How the Last “Voter Fraud” Investigation Took Down GOP Atty-Gen Alberto Gonzales. NYT “Must-read.”

by FischFry –

A few days ago, I wrote a diary about the announcement of the investigation of so-called “voter fraud.” I was responding to some well-voiced concerns that the ‘investigation’ would lead to unprecedented voter suppression. My thesis was that I thought it was more likely that this would blow up in the GOP’s face — or, at most, end in a dull thud. That diary disappeared quickly with little comment. I won’t steer you there (really I won’t, but the link is here) but I do want you to check out a new piece in The New York Times, that reviews the “U.S. Attorney Firings” scandal, which recalls the last time a GOP President demanded an investigation into what were bogus voting fraud reports.

In an Op-Ed piece — Voting Fraud Inquiry? The Investigators Got Burned Last Time — Michael Waldman traces the history of this hunt for voting unicorns. W’s first A-G, John Ashcroft, was desperate to find cases, but was frustrated because his investigators couldn’t deliver. After 4 years of nothingburgers, Bush told his new A-G, (his BFF) Alberto Gonzales

“that he had heard about fraud in Albuquerque, Milwaukee and Philadelphia”

Sounds familiar, right?

Unfortunately, the U.S. Attorneys in those states hadn’t turned up any cases to support those rumors. So, A-G Gonzales decided to replace the U.S. Atty’s with new people

The US Atty for New Mexico wrote a book about the events:

In his book “In Justice: Inside the Scandal That Rocked the Bush Administration,” Mr. Iglesias summed up his experience: “First would come the spurious allegations of voter fraud, then unvarnished legal manipulations to sway elections, followed by a rigorous insistence on unquestioned and absolute obedience and, finally, a phone call from out of the blue.”

Waldman’s piece recounts how the top federal prosecutors in Missouri and Washington each wound up on the cutting room floor of the (metaphorical) movie that Republicans wanted to make about voting fraud. On December 7, 2006, (a day which came to be remembered in infamy at least for A-G Gonzales) 7 US Attorney were fired. Later investigations found that at least 3 other US Atty’s had been let go earlier under these or similarly deplorable circumstances (the US Atty in my state of Maryland was dismissed for investigating corruption in the Administration of the Republican Governor).

Presumably, the new prosecutors had specific orders to find voter fraud and to prosecute it, but you can’t prosecute phantoms. Of course, events got in the way of that effort, anyway — making it politically impossible.

Instead, U.S. Senators started looking into the firings. Eventually, they sniffed out not only this scandal, but also that the Department of Justice had violated all sorts of strictures in hiring people for what were supposed to be merit-based, career, non-political posts. Rules which, we can be absolutely certain that this Administration will abuse in far worse ways.

A lot of heads fell, including A-G Gonzales, who gave some of the most remarkable testimony in Capitol Hill history, answering he couldn’t recall (or “had no memory”) over 160 times.

It’s possible that this investigation will be a real thing — Ari Melber on MSNBC this afternoon noted that unless there’s “credible evidence” the FBI can’t even get involved. But, it could prove somehow to be a real thing if the White House can figure out how to devote resources to it (it could be a jobs program to keep the Voting Rights section of the Civil Rights Division open).  And, it’s possible that it might be used to justify purges which will be partisan because the investigation will be done only in Democratic areas.

My real hope is that this effort will put the stake into the heart of this undead lie of voter fraud.

But, it’s also possible that this will be a pointless exercise which might even lead to another Republican scandal.

As Waldman closes his piece:

“The president of the United States is peddling conspiracy theories that undermine our democracy for political gain. Lessons from recent history suggest that the ultimate victims of such a witch hunt will be those who pursue it.”

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos