Also posted at my new online investigative news magazine, The Public Record.
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Though virtually unknown outside the Albuquerque area, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is betting that his conservative credentials and close ties to the White House will help Republicans retain the hotly contested New Mexico congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Heather Wilson.
Wilson, in turn, is campaigning hard for the Senate seat that Republican Pete Domenici has held for 36 years in a race that could go a long way toward determining whether Democrats expand their narrow control of the U.S. Senate.
But all three of these Republicans – Domenici, Wilson and White – have something else in common: They all were implicated in the firing of New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney David Iglesias as part of the White House-driven federal prosecutor purge in 2006.
Wilson is currently the subject of a preliminary House ethics probe related to a phone call she placed to Iglesias just a few weeks before the 2006 midterm elections, inquiring about the status of an indictment against a prominent Democrat in the state.
Domenici was the subject of a similar probe in the Senate over a call he made to Iglesias about the timing of indictments, a call that the Senate Ethics Committee said created an “appearance of impropriety” in a formal admonishment of the six-term senator.
Sheriff White also reportedly was pushing Iglesias to crack down on Democratic-backed voter registration drives and then took his complaints about Iglesias’s lack of aggressiveness to Washington.
In a little-noticed article in the Albuquerque Journal at the height of the U.S. Attorney scandal, White said he was upset with Iglesias’s inaction against Democratic-back voter registration drives and other criminal issues.
White, who was New Mexico chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, confirmed that in spring 2006, he took his “complaints directly to the Department of Justice where he met with Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson and others," the Albuquerque Journal reported on April 15, 2007.
Sampson was chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales and helped create the list of U.S. attorneys selected for dismissal, prosecutors who in Sampson’s phrase were not “loyal Bushies.”
Trip to Washington
According to interviews with several law enforcement officials in Bernalillo County and a review of documents, White traveled to Washington with two other Republican operatives in 2006 to complain to the Justice Department that Iglesias was balking at bringing criminal charges against what they called rampant voter fraud – and that he should be fired.
Law enforcement officials said White was accompanied by Mickey Barnett, a Republican lobbyist, and Pat Rogers, a Republican attorney, both of whom are based in New Mexico.
Rogers was affiliated with the American Center for Voting Rights, a now defunct non-profit organization that sought to defend voter rights and increase public confidence in the fairness and outcome of elections.
However, it has since emerged that the organization played a major role in suppressing the votes of people who intended to cast ballots for Democrats in various states.
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