Sunday, March 25, 2007

van bokkelen: the loyalest bushie

since i haven't noticed any other hoosier bloggers picking up on the "voter fraud" angle of the us attorney scandal, i suppose i should link to this mclatchy piece that josh marshall & friends have been hyping.

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing.

griffin is also a former aide to karl rove.

The department's civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."

Several former voting rights lawyers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of antagonizing the administration, said the division's political appointees reversed the recommendations of career lawyers in key cases and transferred or drove out most of the unit's veteran attorneys.

Bradley Schlozman, who was the civil rights division's deputy chief, agreed in 2005 to reverse the career staff's recommendations to challenge a Georgia law that would have required voters to pay $20 for photo IDs and in some cases travel as far as 30 miles to obtain the ID card.

A federal judge threw out the Georgia law, calling it an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era poll tax.

In an interview, Schlozman, who was named interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City in November 2005, said he merely affirmed a subordinate's decision to overturn the career staff's recommendations.

schlozman did his part to advance an atrocious voter id law in georgia, and he was rewarded with a job as a us attorney. so what happened to those who didn't toe the party line regarding "voter fraud"?

Bush administration officials have said that no single reason led to the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys. But two of those who were forced to resign said they thought they might have been punished for failing to prosecute Democrats prior to the 2006 congressional elections or for not vigorously pursuing Republican allegations of voter irregularities in Washington state and New Mexico.

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico has said he thought that "the voter fraud issue was the foundation" for his firing and that complaints about his failure to pursue corruption matters involving Democrats were "the icing on the cake."

John McKay, the ousted U.S. attorney for western Washington state, looked into allegations of voter fraud against Democrats during the hotly contested governor's race in 2004. He said that later, when top Bush aides interviewed him for a federal judgeship, he was asked to respond to criticism of his inquiry in which no charges were brought. He didn't get the judgeship.

so attorneys who didn't indict democrats on trumped-up charges of voter fraud were fired and replaced with party flacks who could get the job done, like griffin and schlozman.

it all makes me wonder what happened behind the scenes before indiana's awful voter id bill got passed.

incidentally, us attorney susan brooks of the southern district of indiana (which includes indianapolis) hasn't indicted anyone for voter fraud, much to the dismay of rabid julia-haters who are convinced that busloads of black voters cruise the city rigging elections for democrats. but we can assume brooks is a "loyal bushie", considering that she's vice chair of the AG's advisory committee.

on the other hand, us attorney joseph van bokkelen, of the northern district of indiana, has been quite busy. not only has lake county had prosecuting voter fraud cases aplenty but also van bokkelen has been indicting democrats by the handful:

If allegations by ousted prosecutors and Democratic congressional leaders are true, and White House officials fired U.S. attorneys for not pursuing corruption cases against Democratic politicians, Joseph Van Bokkelen is a popular man in Washington.

Conventional wisdom in local political circles is that public corruption largely remains constant from year to year, but that indictments for public corruption vary depending on whether the top federal prosecutor in the Northern District was appointed by a Republican or a Democrat.

That suspicion seems to be borne out in recent congressional hearings, in which former U.S. attorneys have said they were pressured by Republican leaders to lay off prosecuting GOP officials, and to time the indictments of Democrats to coincide with elections.

The probe has led to the White House itself, as Bush adviser Karl Rove and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been implicated in the scandal.

Van Bokkelen's wide-ranging corruption probe, Operation Restore Public Integrity, has nabbed more than 50 public officials since he was appointed by Bush in 2001, according to Justice Department statistics. Nearly all were against officials in Democratic strongholds in Lake County, where Republican officeholders are few and far between.

with a record like that, van bokkelen could be the next attorney general once gonzales finally resigns.

update: i spoke too soon! mere seconds after clicking "publish", i find this, courtesy of the indiana law blog:

The White House nominated U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen Tuesday to the federal judgeship in Hammond that Rudy Lozano plans to vacate this summer.

Van Bokkelen, the region's top federal prosecutor for the past five years, was among the first round of judicial nominations submitted by President Bush to the new Democratic-led Senate.

The Senate must give its consent before Van Bokkelen can take the post.

"I think we begin a new Congress with a clean slate," said Andy Fisher, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., who recommended Van Bokkelen for the job. "We'll work very closely with the members of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate members to get the nomination through."

the pattern is clear: van bokkelen was the poster boy for indicting democrats, so he is rewarded with a judicial appointment. i wonder how smoothly his nomination will go through now, in light of recent developments at DoJ.


Wilson46201 said...

This seems to be an issue for Senator Evan Bayh's staff to investigate...

Anonymous said...

This guy (van bokkelen) needs to be investigated, he has spent over $100,000,000 to lock up 50 democrats, this is how this guy spends our tax dollars, to trump up charges and break the democrats in nw indiana? and now judge? you got to be kidding...