, and three letters are emblazoned on its uniform -- D.O.J.
The Republican tactic of crying "vote fraud!" to suppress the vote began long ago, and only now is culminating in a long, drawn out whine of unprecedented proportions. Indeed, over a year ago, before the focus on ACORN, the RNC was peddling the "vote fraud" card.
But mere grumbles of "vote fraud" grew in direct response to John McCain's poll numbers--the more his numbers fell, the more Republicans turned to twisting isolated voter registration fraud into a widespread pattern of vote fraud which, as McCain shameless contended, would destroy the "fabric of democracy."
But the election is now just days away and McCain's path to victory is as slim as a tightrope.
Which is why the GOP has been hard at work building a "safety net" of sorts to catch the candidate if he falls. Weaving together isolated incidents of voter registration fraud, Republicans have coordinated a vile scheme whereby they can suppress voter turnout in key battleground states and attempt to cast doubt over a possible Obama victory.
The hot issue day of the "no name, no match". Under this tactic, if your name doesn't match government databases exactly, letter for letter, your name is purged from the voter rolls. CNN has an article today detailing the widespread purging of valid voters from voting rolls in key battleground states. In Ohio, the GOP ran to the courts seeking to prohibit 200,000 newly registered voters from voting (background here and here). The Ohio Supreme Court sided with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, and the GOP's appeal to the United States Supreme Court was fruitless.
But hey, this is the modern GOP, and they aren't going to let a little thing like an adverse court decision get in their way. Not when they have the executive branch ready to jump at a moment's notice.
Cue the parade of politicized professionals. The FBI is investigating ACORN registrations in various battleground states. The leak on the FBI investigation came from two "senior law enforcement officials." This wasn't a lowly government employee who leaked the news. It was a leak straight from the top, and an illegal leak to boot:
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election.
But it wasn't enough to have "senior law enforcement officials" leak news of an ACORN investigation to the press. No, the GOP needed more from its government.
On October 20th, House Minority Leader John Boehner sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting an immediate investigation into alleged "voter fraud." He did not receive a response right away, so just a few days later, on October 24th, Boehner penned a letter to President Bush, demanding that the President use his executive power to force the DOJ to go after the 200,000 newly registered voters in Ohio:
"Unless action is taken by the Department immediately, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of names whose information has not been verified through the HAVA procedures mandated by Congress will remain on the voter rolls during the November 4 election; and there is a significant risk if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted. Given the Election Day is less than two weeks away, immediate action by the Department is not only warranted, but also crucial," Boehner wrote in the letter.
Mere hours later, the President did the Minority Leader's bidding:
The White House has asked the Department of Justice to look into whether 200,000 new Ohio voters must reconfirm their registration information before Nov. 4, taking up an issue that Republicans and Democrats in the battleground state have been fighting over in court for weeks.
President Bush [on Friday] asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to review concerns over the voters raised by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). [...]
White House press secretary Dana Perino characterized Bush's referral of the matter to Justice as a routine step that would be taken for any such request from a congressional leader.
Voting rights advocates, however, immediately raised concerns. "This is taking the politicization of this to a new level, and the last thing we need is for the elections officials and voters of Ohio to be put in a chaotic situation in the last days before the election," said Jon Greenbaum of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Bob Bauer, counsel for the Obama campaign, like Boehner, had sent a letter to Mukaskey asking for an investigation into the coordinated voter suppression efforts of the GOP. Like Boehner, Bauer received no response. But in light of the fact that the President has stepped into this decidedly partisan affair, Bauer has sent another letter to Mukaskey (PDF):
We certainly hope that you do not take the fateful step, 11 days before the election, of involving the Department at the request of one of the political parties, the President's party, in matters properly left to election officials in the states. In Ohio and elsewhere, the federal and state courts have weighed in: the Secretary of State's legal position has been vindicated. Now is the time for preparations for the election to proceed without interference from any quarter -- and certainly any action by your Department, in light of the recent scandals in the Department, cannot fail to be seen as interference to satisfy desperate partisan political demands. [...]
For the Department now, in response to the intense politics of the moment, to abruptly intercede in the current work of state and local officials would inflict incalculable damage -- further and irreparable damage -- to your office and to the reputation of senior federal law enforcement.
As the good folks over at Election Protection note, the DOJ's policy with respect to election crims is: "Prosecution, Not Intervention." And it's own manual on the Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses states:
- "Because the federal prosecutor's function in the area of election fraud is not primarily preventative, any criminal investigation by the Department must be conducted in a way that minimizes the likelihood that the investigation itself may become a factor in the election."
- "The mere fact that a criminal investigation is being conducted may impact upon the adjudication of election litigation and contests in state courts...Accordingly, it is the general policy of the Department not to conduct overt investigations, including interviews with individual voters, until after the outcome of the election allegedly affected by the fraud is certified.
- "...deterrence (of fraud) is achieved by public awareness of the Department's prosecutive interest in, and prosecution of, election fraud – not through interference with the process itself."
And Attorney General Mukasey himself has promised while testifying to Congress:
"I repeated the message that politics must play no role in the decisions of investigators or prosecutors as to any investigations or criminal charges; that law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election; and that we must not do anything for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Those principles have even more weight in decisions concerning ballot access and voter integrity, and I am confident that all Department employees will follow them."
The President and his party continue to believe that the DOJ is simply an appendage of the Republican Party and that they may abuse their power and manipulate the rules in order to benefit their own political interests. Will Mukasey budge?
Meanwhile, former DOJ attorneys who worked in the Civil Rights Division have written to Mukasey asking that he not inject the DOJ into such a political situation (PDF):
"Allegations of voter registration fraud should not be taken lightly. But, it is because of the long recognized sensitivity to the role of federal law enforcement officials in elections that we have concern about press reports, apparently leaked to the press by FBI officials, that the Department recently opened a nationwide criminal investigation into the allegations of fraud in the voter registration efforts of a national community organization that was engaged in registering low income voters who are predominantly minority. It would seem that this is the kind of investigation that longtime Department policy dictates should not be initiated until after an election. We understand there may be exceptions to this policy, but it is not clear that this particular investigation should be one of those exceptions"
If the DOJ were to fight alongside the GOP in Ohio and force Brunner to purge the rolls of 200,000 newly registered voters, this would not only mark another shocking chapter in the politicization of the department, but it may also direcly affect who wins that state. Remember, George W. Bush won the state in 2004 by a just 118,457.
Before the President got involved, Rick Hansen over at the Election Law Blog noted:
The idea that the DOJ would get involved in the Ohio election now to force Sec. Brunner to produce the mismatch list on voter fraud grounds seems remote. The political uproar would be deafening.
But the rules have meant little to this President and his party, who have politicized nearly every nook and cranny of the federal government. If the last eight years of Republican government have proven anything, it is that when these Republicans are in positions of public trust, they will use their power almost exclusively to retain that power. And because of that, "I'm from the DOJ, and I'm here to help" are the sweetest words for a Republican Party desparate to suppress new voter turnout in this change election.
Video from Keith Olbermann summarizing the entire debacle below the fold.
She just had to go there. During an exchange on Late Edition Oct. 26, 2008, Heather Wilson could just not resist taking a cheap shot at Biden for his hair transplants and compares the money spent by the RNC on Palin's clothing to what Obama spends on his ties as well. Since the Republicans have tried to paint Palin as a Washington outsider, a maverick and reformer---this clothing spree certainly shattered that image.
Let us remember how the Republicans went wild over John Edwards 400.00 hair cut. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee used it as laugh lines at one of the Republican Primary debates.
BLITZER: Heather Wilson, are you embarrassed that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 buying designer outfits for Sarah Palin at Saks and Neiman-Marcus, another $20,000 for make-up in the first two weeks of October alone, $10,000 for hair? Is this what a hockey mom should be getting?
WILSON: Well, that sounds like there are some staffers at the RNC who need a little education on how to shop at Wal-Mart and Ross Direct. But it does concern me in the last 10 days of an election campaign we're talking about those things.
WILSON: And we could talk about Barack Obama's ties or the vice president's hair transplants or something like that.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Barack Obama doesn't spend that kind of money on ties. He buys them himself.
WILSON: But I would rather talk about things that matter like which direction we go to get our economy back on track. And we have two very different candidates in very different directions here, and I think that Americans should be concerned about Pelosi, Reid and Obama because Katie bar the door on government spending if that's the way Americans choose to go. And we will go back to very big government and government in your lives in every aspect of your life.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Wolf, when it comes to spending, it's the Republicans under the Bush administration that have gotten us into the biggest deficit in American history. We had a --
WILSON: It is the Congress that appropriates, Debbie, and you of all people know that.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: And the Congress was controlled by Republicans for eight out of the last 10 years, so let's keep that in mind.
WILSON: And we balanced for the first time since 1969.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: No, no, no, my dear, you got us into a deficit situation within three years of the Bush administration. So, we had a Clinton surplus and we have a Bush deficit and that's what John McCain would continue more of the same
Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin reports that Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) will appear on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes tonight, her fourth interview with Sean Hannity (including one appearance on his radio show). All told, this will be Palin’s fifth Fox News sit-down. But apparently that’s not enough for Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who demanded that Palin give an interview with each and every Fox News host:
KELLY: Was it the McCain campaign’s responsibility to give her out to other organizations so that there wasn’t this monopoly for an entire week of the Couric soundbites being run over and over and over? She has yet to do any Fox daytime. She has not gone on this broadcast. She hasn’t gone on Fox and Friends. She hasn’t done Brit Hume’s show. She hasn’t done O’Reilly. I mean, why let it just sit there, all week, just the Katie Couric soundbites over and over?
Her guest, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, agreed, saying Palin should have done more talk radio interviews. Watch it:
In the meantime, Palin still refuses to give a press conference.
Who said the following - “Some of our bankers have shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people’s funds. They have used the money entrusted to them in speculation and unwise loans.” George W. Bush? Hank…
An October 27 Washington Times articleuncritically reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "said [Sen. Barack]Obama forfeited the respect of the military by not voting on a resolutioncondemning MoveOn.org's 'General Betray Us' ad denouncing Gen.David H. Petraeus, which ran in the New York Times on the eve of the general'stestimony on the Iraq war." Reporters Stephen Dinan and S.A. Miller didnot note that while Obama was not present forthe vote on an amendment by Sen.John Cornyn (R-TX) that, in[...]
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Earlier this month, senior law enforcement sources leaked to the Associated Press the fact that the FBI has launched a nationwide investigation into whether ACORN is involved in a co-ordinated scheme to commit voter-fraud across the country.
In response to the AP report, several former DOJ voting-rights officials told TPMmuckraker that the decision to launch such an investigation so soon before an election -- not to mention the act of leaking it to the press -- is reminiscent of the politicization of DOJ that was exposed in the US Attorneys scandal.
But since then, we've seen few concrete facts about the probe. So it's worth taking a moment to lay out what we know, and what it might amount to.
Almost as soon as the news was reported, department sources tried to walk it back a bit, telling the New York Times that they were "wary of being pulled into a highly partisan controversy so close to Election Day," and stressing that the investigation would focus on separate state-based reports of ACORN submitting fraudulent voter-registration forms.
As we reported after the news broke, DOJ policy discourages law enforcement authorities from taking any action in the lead-up to an election which might "chill legitimate voting activities," as the department's own manual puts it. On Friday, some former department officials wrote a letter to Mukasey making exactly this point. (Though it's also worth remembering that under Alberto Gonzales, DOJ made changes to its manual that make it easer to bring voter-fraud cases closer to election day.)
The bureau may be sensitive to those concerns. ACORN itself says it still hasn't been formally contacted by the FBI in connection with a nationwide investigation, and we've seen little evidence that the bureau is proceeding with a heavy hand on the national level.
Still, in several states there's evidence of FBI involvement following complaints from local election officials about voter-registration fraud tied to ACORN.
In New Mexico, the Bernalillo County Clerk met with investigators from the FBI and the US Attorney's office, after passing on around 1500 suspicious forms submitted to her office -- in an area where ACORN is active.
In Missouri, the GOP-led Kansas City Elections Board said the FBI is looking at 600-800 suspicious forms after ACORN submitted 19,000 in the city.
And in Nevada, the FBI is part of a joint federal-state task force announced earlier this year to look into voter fraud, though a raid on a Las Vegas ACORN office conducted earlier this month was led by the office of Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller.
That skepticism makes sense, especially given the Bush administration's well-documented history of pushing DOJ toward bogus, politically motivated voter-fraud prosecutions -- which we were reminded of Friday, when the White House asked the department to take action on a voter-suppression bid by the Ohio GOP, that had already been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. And the fact that the probe was launched just as national Republicans -- including, in a televised debate, John McCain -- were trying to turn ACORN into a national boogeyman tied to Obama adds to suspicions.
But so far, there's little evidence that, at ground level, the conduct of the investigation itself could be described as overly aggressive or as intended to influence the election. Though of course, one reason for the apparent softly-softly approach is that no evidence has yet emerged that ACORN has been involved in a nationwide voter-fraud scheme -- the supposed subject of the investigation.
But you can bet we'll be watching this closely from now to election day -- and beyond.
As Rachel Maddow says, talk me down here.
Specifically, I'm starting to worry about vote suppression. Screwed-up ballots in North Carolina. (Whoever heard of a "straight-ticket" vote not including the Presidential ticket?) Voter intimidation in New Mexico. Possible voter suppression in Colorado. And on and on.
Maybe the attention being paid to all of this ahead of time will prevent this worst-case scenario coming true. Or maybe the Republicans---because almost all of this is being perpetrated by, yup, Republican Secretaries of State and the like---are so arrogant that they think that even if they get caught it won't matter. It's the same attitude we saw since Bill Clinton won in 1992: there is a bloc of people in the Republican party that somehow has gotten the notion that they "deserve" the Presidency, that they "deserve" to run the country, every single time, no matter how badly their policies fuck up. Oh, that's right: it's never their policies that fuck up, it's always somebody else sabotaging those policies.
Talk me down here, people. Meanwhile, and for the next week, I'm lighting candles and incense to whatever powers will listen.
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