If at first you don't succeed, investigate again.
That, at least, seems to be Karl Rove's philosophy.
As McClatchy and The Washington Post report this morning, Rove requested last October that the Justice Department investigate allegations of voter fraud in three jurisdictions. Those three were Milwaukee, New Mexico and Philadelphia -- all battleground states.
The White House really put the heat on. McClatchy reports that at least twice in October, Rove or his deputies passed on word of the allegations to Kyle Sampson. In addition, both Rove and President Bush raised the issue with Alberto Gonzales the same month.
Sampson, in turn, passed on the allegations to a Justice Department official named Matthew Friedrich. Friedrich dutifully agreed "to find out whether Justice officials knew of 'rampant' voter fraud or 'lax' enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back."
Friedrich has told congressional investigators that Sampson also gave him a 30-page report prepared by Wisconsin Republicans about voter fraud in Milwaukee. Sampson apparently expected Friedrich to pass it on to the department's criminal division. Friedrich says he didn't do that because that would "violate strict Justice rules that limit the pursuit of voter-related investigations close to an election." (At least someone in the Justice Department cares about that rule.)
Now, you can see that 30-page report, titled "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary" here (pdf, see page 10). As the title would indicate, it was nothing but a collection of news clippings related to voter fraud allegations in Milwaukee... in the 2004 election.
Two things about that. First, it appears that Rove wanted the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of two-year old allegations right before the 2006 election. But second, these allegations had already been investigated -- as part of the most comprehensive effort by a U.S. attorney's office to investigate voter fraud in the entire country. The U.S. attorney there, Steven Biskupic, launched a joint task force with local prosecutors to probe allegations of fraud in the 2004 election. Finally, more than a year after the election, Biskupic announced that the task force hadn't in fact found evidence of a conspiracy to steal the election. But prosecutors nevertheless prosecuted nearly twenty individual cases for a variety of voting-related offenses (Biskupic's office handled 14). No U.S. attorney office in the country can touch those numbers.
But that apparently wasn't good enough for Rove, who thought that Biskupic had been "lax" in his approach to voter fraud.
The only thing that saved Biskupic from being fired, according to the Post, is that "Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty argued against the firing, saying it would 'not be a wise thing to do politically' and could raise 'the ire' of Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who had recommended Biskupic and was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee."
David Iglesias of New Mexico, obviously, wasn't so lucky. Nevermind that, together with Biskupic, he was the only other U.S. attorney to have launched a voter fraud task force in the 2004 election -- and that the Justice Department had him and Biskupic teach a seminar on election crimes. He hadn't convinced the person whose opinion matters most at the Justice Department: Karl Rove's.
Note: In case you're wondering about the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and why he wasn't fired.... Pat Meehan was formerly senior counsel to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), formerly the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- now the ranking member. If they didn't want to risk the ire of Rep. Sensenbrenner, they certainly didn't want an angry Sen. Specter.