March 31, 2007

(Guest blogged by Logan Murphy)

As Gonzalesgate continues, more and more people are starting to come forward. After spending more than 35 years fighting for voter's rights in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, Joseph D. Rich retired from the DOJ in 2005. Unhappy with what he saw during his time working under the Bush Administration and the recent attorney purge, Rich is now speaking out. In an Op-Ed in Thursday's L.A. Times, Rich tells of how the Bush Administration began pushing out career DOJ employees over the past six years and replacing them with political appointees who were instructed to toe the party line, not uphold the law. It's a stunning indictment of just how partisan conditions at the DOJ have become.


The scandal unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws - particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies - from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities. (Read the rest of this story...)

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