Gonzales: We Should Be “Sensitive” about Voter Fraud

As we’ve noted numerous times, there’s been tremendous pressure from Republicans all over the country for prosecutors to bring voter fraud cases. And the Justice Department has responded — as McClatchy has detailed at length this morning.

But in his testimony today, Gonzales professed that “as someone who grew up in a poor neighborhood,” that he was sensitive to the plight of minorities and the poor with respect to the right to vote. And he said that it was important to “send a strong signal” in the department that prosecutors be “sensitive,” that he didn’t want prosecutions to have a “chilling effect” or “create some sort of cloud” that would discourage minorities from voting.

In fact, he said that the department had guidance about “doing that sort of investigation near an election.”

But, as Joe Rich, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division’s voting section, has written, that guidance seems not to have made its way to former Justice Department official, Bradley Schlozman:

In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman’s central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure….

Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department’s long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration’s aims more transparent.