Yesterday we told you about Pat Rogers, the New Mexico Republican lawyer who, according to reports, is deeply involved in the state party’s effort to make an issue out of voter fraud — despite essentially no evidence that such fraud is occurring. As we noted, Rogers also played a central role a few years ago in pressuring former U.S. attorney David Iglesias to bring politically motivated voter-fraud cases. Iglesias’ reluctance to bring such cases led to his firing in 2006.
But it’s worth paying a bit more attention to Rogers, to see how the Justice Department’s new nationwide investigation into ACORN, in which New Mexico seems to be a crucial focus — appears to represent the very same politicization of DOJ that was exposed in the scandal over the US attorney firings.
As we noted yesterday, Rogers’ role in pressing Iglesias to pursue voter fraud prosecutions was extensive. According to the OIG report on the firings, Rogers set up a lunch meeting with Iglesias, and met with an FBI agent — among many other activities — to push the issue.
Perhaps most damagingly, the report contains a September 2004 email sent to Iglesias and several staffers for New Mexico’s GOP congressional delegation, in which Rogers admitted that he was interested in the issue in large part for its potential to help the GOP:
I believe the [voter] ID issue should be used (now) at all levels – federal, state legislative races and Heather [Wilson]’s race … You are not going to find a better wedge issue … I’ve got to believe the [voter] ID issue would do Heather more good than another ad talking about how much federal taxpayer money she has put into the (state) education system and social security … This is the single best wedge issue, ever in NM. We will not have this opportunity again … Today, we expect to file a new Public Records lawsuit, by 3 Republican legislators, demanding the Bernalillo county clerk locate and produce (before Oct 15) ALL of the registrations signed by the ACORN employee.
But Rogers is no mere local player on the Republican voter fraud team. He was on the board of the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), a fake think-tank which was little more than an effort by GOP operatives to offer an intellectual gloss to politically motivated claims of voter fraud — and which abruptly closed down operations in 2007.
ACVR was run by Mark “Thor” Hearne, who served as national election counsel to President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. Jim Dyke — who was the communications director of the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election, and went on to work for both the White House and for Vice President Cheney — was also involved.
Writing in Slate last year, election-law expert Rick Hasen described ACVR’s modus operandi:
Consisting of little more than a post-office box and some staffers who wrote reports and gave helpful quotes about the pervasive problems of voter fraud to the press, the group identified Democratic cities as hot spots for voter fraud, then pushed the line that “election integrity” required making it harder for people to vote. The group issued reports (PDF) on areas in the country of special concern, areas that coincidentally tended to be presidential battleground states. In many of these places, it now appears the White House was pressuring U.S. attorneys to bring more voter-fraud prosecutions.
Here’s Rogers, on behalf of ACVR, telling CNN back in 2004 about the need for “safeguards to make sure that citizens only are voting.”
And now this is the guy who’s involved in pushing voter fraud claims in connection with an investigation in which the FBI is already involved.
Rogers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that New Mexico — which went for Al Gore in 2000 by just 365 votes, and President Bush in 2004 by around 6000 — is crucial for John McCain’s chances. Today, MSNBC.com quotes an RNC official saying: “[T]he numbers — public and private — in the [south west] have swung wildly. We believe the possibility of NV or NM breaking at the last minute is likely and we have our dominos lined up to knock down the win at the last minute.”
It looks like one of those dominoes is Rogers’ effort to use bogus claims of voter fraud as “the single best wedge issue ever.”