In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud.
One of Fox News' purportedly objective news programs reported the false claim that Mi Familia Vota submitted 3,000 "shady" voter registrations at the "last minute" in Arizona to benefit the Democratic Party. The fake story originated from an Arizona blogger who has a history of making questionable statements, and was denounced as false by the Yuma County Recorder's Office.
From the October 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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No, you didn't misread that. John Derbyshire, National Review Online contributor, today rehashed his 2003 argument that nonmilitary government employees shouldn't be allowed to vote. Here's today's post, written in response to fellow contributor Pat Sajak's article about how public employees have a "conflict of interest" when voting:
Pat Sajak: "I'm not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote ..."
Go ahead, Pat: say it. I did, back in 2003.
[Quoting 2003 article:] "If you let public employees vote, what do you think they are going to vote for? For more public spending, more government jobs, higher government wages. Can you vote yourself a pay raise? No, and neither can I. Bill Bureaucrat and Pam Paperpusher can, though, and they do. Bill and Pam have no problem at all with ever-swelling public budgets, with ever-expanding public services, with the creeping socialism that is slowly throttling our liberties out of existence."
It's an idea whose time will soon come.
Other conservative commentators, like WorldNetDaily's Robert Ringer, have also advocated taking away public employees' voting rights. Using Derbyshire and Ringer's logic, I guess anyone who uses public services -- like the post office, roads, schools, libraries, police, firefighters -- probably has a "conflict of interest" when voting. So does anyone who pays taxes.
Elsewhere in the 2003 article, Derbyshire writes that public servants should be content with the "privilege" of working for the government: "Working for the State, or the nation, is a great privilege and an honor. It brings with it great security, since States and Nations very, very rarely go out of business. Let privilege, honor and security be rewards enough; let's not gild the lily with fripperies like voting rights."
Lest you think he's kidding, note that public employees are hardly the only group Derbyshire thinks unworthy of such "fripperies." In a 2009 interview with Alan Colmes, he also suggested we'd "probably" be a better country if women didn't vote.
Basically, he's saying our country would be a better place if people who don't agree with him couldn't vote. Who's "throttling our liberties out of existence," again?
Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott writes in an October 12 blog post: "Nobody knows with certainty how many illegal votes were cast in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, but odds are the total was in the millions, thanks to systematic vote fraud campaigns by leftist groups such as ACORN and mis-guided laws that allow individuals to register and vote on the same day."
Tapscott, however, offers no evidence of "systematic vote fraud" that resulted in "illegal votes" numbering "in the millions" -- perhaps because it didn't happen. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2008, election experts say that voter registration issues that had been associated with ACORN rarely result in fraudulent votes being cast because false and duplicate registrations are typically weeded out. The Chronicle goes on to state that "it's virtually impossible to pull off large-scale voter fraud without being discovered."
Tapscott's reference to ACORN is nothing more than yet another invocation of a right-wing bogeyman that has become so played out that it was getting tossed around indiscriminately; The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for instance, insisted that one purported case involved people who allegedly "associated in the past with Acorn" that "may have" been involved in "advising" people "on how to perform" voter fraud, citing unnamed "local politicos." Scaremongering aside, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed out that any actual vote fraud cases allegedly involving ACORN have been isolated.
Tapscott's baseless claim came in service to promoting Pajamas Media's "Voter Fraud Watch." He touted how one prominent name linked to Pajamas Media's project is "J. Christian Adams, the courageous former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on the Obama administration's craven cave-in to Political Correctness and left-wing ideology in the New Black Panthers Case."
The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.
Continuing a pattern in which media conservatives stoke fears about election fraud by Democrats, Bill O'Reilly baselessly raised the specter of voter fraud in Washington state and Illinois in the midterm elections. In fact, voter fraud occurs infrequently, and many of the past claims by the conservative media that election fraud took place have been false.
From the October 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In an October 4 editorial headlined "Right call on the Black Panthers," The Washington Post wrote that the phony New Black Panthers scandal "has been fueled by partisan hyperbole, conspiracy theories and misinformation." The editorial concluded, "Far from acting recklessly, the Justice Department did what every law enforcement entity is ethically obligated to do: press only those charges that are supported by evidence." From the editorial:
Critics charged the Obama Justice Department with refusing to apply civil rights law in a colorblind fashion; the Justice Department, they argued, would never have watered down the case had the alleged wrongdoers been white. The matter made headlines again last week because of allegations by Christopher Coates, the Justice Department lawyer who originally brought the case, that the voting rights section has long been "hostile" to anything but cases in which minorities are victims, not perpetrators. These assertions should be explored by the department's Office of Inspector General in its review of the voting rights section.
But even Mr. Coates did not offer specific evidence that the department acted improperly. For example, there is no evidence that [King Samir] Shabazz's actions were directed or incited by the party or its national leader; the party essentially repudiated Mr. Shabazz in a posting on its Web site and later suspended the Philadelphia chapter. The second Black Panther at the voting facility was a certified poll watcher and appears not to have verbally or physically attempted to intimidate voters.
Much of the controversy that has surrounded this case for more than a year has been fueled by partisan hyperbole, conspiracy theories and misinformation. Far from acting recklessly, the Justice Department did what every law enforcement entity is ethically obligated to do: press only those charges that are supported by evidence.
Indeed, the right-wing media -- led by Fox News -- have relied on completely unsubstantiated allegations about what Justice Department officials have said about enforcing voting-rights laws in a racially neutral manner, rather than reporting on actions by the DOJ that clearly show it has, in fact, enforced those laws when the alleged violators are racial minorities.
Christopher Coates testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that he believed he was the individual Bradley Schlozman identified as a "true member of the team" during the highly politicized Bush Justice Department.
In January, The American Prospect's Adam Serwer reported:
At first glance, Coates' extensive experience with voting rights -- he first worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and later the Justice Department -- made him look like just another career attorney. But Coates' current and former colleagues at the Justice Department say Coates underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000. Outraged, Coates filed a complaint alleging he was passed up for the job because he is white. The matter was settled internally.
"He thought he should have been hired instead of her," said one former official in the Voting Section. "That had an impact on his views ... he became more conservative over time."
Coates' star rose during the Bush administration, during which he was promoted to principal deputy section chief. While not mentioned by name, Coates has been identified by several current and former Justice Department officials as the anonymous Voting Section lawyer, referred to in the joint Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report, that Schlozman recommended for an immigration judge position. Immigration judges have jurisdiction over whether or not foreign nationals are deported. In his letter to Monica Goodling, a former senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who was implicated in the scandal involving politicized hiring, Schlozman wrote of Coates:
Don't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team. [The American Prospect, 1/8/10]
The Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General's office concluded in a 2008 report that Schlozman violated federal law and DOJ policy by using political ideology to guide personnel decisions, pointing out that he discussed removing "disloyal" "liberals" while hiring conservative "real Americans."
Today, Coates defended those hiring practices, saying:
Mr. Schlozman found a Civil Rights Division that was almost totally left-liberal in the basis of the ideology of the people who were working in it, and that he made some concerted effort to diversify the division so that conservatives as well as liberals could find work there.
Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates testified today that the Bush-era DOJ ignored his recommendation to investigate allegations that armed agents in Mississippi intimidated black voters.
Coates, who wanted the DOJ under Obama to pursue additional voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, testified today before the conservative-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Republican vice chairwoman of the commission has criticized the inquiry as part of a "wild notion" conservatives on the commission have to "topple" the Obama administration.
During the hearing, Coates testified that in 2005, Bradley Schlozman overrode his recommendation to continue investigating claims that officials in the Mississippi Attorney General's office intimidated black voters:
COMMISSIONER MICHAEL YAKI: You were also there in 2005. There were allegations that investigators for the State of Mississippi who were armed went into the homes of elderly, minority voters, in municipal elections asking them who they voted for. Generally for them, they felt very intimidated. I believe that a complaint was relayed to the Civil Rights Division. Can you tell me what the disposition of that complaint was?
COATES: Yes. And since Mr. Perez talked about that in his testimony, I'm going to talk about that, too. I was in charge of that investigation as the principal deputy. And we interviewed African-American voters in Panola - the name or that jurisdiction is Panola County Mississippi. We interviewed telephonically witnesses who had some investigators from the Attorney General's office come in. They were doing a voter fraud investigation. They asked these people they interviewed for whom they voted.
There is a Mississippi law that prohibits that except in very special circumstances. Judge Lee, for example, in the Ike Brown case would not let lawyers on either side ask for whom people voted. We did that investigation, and I recommended that we do a complete investigation in Panola County, because I felt that those questions were inappropriate and improper, and it was not a way to conduct, properly conduct a voting fraud investigation. My recommendation in that regard was not followed, and the matter was not followed up.
YAKI: Who did you send the recommendation to?
COATES: Mr. Schlozman.
The Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General's office concluded in its 2008 report that Schlozman improperly politicized ideology in making personnel decisions and discussed removing "disloyal" "liberals" while hiring conservative "real Americans."
From CSPAN's coverage of the September 24 hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
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Megyn Kelly predictably jumped all over reports that Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates would testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tomorrow about the department's handling of a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. Kelly called this development a "bombshell" that could show that the DOJ is not enforcing voting rights laws equally based on race -- but she made no mention of the DOJ's actual work enforcing voting laws against black defendants.
Kelly hearkened back to her interviews earlier this summer with right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, who has claimed that there is a "hostility in the voting rights section" of the Justice Department "to bringing cases on behalf of white victims for the benefit of national racial minorities." Fox News -- Megyn Kelly in particular -- relentlessly fanned these flames throughout the summer. Coates' decision to testify was no exception:
That testimony could potentially be damaging to DOJ officials who have testified before that same commission under oath that the Department of Justice does not have a policy of enforcing voting right laws unequally, depending on the race of the parties involved.
That's a rather extraordinary allegation that Coates might attempt to corroborate tomorrow. But it's an allegation that is in no way sustainable given the actual actions of the Justice Department -- actions that Megyn Kelly routinely ignores.
Right-wing media are citing the testimony of Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to revive the phony New Black Panther Party scandal. But Coates reportedly became "a true member of the team" in the highly politicized Bush DOJ.
From the September 20 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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From the September 13 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation:
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