Thanks to rigorous work by the Brennan Center for Justice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, it is clear that the US. Attorney scandal – as outrageous as it is on its own – is part of a much broader effort by the Bush Administration to use government institutions for partisan gain.
In their report – Using Justice to Suppress the Vote – the two pro-democracy, pro-civil rights organizations demonstrate that the Administration used federal agencies charged with protecting voters’ rights to promote voter suppression, influence voting rules, and gain advantage in battleground states. This was achieved through a four-pronged strategy: dismantling the infrastructure at the Department of Justice; fomenting a fear of rampant voter fraud (which has subsequently been disproved – it actually occurs “statistically…about as often as death by lightning strike“); politically motivated prosecutions; and restricting registration and voting.
The actions of two Bush appointees who recently testified on the Hill – Hans von Spakovsky and Bradley Schlozman– are illustrative of the effort to restrict voter turnout in a manner that favors Republican candidates. In January 2006, von Spakovsky was given a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission (the agency charged with enforcing the Federal Election Campaign Act – he’s now having one helluva time in his confirmation hearing). Prior to that, he worked for three years as the appointed Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division at Justice.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, six former career attorneys – who worked under both Republican and Democratic Administrations spanning 36 years – wrote that von Spakovsky “played a major role in… inject[ing] partisan political factors into decision-making on enforcement matters and into the hiring process…. Moreover, he was the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights.” The career attorneys say that von Spakovsky “assumed primary responsibility for the day to day operation of the Voting Section” and was handed “the authority to usurp many of the responsibilities of the career section chief….”