Thursday, May 31, 2007

If The Pattern Fits

LATimes (05.31.07):
"For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor. Named U.S. attorney for Minnesota in 1991, he won a series of high-profile white-collar crime and gun and explosives cases. By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department.

So it came as a surprise — and something of a mystery — when he turned up on a list of U.S. attorneys who had been targeted for firing."

Minnesota case fits pattern in U.S. attorneys flap

"Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans."

"At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots."

"Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes' photo IDs."

And believe it or don't, the 32,000 Native Americans living off the reservation tend to vote for Democrats.

Mary, who has been described as somewhat "eccentric", said she was just following orders the law.

On October 19, 2004, assistant U.S. attorney Rob Lewis emailed then head of the voting section of the Justice Department's civil rights division Joseph D. Rich "informing him about possible voter discrimination against Indians." Joe wanted to investigate, but the folks in Washington had other ideas.

"In response, he said, Bradley Schlozman, a political appointee in the department, told Rich 'not to do anything without his approval' because of [ed. - get this] the 'special sensitivity of this matter.'"

"Rich responded by suggesting that more information be gathered from voting officials in the Twin Cities area, which includes Minnesota's two most populous counties."

"A message came back from another Republican official in the department, Hans von Spakovsky, saying Rich should not contact the county officials but should instead deal only with the secretary of state's office." Hans wanted Joe to work only and directly with Mary to (nudge, nudge) reduce the "likelihood of a leak to the news media."

"The orders from Schlozman and Von Spakovsky, who wielded unusual power in the civil rights division, effectively ended any department inquiry, Rich said."

It was right around this time that Tom ended up on the list.

Not long thereafter, Tom submitted his resignation. On his way out, he "recommended that Joan Humes, the No. 2 person in the office, be named interim U.S. attorney. But Humes was rejected by the Justice Department — in part, [Monica Goodling] testified, because she was known to be a 'liberal.'"

Enter Rachel Paulose. "One of Paulose's first acts in office was to remove Lewis, who had written the 2004 e-mails to Washington expressing concern about Native American voting rights in Minnesota, from overseeing voting rights cases."

See how that works? Beauty, eh?

Those commies at the ACLU ended up suing Kiffmeyer. ACLU (09.13.05):

"On October 29, 2004, Judge James M. Rosenbaum issued granted a temporary restraining order allowing the use of Indian tribal identification cards - or a tribal ID plus a utility bill with the current address -- as proper identification for American Indians whether or not they live on the reservation.

In the interim, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing the use of tribal IDs regardless of whether the voter lives on the reservation; however, the new law requires the tribal ID to contain the voter's current address."

ACLU of Minnesota Pleased With Court Order Protecting Native American Voting Rights

On a related note, the probe of the Justice Department's hiring practices during this time has expanded.

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