Tuesday, April 24

The Goal of Gonzo-Gate: Tamping down the Black Vote

From Democracy Now.

Another scandal is brewing inside Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department. Former Justice Department attorneys have publicly accused the Bush administration of politicizing the department's Civil Rights Division which was formed 50 years ago to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. According to a recent report by the McClatchy newspapers, the Bush administration has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.
And since black and minority voters tend to favor Democrats by over 10 to 1 - they have become the perfect targets to help Republicans over the hump in marginal races.

We've all of course become quite familiar with Karl Rove's Infamous Power-Point Presentation. Reports from L.A. Times today indicate the the GSA isn't the only place it made an appearance.

The Los Angeles Times has learned that similar presentations were made by other White House staff members, including Rove, to other Cabinet agencies. During such presentations, employees said they got a not-so-subtle message about helping endangered Republicans.

Presentations such as this, which are clearly intended to draft government employees into becoming partisan operatives are clear violations of the Hatch Act. But what happens when these types of tactics are employed by the very people whose job is to protect the integrity of the vote?

People such as Bob Bennet disgraced former head of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections where he had helped improperly purge over a hundred thousand voters from the Ohio roles.

Leading up to the 2004 vote, Bennett oversaw the quiet purge of some 168,000 registered voters from the Cuyahoga rolls, including 24.93% of the entire city of Cleveland, which voted 83% for Kerry. In one inner city majority African American ward, 51% of the voters were purged. Centered on precincts that voted more than 80% for John Kerry, this purge may well have meant a net loss to the Democrats of tens of thousands of votes in an election that was officially decided statewide by less than 119,000.
And Bennet was far from alone.
Parallel purges were conducted by Republican-controlled boards of election in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) where some 105,000 voters were purged from the rolls, and in Lucas County (Toledo), where some 28,000 were purged in an unprecedented move in late August 2004. These remain the only three counties in the state known to have conducted massive registration purges prior to the 2004 election. The three mass urban purges decimated the rolls in heavily Democratic areas. Since then, another 170,000 voters have been purged from the rolls in Franklin County, primarily in the heavily Democratic Columbus precincts. Many rural Republican counties, like Miami, practice a “no-purge” policy.
In case you've lost count that over 300,000 voters, mostly democratic, purged from the roles and denied their right to vote - in a race that was decided by a difference of 119,000!

A race that kept George W. Bush in the White House.

So has the DOJ been investigating this? Not so much, they've been busy firing their own and chasing their tails on alleged "voter fraud" cases.
Rich: At least two U.S. attorneys were fired after failing to bring voter fraud cases. Last year the Boston Globe reported the Bush administration is filling the permanent ranks of the Civil Rights Division with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights. This has led to the Civil Rights Division focusing more on cases alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.

Now I personally feel that legitimate calls to look at so-called "Reverse Discrimination" do need to occur, as well as religious discrimination - but the facts are and have long been that black people are far more likely to be on the receiving end of negative discrimination than any other group.

From the latest FBI Hate Crimes Statistics (which are reported by local law enforcement and compiled by the FBI independent of the Civil Rights Division).

In 2005 there were 828 recorded incidents of Anti-White Discrimination contrasted with 2,630 incidents of Anti-Black Discrimination for a 3 to 1 ratio. But then when you look at things in a per capita basis taking into account that Black people are only 12% (or 1/8th) of the overall population the likelihood of any individual black person being discriminated against versus a white person rises to 25 to 1.

Similarly the vast majority of cases of religious discrimination recorded were Anti-Jewish (848), compared to Anti-Catholic (58), Anti-Protestant (57) and even Anti-Muslim (128). Incidents of anti-Male-Homosexual bias (621) far outstrip incidents against all other religions (93).
Hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,314 offenses reported by law enforcement. A breakdown of the bias motivation of religious-bias offenses showed:

* 68.5 percent were anti-Jewish.
* 11.1 percent were anti-Islamic.
* 7.8 percent were anti-other (unspecified) religion.
* 4.6 percent were anti-Catholic.
* 4.4 percent were anti-Protestant.
* 3.2 percent were anti-multiple religions, (i.e., groups of individuals of varying religions).
* 0.4 percent were anti-Atheism/Agnosticism.
Contrary to popular belief most hate crimes are not acts of violence or aggression, rather they are acts intended to intimidate.
Of the 8,380 hate crime offenses in 2005:

* 30.3 percent were intimidation.
* 30.2 percent were destruction/damage/vandalism.
* 18.7 percent were simple assault.
* 12.7 percent were aggravated assault.
* The remaining 8.2 percent of hate crimes were comprised of additional crimes against persons, property, and society.
It seems to me that the priorities of the Civil Rights Division should be clear - yet the Bush Administration doesn't see it that way according to for CRD head Joseph Rich.
JOSEPH RICH: Well, I was at the Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division right out of law school in ’68 and worked twenty-four of the thirty-six years I was there under Republican administrations, starting with Ramsey Clark, John Mitchell, through Ed Meese, Janet Reno and finally this administration with Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft.

This administration is the first administration that I felt had politicized the department to the extent that it has. And I had been the head of the Voting Section for the last six years that I was there, from 1999 to 2005, and I think the Voting Section has always been a section that is of political interest, but never had been politicized to the extent that it was in this administration.
So exactly what was it they did?
...there was two major things that concerned me the most. The first was, in the voting area, some of the major decisions made were contrary to recommendations from the career people, such as myself, and in my judgment were made for partisan political reasons. These were redistricting decisions in places like Mississippi and Texas. There was a voter ID law in Georgia that was decided just after I left the department in 2005.
Redistricting so that democratic voters have left influence in Violation of the Voting Rights Act? Check. Implementing onerous ID requirements which echo the use of the "Poll Tax" and "Literacy Tests" which was used for decades to keep blacks from voting? Check. What else?
JOSEPH RICH: Well, another thing that happened in this administration right from the outset was a great priority on voter fraud. It continued to increase through 2004 and then, I think, particularly after I left in 2006. The priority on voter fraud -- voter fraud is done by the Criminal Division. The Civil Rights Division works on voter intimidation based on race during elections. And the increase in emphasis on voter fraud became more and more apparent, to the point that last year Bradley Schlozman, who had been one of the ones responsible for politicizing the Civil Rights Division -- he had been there from 2003 to 2006. He was one of the first -- I think the first -- interim US attorney appointed under the PATRIOT Act, that gave the Attorney General the authority to appoint people without confirmation indefinitely. He was appointed in Missouri, a battleground state in 2006.

Five days before the election last fall in Missouri, he brought five voter fraud cases against members of -- or I think employees of ACORN for alleged voter fraud. This was contrary to longstanding department policy not to bring or even investigate voter fraud cases shortly before an election because of the sensitivity to having any impact on elections. The longstanding policy was one in which, if there was evidence of voter fraud, the investigation would take place, unless there was a real emergency, after the election.

The fact that that happened in Missouri, the fact that the United States attorneys in New Mexico and Washington, who were following the priority of investigating vigorously voter fraud and yet were removed because they did not indict, is extremely disturbing, because they were doing their job, but in their professional judgment they did not have evidence to bring the cases, and that appears to have been a major factor in their removal.
So if Rich is correct, and I strongly suspect that he is, this set of firings has sent a clear signal thruout the remain USA's. I shudder to think exactly what kind of pre-emptive prosecutions can we expect prior to the 2008 Congressional and Presidential Elections which just might create a hostile atmosphere to various democratic get-out-the-vote operations which might be critical in battleground states and close elections?

Vyan

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