Ex-US attorney cites GOP voter abuse
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Mar 19, 2008, 00:26
Department issued a directive to every U.S. attorney in the country to find and
prosecute cases of voter fraud in their states during the height of hotly
contested elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006, even though evidence of such
abuses was extremely thin or nonexistent, a former federal prosecutor says in a
David Iglesias, the
former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, recalled receiving an e-mail in late
summer 2002 from the Department of Justice suggesting "in no uncertain
terms" that U.S. attorneys should immediately begin working with local and
state election officials "to offer whatever assistance we could in investigating
and prosecuting voter fraud cases," Iglesias writes in his forthcoming In
Justice: Inside the Scandal that Rocked the Bush Administration.
I obtained an early
copy of the book last week. It is scheduled to be published in June.
Iglesias was one of
nine U.S. attorneys who were fired in December 2006 for reasons that appeared
based on partisan politics. His name was added to a list of U.S. attorneys
selected for dismissal on Election Day in November 2006.
Earlier this month,
Congress filed a civil lawsuit against Joshua Bolten, President Bush's chief of
staff, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, in an attempt to
compel them to testify before Congress about the White House's role in the U.S.
attorney firings and to turn over documents to a congressional committee.
Miers and Bolten were
subpoenaed by Congress to testify last year, but Bush refused to allow their
testimonies, citing executive privilege. Last month, Congress held Miers and
Bolten in contempt for failing to respond to the subpoenas.
Michael Mukasey said he would not convene a federal grand jury to consider the
contempt charges. Congress sued the White House officials shortly thereafter.
In a chapter titled
"Caged," Iglesias recounts how the Department of Justice aggressively
pushed him and other U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, an issue
the former U.S. attorney says the DOJ became unusually obsessed with.
imperatives came again in 2004 and 2006, by which time I had learned that far
from being standard operating procedure for the Justice Department, the
emphasis on voter irregularities was unique to the Bush administration,"
Iglesias says that
Republican officials in his state were far less interested in election reforms
and more intent on suppressing votes.
"But there was a
more sinister reading to such urgent calls for reform, not to mention the
Justice Department's strident insistence on harvesting a bumper crop of voter
fraud prosecutions. That implication is summed up in a single word: �caging.�
"Not only did
the [Bush] administration stoop to such seamy expedients to press its agenda in
2004," Iglesias wrote. "It had the full might and authority of the
federal government and its prosecutorial powers to accomplish its ends."
Vote caging is an
illegal tactic to suppress minorities from voting by having their names purged
from voter rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their
National Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating it would not engage
in the practice after it was caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986.
Last July, in a
letter to then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse,
D-Rhode Island, and Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said, "caging is a
reprehensible voter suppression tactic, and it may also violate federal law and
the terms of applicable judicially enforceable consent decrees."
Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and Whitehouse have called for a Justice
Department probe into the practice, which has not been initiated thus far.
last year showed that Republican operatives engaged in a widespread effort to
"cage" votes during the 2004 presidential election in battleground
states, such as New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio, where George W. Bush was
trailing his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry.
The efforts to purge
voters from registration rolls were spearheaded by Tim Griffin, a former
Republican National Committee opposition researcher and close friend of Karl
Griffin resigned from
his post as interim U.S. attorney for Little Rock, Arkansas, when details of
his involvement in vote caging were reported. Griffin's predecessor at the U.S.
attorney's office, Bud Cummins, was one of the nine U.S. attorneys forced to
Coddy Johnson was
another Republican operative involved in the effort to cage votes during the
2004 presidential election. Johnson worked as the national field director of
Bush's 2004 campaign and spent time in the White House as an associate director
of political affairs, working under Karl Rove. Johnson's father was Bush's
college roommate at Yale.
Last week, Iglesias
testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration probing the
"myth" of in-person voter fraud and whether it leads to the
disenfranchisement of individual voters.
During his testimony,
Iglesias told the panel that he established an election fraud task force in
September 2004 and spent more than two months probing claims of widespread
voter fraud in his state.
the evidence, and in conjunction with the Justice Department Election Crimes
Unit and the FBI, I could not find any cases I could prosecute beyond a
reasonable doubt," Iglesias told the Senate committee. "Accordingly,
I did not authorize any voter fraud related prosecutions."
No concrete evidence
of systemic voter fraud in the United States has surfaced. Many election
integrity experts believe claims of voter fraud are a ploy by Republicans to
suppress minorities and poor people from voting.
groups tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Raising red flags about the
integrity of the ballots, experts believe, is an attempt by GOP operatives to
swing elections to their candidates as well as an attempt to use the fear of
criminal prosecution to discourage individuals from voting in future races.
In his book,
specifically in the "Caging" chapter, Iglesias says that right when
the Bush-Kerry race began to heat up, some Republicans in Bernalillo County,
led by local Bush/Cheney campaign chairman Sheriff Darren White, showed up at
the county clerk's office demanding to know if there were any questionable
voter registrations on file.
White is campaigning
for the congressional seat that will be vacated by Heather Wilson of New
Mexico, the Republican congresswoman who is the subject of a House ethics probe
regarding phone calls that she may have improperly made to Iglesias inquiring
about the timing of indictments prior to the 2006 mid-term elections.
In the months leading
up to the 2004 presidential election, Bernalillo County had been the target of
a massive grassroots effort by the group Association of Community Organizations
for Reform Now (ACORN) to register voters.
The effort apparently
paid off as registration rolls in the county increased by about 65,000 newly
Iglesias wrote, intended to challenge the integrity of some of the names on the
voter registration rolls. Mary Herrera, the Bernalillo County clerk, told White
that there were about 3,000 or so forms that were either incomplete or
incorrectly filled out.
White seized upon the
registration forms as evidence that ACORN submitted fraudulent registration
forms and held a press conference along with other Republican officials in the
county to call attention to the matter.
In testimony before
the Senate committee last week, Iglesias said when he announced the formation
of his election fraud task force in September 2004 he fully expected to uncover
instances of voter fraud based on numerous stories that appeared in New Mexico
media that said minors received voter registration forms and that "a large
number" of voter registration forms turned up during the course of a drug
"Due to the high
volume of suspected criminal activity, I believed there to be a strong
likelihood of uncovering prosecutable cases," Iglesias said. "I also
reviewed the hard copy file from the last voter fraud case my office had
prosecuted which dated back to 1992.
�My intention was to
file prosecutions in order to send a message that voter fraud or election fraud
would not be tolerated in the District of New Mexico."
Meanwhile, New Mexico
Republicans had filed a civil suit in an attempt to force changes to the state's
voter identification statutes.
"The case was
duly dismissed," Iglesias wrote his book, "which only served to stoke
the fires of voter fraud frenzy."
by-the-book work ethic only appeared to incite Republicans in New Mexico who
expected the federal prosecutor to put loyalty to the Republican Party above
of a dedicated task force notwithstanding, the firebrands were still not
placated," Iglesias, wrote. "I got an angry e-mail from Mickey
Barnett, an attorney, who, like me, had worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign and
who berated me for �appointing a task force to investigate voter fraud instead
of bringing charges against suspects.�"
In his testimony
before the Senate committee, Iglesias said the task force received about 108
complaints of alleged voter fraud through a hotline over the course of about
"Most of the
complaints made to the hotline were clearly not prosecutable -- citizens would
complain of their yard signs being removed from their property and de minimis
matters like that," Iglesias testified before the Senate committee.
"Only one case
of the over 100 referrals had potential. ACORN had employed a woman to register
voters. The evidence showed she registered voters who did not have the legal right
to vote. The law, 42 USC 1973 had the maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment
and a $5,000 fine.
reviewing the FBI investigative report and speaking to the agent, the
prosecutor I had assigned, Mr. [Rumaldo] Armijo, and conferring with [a Justice
Department official] I was of the opinion that the case was not provable. I,
therefore, did not authorize a prosecution.
�I have subsequently
learned that the State of New Mexico did not file any criminal cases as a
result of the" election fraud task force.
Leopold is the author of "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit
www.newsjunkiebook.com for a
Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor