J. Christian Adams claimed the Justice Department's decision to dismiss a voter registration lawsuit against Missouri demonstrates the Obama administration's “record” of hostility to voting laws. In fact, the highly controversial Bush-era case has been connected to the politicization of the Justice Department and the U.S. attorneys scandal, and was dismissed due to outdated evidence.
Adams cites outdated, controversial lawsuit to smear Obama DOJ
Adams: “There's actually a record” of hostility “where they dismissed a case the Bush administration brought against Missouri.” During an appearance on the July 7 edition of Fox News' America Live, Adams claimed that the Justice Department had issued a mandate not to enforce election laws that deal with voter registration maintenance, which host Megyn Kelly claimed amounted to “sanctioning voter fraud.” To support his unsubstantiated allegation, Adams said:
And you could look at the record. There's actually a record on this during this administration where they dismissed a case that the Bush administration had brought against Missouri, and they haven't brought any new cases.
Fund cites dismissal as “evidence backing up” Adams. In a July 8 Wall Street Journal post, John Fund cited the Justice Department's decision not to pursue the lawsuit against Missouri as “evidence backing up” Adams' claims. Fund asserted:
When filed in 2005, one-third of Missouri counties had more registered voters than voting-age residents. What's more, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat who this year is her party's candidate for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, contended that her office had no obligation to ensure individual counties were complying with the federal law mandating a cleanup of their voter rolls.
The case made slow but steady progress through the courts for more than three years, amid little or no evidence of progress in cleaning up Missouri's voter rolls. Despite this, Obama Justice saw fit to dismiss the case in March 2009.
In fact, the lawsuit against Missouri was highly controversial and dismissed due to outdated evidence
- The lawsuit against Missouri was filed in 2005 over the objection of the U.S. attorney and approved by Bradley Schlozman, who participated in the Bush-era politicization of the Justice Department.
- The Bush-era lawsuit was harshly criticized as emblematic of the politicization of the Justice Department and the U.S. attorneys scandal.
- The Justice Department said that the case was dismissed due to outdated evidence.
2005 lawsuit connected to Bush-era U.S. attorneys scandal
Bush-era case accused Missouri of not purging voter roles. The Bush Justice Department filed a complaint in November 2005 alleging that the state of Missouri was not effectively removing ineligible voters from registration lists, citing Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, commonly referred to as the Motor Voter law. After a district court judge ruled against the DOJ, the Bush administration appealed. The case was subsequently remanded to the district court, and the Obama Justice Department ultimately asked the court to dismiss the case due to outdated evidence and the court's refusal to reopen an investigation into Missouri's voter registration maintenance procedures.
NYT: Lawsuit against Missouri was part of “highly suspicious case” connected to U.S. attorney scandal. According to a May 10, 2007, New York Times editorial:
As the United States attorney scandal grows, so does the number of prosecutors who seem to have been pushed out for partisan political reasons. Another highly suspicious case has emerged in the appointment of Bradley Schlozman, a controversial elections lawyer, to replace a respected United States attorney in Missouri. From the facts available, it looks like a main reason for installing Mr. Schlozman was to help Republicans win a pivotal Missouri Senate race.
Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, was facing a strong challenge from Claire McCaskill last year when the United States attorney, Todd Graves, resigned suddenly. Mr. Graves suspects that he may have been pushed out in part because he refused to support a baseless lawsuit against the state of Missouri that could have led to voters' being wrongly removed from the rolls.
NYT: Lawsuit “could have led to thousands of Demcorat-leaning voters being wrongly purged from the polls.” According to a June 8, 2007, New York Times editorial, former DOJ attorney Bradley Schlozman “pushed a lawsuit, which was thrown out by a federal judge, that could have led to thousands of Democratic-leaning voters being wrongly purged from the rolls.” From the editorial:
Mr. Schlozman fits neatly into the larger picture. Prosecutors who refused to use their offices to help Republicans win elections, like John McKay in Washington State, and David Iglesias in New Mexico, were fired. Prosecutors who used their offices to help Republicans did well.
U.S. attorney reportedly refused to file lawsuit and was eventually replaced with Schlozman. A May 10, 2007, Washington Post article reported that Todd Graves, the U.S. attorney for Missouri at the time the lawsuit was filed, said he “clashed with [the Department of] Justice's civil rights division over” the voter registration lawsuit and that Bradley Schlozman “signed off on [the complaint] after [Graves] refused to do so.” The Post article further reported that Graves said “he was asked to step down from his job by a senior Justice Department official in January 2006, months before eight other federal prosecutors would be fired by the Bush administration.” The Post went on to report:
The same month he was asked to step down, Graves's name was included in a Jan. 9, 2006, list assembled by Gonzales's then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, of seven U.S. attorneys the administration was considering forcing from their jobs. That April, Sampson sent another e-mail noting that two of the prosecutors on that list had already left. Three names, including Graves's, were redacted when Justice officials released the January list.
Graves acknowledged that he had twice during the past few years clashed with Justice's civil rights division over cases, including a federal lawsuit involving Missouri's voter rolls that Graves said a Washington Justice official signed off on after he refused to do so. That official, Bradley J. Schlozman, was appointed as interim U.S. attorney to succeed Graves, remaining for a year until the Senate this spring confirmed John Wood for the job. Wood was a counselor to the deputy attorney general and is a son of Bond's first cousin, although the senator's spokeswoman, Shana Marchio, said Bond did not recommend him for the job.
Schlozman had been a controversial figure in Justice's civil rights division for stances on voting rights. After he arrived in Kansas City, he came under fire from Democrats for pushing forward with an indictment of voter-registration activists in Missouri just weeks before last November's elections.
Schlozman did not deny that he “overruled the recommendation” of Graves. From Schlozman's June 5, 2007, testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): In late 2005, you overruled the recommendation of then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves and authorized a lawsuit to be filed against the Missouri secretary of state. The chairman referred to it.
And the suit alleged that Missouri was not making the reasonable effort to remove ineligible voters from its voter rolls.
In early '06, Mr. Graves was told to resign and you became the interim U.S. attorney.
Why was Mr. Graves told to resign?
SCHLOZMAN: Senator, I have no idea. In fact, I did not know that he had resigned until I read about it in the Kansas City Star.
FEINSTEIN: So you had no involvement in the decision.
SCHLOZMAN: None whatsoever.
DOJ IG “found that Schlozman considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys, in violation of Department policy and federal law.” A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman “considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys in violation of Department policy and federal law.” The same report outlined statements from Justice Department officials who said that Schlozman attempted to remove Democrats and liberals and hire “real Americans” or “right-thinking Americans,” which the report determined to mean conservatives.
Knight-Ridder: Bush DOJ “pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout” that resulted in eligible voters being purged from voter rolls. An April 19, 2007, Knight-Ridder article (from Nexis) reported, “For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.” Knight-Ridder, citing “former department officials, public records and other documents,” further reported that part of the strategy included suing “at least six states on grounds that they had too many people on their voter rolls” and that "[s]ome eligible voters were removed in the resulting purge."
NY Times: Bush DOJ “push to prosecute voter fraud figured in the removals last year of at least two United States attorneys.” An April 12, 2007, New York Times article reported, “Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.” The article further reported, “The push to prosecute voter fraud figured in the removals last year of at least two United States attorneys whom Republican politicians or party officials had criticized for failing to pursue cases.”
After judge remanded case to lower court, DOJ sought its dismissal due to outdated evidence
U.S. district court enters judgment against Bush DOJ. The Bush administration filed a complaint against the state of Missouri in November 2005. In 2007, Judge Nanette K. Laughrey of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri entered judgment against the Bush DOJ, stating in part that the Missouri Secretary of State's Office had “done many of the things that the United States Government now seeks Court supervision to accomplish.” Judge Laughrey further wrote (from the PACER database):
It is also telling that the United States has not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a result of deficiencies alleged by the United States. Nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred.
Appellate court remanded case to consider local compliance with voter registration laws. On July 29, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit remanded the case, asking the district court to consider whether local election agencies were complying with voter registration laws.
DOJ sought dismissal due to outdated evidence. In a March 4, 2009, motion for voluntary dismissal signed by Robert Popper, deputy chief of the civil rights division's voting section, the Justice Department noted that discovery in the underlying lawsuit against Missouri closed July 24, 2006, and that on October 9, 2008, the court declined a request to reopen discovery. The motion further explained (from PACER):
The United States now moves for a voluntary dismissal of this matter on the ground that events have overtaken this litigation. Discovery in this action closed more than two and-one-half years ago, and the evidence in the record at that time may have limited applicability to current conditions in Missouri. As the United States would not seek an injunction on old or stale evidence, it hereby moves for this dismissal.
In light of the above, the United States respectfully moves this Court to approve and order the attached Stipulation and Order of Dismissal.