May 31, 2007

"Voter Fraud" Scandal Update [Updated]

The Los Angeles Times offers this front page report, "Minnesota case fits pattern in U.S. attorneys flap; A prosecutor apparently targeted for firing had supported Native American voters' rights." It begins: "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. 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." Josh Marshall comments and Paul Kiel fills in the Schlozman/von Spakovsky details.

Meanwhile, Murray Waas turns his attention to the Missouri angle in all of this, including a look at Thor Hearne, who is at the center of the collapse of the American Center for Voting Rights. Two snippets from the must-read article:

    In the case involving ACORN, Hearne had urged the Justice Department long before the election to investigate the activist organization and similar groups that registered Democrats. When Hearne came to believe that the U.S. attorney for western Missouri, Todd Graves, was not taking seriously allegations that ACORN workers were registering people who did not qualify to vote, he took his complaints to senior officials in Justice's Civil Rights Division and to the White House, according to a former Justice official and a private attorney who worked with Hearne. The private attorney said in an interview that Hearne boasted to him about having discussions with administration officials who wanted Graves replaced. The White House declined to comment on any of its discussions with Hearne."

It is hard to imagine who that private attorney could be besides Jason Torchinsky. [UPDATE: Jason Torchinsky writes via email that he does not know who Waas's source was, but it was not him.]

And a stunning admission in the article:

    Even Bryan Lunde, the former chairman of Hearne's Center for Voting Rights, said in an interview that allegations by both political parties of voting fraud and voter suppression are overblown. "It has become a new tool in campaigns to make a charge just for the sake of making a charge.... But don't ever let the facts get in the way of your accusation. Both sides seize on that one-hundredth of 1 percent of something that goes wrong in an election to make it something bigger. They try and make the anecdote the story. But there is very little voter fraud and very little voter suppression."

While Waas notes that ACVR "now appears to be defunct" he does not report what Lunde or anyone else had to say about its sudden disappearance. My earlier Slate piece on Hearne and ACVR is here.

UPDATE: Connecticut Republicans are pushing an amendment to an election day registration bill to require voter id in the name of preventing voter fraud.]

UPDATE 2: Even more on Missouri/Schlozman in this Boston Globe report and this McClatchy report.

UPDATE 3: Via comments to this TPMmuckraker post, I found this video interview with former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias. About halfway through the interview, Iglesias makes the claim that Pat Rogers, working for ACVR (which he incorrectly identifies as "American Citizens for Voting Reform"), pressured Iglesias to bring voter fraud prosecutions at the behest of Karl Rove. It is worth listening to the interview.

Posted by Rick Hasen at May 31, 2007 09:38 AM