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DOJ's Internal Watchdogs Probing Leak of ACORN Investigation

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Also published at my web magazine, The Public Record.

The Department of Justice’s internal watchdogs are investigating who told the Associated Press that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a grassroots group that has registered hundreds of thousands of new voters, is under federal investigation for alleged voter registration fraud, according to John Conyers, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The DOJ’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility, according to Conyers, are probing the leak.

Conyers disclosed the two separate probes in a letter he sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey to inquire about another leak to the AP: that Sen. Barack Obama’s aunt has been living in the United States illegally and had made a donation to this presidential campaign. Federal election law prohibits foreigners from making political donations.

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“I was startled to read in today's Associated Press that a "federal law enforcement official" has leaked information about an immigration case involving a relative of Senator Obama,” Conyers wrote. “Even more troubling, the AP reports that it could not "could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved," a very disturbing suggesting (sic) indeed. This leak is deplorable and I urge you to take immediate action to investigate and discipline those responsible.


“I note that this is not the first leak of law enforcement information apparently designed to influence the coming Presidential election -- in recent weeks law enforcement sources leaked information about an alleged investigation of a community services organization, a leak that the Department of Justice informs me is now under investigation by the Department's Office of the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility.”

The AP, citing law enforcement officials, reported two weeks ago that the FBI launched a probe into ACORN to examine evidence that the organization committed voter registration fraud around the country.

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The reported FBI probe followed a clamor from the right-wing news media and Republican operatives over ACORN’s voter registrations, making a campaign issue out of voter-registration forms with fake names like “Mickey Mouse.”

For its part, ACORN has insisted that its own quality control flagged many of the suspicious registration forms before they were submitted to state officials and that state laws often require outside registration groups to submit all forms regardless of obvious problems.

Conyers complained to Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller about the leak to the AP in a letter he sent to them earlier this month.

“As an initial matter, it is simply unacceptable that such information would be leaked during the very peak of the election season,” Conyers said.

“I know it has become a right-wing cottage industry to cry wolf over alleged ‘voter fraud’ during an election season (only to have such claims evaporate after the election has concluded).

“One would hope the Justice Department and FBI would more skeptically examine such sensational accusations than some cable news outlets. And this is particularly true where the allegations, even given their fullest reading, simply do not support such alarmist and unreasonable claims.”

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Federal investigative guidelines strongly discourage election-related probes before ballots are cast because of the likelihood that the inquiries will become politicized and might influence the election outcomes.

“In most cases, voters should not be interviewed, or other voter-related investigation done, until after the election is over,” according to the Justice Department’s guidelines for election offenses as revised in May 2007 during Gonzales’s tenure as Attorney General.

Even though those May 2007 guidelines watered down even stricter language in previous editions, the Gonzales-era rules still cautioned:

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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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