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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bigger than Gonzogate

Gonzogate just got quite a bit worse for the Justice Department and the Bush administration. After Monica Goodling's testimony that she illegally screened applicants for ideological purity, hiring -- as well as firing -- becomes an issue.

Washington Post:

Justice Department investigators have widened an internal probe of the firings of U.S. attorneys to include a broader examination of hiring practices at the department, including the troubled Civil Rights Division and programs for beginning lawyers, officials said Wednesday.

"We have expanded the scope of our investigation to include allegations regarding improper political or other considerations in hiring decisions within the Department of Justice," Inspector General Glenn Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote in letters to the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

The widening inquiry is likely to pose an additional challenge for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is already facing lawmakers' calls for his resignation and a potential no-confidence vote by the Senate. While the U.S. attorney dismissals have prompted wide political criticism, improper hiring practices could be deemed a violation of the law.

Here's hoping the investigation gets around to what Justice picks have done to get on the short list. Specifically, Timothy Griffin, Karl Rove's former assistant, currently serving as US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Griffin was installed under an obscure and overlooked provision of the USA PATRIOT Act. The provision allowed Justice to make permanent interim appointments without Senate approval. Previously, interim hires had a 120 term limit. After that, they needed approval. The provision created an end run around the Senate and the administration could literally install anyone as a permanent replacement.

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified that the previous Attorney for the district, Bud Cummins, had been fired (for cooked up reasons) to make way for Griffin's permanent appointment. Clearly, this was one case where the firing wasn't nearly as important as the hiring. And it's what Griffin did before he was appointed that shows why he was a Bush kinda guy.

Greg Palast, BBC investigative reporter:

...Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.

Key voters on Griffin's hit list: Black soldiers and homeless men and women. Nice guy, eh? Naughty or nice, however, is not the issue. Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Investigate that. It turns out that Griffin 'cleansed' the Florida voter list by creating what's called a 'caging list.' A caging list is a direct mail term for cleaning up mailing lists by removing invalid addresses. This was their term for it, not the media's. Who used to be a direct mail guy before he got into the Bush administration?

Why, that would be Karl Rove. Kind of makes it sound like Karl's idea, doesn't it?

The scheme worked this way; the Republican National Committee sent first class letters, marked "Do not forward," to new voters in minority precincts. If these letters were returned, the names and addresses would be added to a list of voters names that would be challenged. "If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as 'suspect' and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted," Palast writes. "Of course, these 'cages' captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters."

Just to make sure, the caging list included Jacksonville Naval Air Station, homeless shelters, and Edward Waters College -- "a school for African-Americans." If you wanted to make a list of people who where likely to have changed their addresses in the past year, this would be the way to go about it. No longer stationed at Jackson Naval? Your ballot goes into the 'suspect' bin. Moved in with your college sweetheart? Same. Got a job and got off the streets? Same.

And, if you wanted to make sure that the list would be made up mostly of black Democrats, this is also the way you'd go about it.

How did Palast and the BBC find out about all of this? Because Griffin's a freakin' moron. "Instead of sending the emails -- potential evidence of a crime -- to email addresses ending with the domain name '' he sent them to '@GeorgeWBush.ORG.' A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns '' When Wooden got the treasure trove of Rove-ian ravings, he sent them to us," Palast tells us. To give you an idea just how wrong Griffin got the address, Wooden is associated with Landover Baptist -- he's not a friend of the Bush administration.

And, like all Bushies, Griffin expects you to be a freakin' moron, too. Confronted with the lists by the BBC, he claimed they weren't a hit list of black Democrats at all -- they were a list of GOP donors. Apparently, we're supposed to believe that there are people out there who are so dedicated to the Republican party that they give them all their money and live in homeless shelters. In fact, we're supposed to believe there are one helluva lot of these voters in Florida.

This was the kind of guy the Bush administration wanted in the Justice Department, investigating and prosecuting civil rights cases. As is too often the case, the exact wrong man for the job was the perfect Bushie. Fox, meet henhouse.

With the probe widening, Griffin decided yesterday to get while the getting's good. He handed in his resignation effective June 1. He's obviously hoping he can dodge the scandal -- here's hoping he's wrong.

So what are Griffin's plans for the future?

The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.) that Timothy Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who became one of the most controversial figures in the U.S. attorney firing scandal, is in talks with Fred Thompson's presidential campaign:

"Backers look for Fred Thompson to use a June 2 speech to Virginia Republicans to step closer toward the race. Thompson allies have had discussions with Tim Griffin, the Arkansas U.S. attorney and Rove protege, about taking a top job with the campaign."

Boy, I didn't know that Fred Thompson was such a freakin' idiot. This is jumping feet first into the attorney scandal. Nothing like becoming embroiled in a Washington scandal right off the bat to kill your chances.

Yesterday, I said I didn't think Thompson would run. It's actually already looking like I was wrong. But given his proposal of marriage to Gonzogate, I'm pretty damned sure he won't win.

People are too damned sick of corrupt Republicans.


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