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Bush's Concerns Over 'Voter Fraud' Led to Iglesias's Firing

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Also posted at my web magazine, The Public Record

President George W. Bush and Karl Rove, the former White House political adviser, appear to have helped orchestrate the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias after receiving numerous complaints from Republican activists that the federal prosecutor would not pursue charges of voter fraud, according to a report on the U.S. Attorney purge released Monday by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

The 356-page report is the culmination of an 18-month joint investigation by the Inspector General Glenn Fine and the head of the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility H. Marshall Jarrett. Their report, concluded that Iglesias's firing was the most "controversial" and that his dismissal was "engineered" by New Mexico GOP lawmakers Sen. Pete Domenici, Congresswoman Heather Wilson and former White House political adviser Karl Rove over complaints about Iglesias's refusal to secure indictments in voter fraud cases and in a public corruption case.

Many election integrity experts believe claims of voter fraud are a ploy by Republicans to suppress minorities and poor people from voting. Historically, those 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.

The report said Bush and Rove “spoke with Attorney General Gonzales in October 2006 about their concerns over voter fraud in three cities, one of which was Albuquerque, New Mexico” and concerns Domenici had about Iglesias's job performance.

“There is conflicting evidence about exactly what was communicated to Gonzales, and what the Department’s response was to these concerns,” according to the report. “Gonzales testified that he recalled mentioning his conversation with Rove to [his former Chief of Staff Kyle] Sampson and asking him to look into the matter. Sampson told congressional investigators that he recalled that after the removals became public, Gonzales told him that he recalled the President telling him in October [2006] that Domenici had concerns about Iglesias.”

“On March 13, 2007, in response to reporters’ questions about the removals of U.S. Attorneys, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett stated that the President had told Gonzales in late 2006 that he had been hearing about election fraud concerns from members of Congress regarding three cities: Albuquerque, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee,” the report says.

In the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Bernalillo County in New Mexico had been the target of a massive grassroots effort by the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to register voters. That led New Mexico GOP to challenge the integrity of some of the names on the voter registration rolls.

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Iglesias established an election fraud task force in September 2004 and spent more than two months probing claims of widespread voter fraud in his state. He said 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 raid.
 
"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."
 
"After examining 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 said in an interview. "Accordingly, I did not authorize any voter fraud related prosecutions."

GOP 'Intent on Suppressing Votes'

In several interviews, Iglesias said that Republican officials in his state were far less interested in election reforms and more intent on suppressing votes.

He recalled that the Justice 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 non-existent.
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In his recently published book, In Justice: Inside the Scandal that Rocked the Bush Administration, Iglesias said in late summer 2002 he received an email 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."

"The e-mail 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 said.

"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 homes.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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