Saturday, March 31, 2007

The U.S. Attorney Scandal Hits Close to Home

Someone asked on a political discussion board that I frequent recently that now that they know about the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired for not being Loyal Bushies, the questions on that persons mind were the 85 who weren’t fired. Was it because they did play ball that they were spared?

Good question. I would like an answer to that myself.

I live in a city where the investigations into the U.S. Attorney scandal should be shining a light but hasn’t yet – although an op-ed by Joseph D. Rich, a 35 year career civil rights lawyer in the civil rights division of the DoJ in the March 30 L.A. Times was a start. He mentioned the U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri in his column yesterday.

The official website makes him sound like the great white savior and the natural-born Heir to the Movement. It is, shall we say, spun. And about as substantive as cotton candy. Mr. Rich sets us straight on Mr. Scholzman’s bona fides.

This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.

Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.

I live here. I vote here. There are two “Blue” areas in this state, and I live in one of them. In fact, State Senate 10, which I call home, is the most liberal area in the most liberal U.S. House district in the entire state.

When a new U.S. Attorney showed up last March, and didn’t do his star turn in front of the Senate, some of us sniffed the air, and we did smell something - but it was new and different and we didn't recognize it as dangerous.

The trial balloon floated away, unmolested.

When we pointed out the discrepancy in the way the new U.S. attorney was rushing to publicize investigations (we had read the Rove playbook, after all, and specious investigations into politicians his candidates faced, and their supporters, is a long-time favorite of his – a veritable fallback position) we were told we were being partisan and hypocritical.

And while we were still questioning the rushed ACORN indictments, he shamelessly did it again, off the national radar, just weeks later!

He filed a mortgage fraud charge against former County Executive Katherine Shields as she was running in the mayoral primary last winter. Shields was never my candidate, but I sure as hell didn’t want her eliminated by a specious indictment that has suddenly gone nowhere since she was eliminated from the field.

There is plenty of reason to believe that the United States Attorney for Western Missouri has acted in ways intended to influence the outcome of elections, and his actions have consistently favored the Republican party in statewide election contests.

Shields was considered a strong candidate for the Mayors office, and a potential Democratic contender on a statewide ballot in the future. She had already been elected county-wide to the County Executive position – twice – and without that indictment, it would most likely have been a very different primary. It is not inconceivable that we would have sent her to Jefferson City or Washington D.C. in the not-too-distant future, had her political career not hit the shoals with that indictment.

The entire dynamic of the primary changed with just one headline. Her entire career was undermined, if not destroyed, with one suspiciously-timed headline.

I don't presume to speak for anyone but myself, but I get really, really pissed off when my rights as a citizen to participate in free and fair elections is abrogated by political hacks who would subvert the entire United States Department of Justice to favor one party.

If Mr. Schlozman was put in that position – with no Senate oversight – to influence elections in the bluest parts of a red state - MY red state - and that is what it looks like from here – then our Missouri elected officials - Claire, Reverend Cleaver, I’m talking to you here – and you too, Robin Carnahan, you are the Secretary of State and the official in charge of elections in this state – owe it to us, the citizens, to open investigations into the goings on in the office of the U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri.

[Cross posted from Watching Those We Chose]


Anonymous said...

Damn, my computer is slow tonite, so I will make one comment here (except for the Judge one, which I had to comment on specificallyc. Excellent posts; excellent research and reporting; thank you for what you do; for making the effort and getting the word out. It's damned cute how friggin brilliant you are!!

Anonymous said...

Good post. I really think that all of what you said is right on the money but I believe this is just something to pass their time with while their in the office. I believe the real reason for this unqualified load of shit to be in the U.S. Attorney's ofice is to keep a real prosecutor from looking to close at Baby Guv. He has alot of potential as another easily manipulated figurehead like the Chimp, so the behind the scenes evil-doers can operate with no accountability. The parallels between these two is pretty scary. Makes me kind of sick to my stomach.