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Rove Protégé May Dig for Dirt on Obama

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This story is also posted on my new online investigative news magazine, The Public Record.

Timothy Griffin, a central figure in the U.S. Attorney scandal and a protégé of Republican political guru Karl Rove, reportedly has been hired to dig up dirt on likely Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

FirstRead, a political Web site of NBC News, cited a Republican source as confirming that Griffin was being brought onboard by the Republican National Committee to handle opposition research on Obama.

Griffin hung up on me when I contacted him at his home and asked him to comment about the report. An RNC aide told me he could neither “confirm nor deny the report.”

Griffin’s return to the RNC as an opposition researcher – a post he held during the Bush-Cheney campaigns – would seem to mark a return to a “dirty tricks” style of campaigning that John McCain has vowed to avoid.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Griffin handled “oppo” on Al Gore and, according to several RNC staffers, hung a poster behind his desk that paraphrased a line from “Gladiator”: "On my command - unleash hell on Al."

In 2004, Griffin also performed opposition research for the Bush-Cheney campaign and participated in an apparent Republican scheme to trap voters who had possible errors in their registration forms, so-called “caging.”
A Rove favorite, Griffin then was installed as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 2006. His predecessor as U.S. Attorney, Bud Cummins, was one of nine federal prosecutors forced to resign in an unusual purge orchestrated by George W. Bush’s White House.

Griffin got the U.S. Attorney job via a little known provision slipped into the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005, authorizing the Attorney General to appoint emergency U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation.

However, after congressional Democrats – and some Republicans – complained about politicization of the Justice Department, Griffin resigned rather than face a regular confirmation process.

Griffin also stepped down as details began to emerge about his role in “vote caging,” a controversial tactic that has been used to suppress the turnout of minorities by having their names purged from the rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their homes.

[Karl Rove] The Republican National Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating it would not engage in the practice after it was caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986.

Documents released last year implicated Griffin and other Republican operatives in a broad effort to "cage" votes during Election 2004 in battleground states, such as New Mexico, Nevada, Florida and Ohio.

E-mails among Ohio Republican Party official Michael Magan; Coddy Johnson, then national field director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign; and Griffin showed that the men received documents that could justify widespread voter challenges if the Bush campaign needed to contest the election results.

Johnson referred to the documents as a "goldmine.” Like Griffin, Johnson worked at the White House as a political aide to Rove.

The documents were lists of registered voters who did not return address confirmation forms to the Ohio Board of Elections. The Republican operatives compared the list with lists of voters who requested absentee ballots.

"A bad registration card can be an accident or fraud. A bad card AND an Absentee Ballot request is a clear case of fraud," argued Bush-Cheney campaign staffer Robert Paduchik.

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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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