Here's what the evidence shows. Karl Rove wanted evidence that there had been a Democratic criminal conspiracy to stuff the ballot box in Milwaukee and New Mexico in 2004. But the U.S. attorneys there didn't deliver. In the case of New Mexico's David Iglesias, that likely cost him his job. Wisconsin's Steve Biskupic only avoided being fired by the skin of his teeth.
Iglesias and Biskupic were the only U.S. attorneys in the country to have launched task forces to investigate voter fraud in the 2004 elections. There's arguably not another U.S. attorney in the country to have so thoroughly investigated such allegations. A review of Biskupic's manifold efforts demonstrates that without a doubt.
Despite that fact, Karl Rove and President Bush himself passed along complaints to Alberto Gonzales in October 2006 about Biskupic's and Iglesias' performance on voter fraud. Iglesias was fired. Biskupic, for some reason, wasn't. But it looks like it was a very close call.
Here's a look at Biskupic's long-running investigation into voter fraud in the 2004 election, Karl Rove's longstanding preoccupation with it, and Biskupic's near escape from being fired.
In the 2004 election, John Kerry took Wisconsin by a scant 11,813 votes. The Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee (72% for Kerry) was key to that effort. But there were problems with the records in Milwaukee -- large discrepancies between the numbers of voters and votes. Republicans screamed bloody murder, saying that the faulty records provided a prime opportunity for fraud.
So in response, Biskupic formed his Joint Election Fraud Task Force in January of 2005. The U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, the District Attorney, and the metropolitan police department teamed up to investigate. Over the following two years, they'd identify individual cases for prosecution and determine whether there had indeed been a broad-based conspiracy by Democrats to stuff the ballot.
Even as Biskupic was investigating, Republicans kept the pressure on. In August of 2005, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Republicans Rick Wiley sent a letter to Biskupic outlining nine voter fraud cases that demanded prosecution. Biskupic replied with a letter (pdf) knocking down all nine of Wiley's pet cases.
At about the same time, in the middle of 2005, Wiley had one of his staff members prepare a lengthy memo (see page 10) called "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary." According to Daniel Bice of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the report was prepared for Karl Rove.
But Rove was already interested. We know this because one of the documents released by the Justice Department last month appears to be a printout from his computer of a February 2, 2005 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about the city's voter records. A study by the paper had found sizeable discrepancies between the number of votes and voters in the records for more than a dozen wards.
How can we tell that this was printed off of Rove's computer? Well, though the letters are cut off, you can see "ROVE_K" among the file information at the bottom (click to see the whole page):
Rove was clearly interested, circling words (like Milwaukee) in the piece and scribbling in the margin "Discuss w/ Harriet" (see image on the right) -- Harriet presumably referring to White House counsel Harriet Miers.
So as early as February of 2005, Rove was paying close attention to Milwaukee.
But Biskupic would disappoint him. In December of 2005, Biskupic announced in a press conference that his investigation had yielded no evidence of a broad conspiracy. He said that his office would pursue isolated cases of suspected fraud (see the note below for those results) -- ultimately, eighteen cases.
All that didn't stop Rove from harping on voter fraud in Milwaukee. In April of 2006, during a speech before the Republican National Lawyers Association, Rove touched on voter fraud, and the case of Milwaukee in particular. When an audience member, saying that the Democratic Party "rests on the base of election fraud," asked about the issue, Rove said, "yes, this is a real problem. What is it -- five wards in the city of Milwaukee have more voters than adults?" (Actually the article he'd printed out showed that seventeen wards had had more votes than voters.)
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