WSJ misstated Seattle U.S. attorney's "grounds" for not pursuing voter fraud charges

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

Discussing the growing controversy surrounding the Bush administration's decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys, a March 14 Wall Street Journal editorial asserted that former U.S. attorney John McKay -- identified in the editorial, apparently falsely, as a Democrat -- "declined" to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington state gubernatorial race "apparently on the grounds that he had better things to do." In fact, McKay testified that he did not convene a grand jury to investigate the matter because "there was no evidence of voter fraud."

From the March 14 Wall Street Journal editorial:

Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129-votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.

During a House hearing on the U.S. attorney firings, McKay testified:

McKAY: It is very true that the controversy surrounding the 2004 governor's election was one that had a lot of public debate. I was aware that I was receiving criticism for not proceeding with a criminal investigation. And, frankly, it didn't matter to me what people thought. Like my colleagues, we work on evidence, and there was no evidence of voter fraud or election fraud. And, therefore, we took nothing to the grand jury.

Further, according to a March 13 Seattle Times article, "McKay insists that top prosecutors in his office and agents from the FBI conducted a 'very active' review of allegations of fraud during the election but filed no charge and did not convene a federal grand jury because 'we never found any evidence of criminal conduct.' " The Times also reported: "McKay also wanted to make it clear that he pressed ahead with a preliminary investigation, despite the hesitation of Craig Donsanto, the longtime chief of the Election Crimes branch of the Department of Justice, who ultimately concurred with McKay that no federal crimes had been committed in the election."

The Wall Street Journal's assertion that McKay -- who was appointed to the position by President Bush -- is a Democrat apparently stems from a letter sent to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) by Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, in which McCabe called McKay a Democrat. But Chris Vance, the former state Republican Party chairman, was quoted in a March 14 Seattle Times article referring to McKay as a Republican, stating that "he felt compelled to approach McKay [on the election matter] as a fellow Republican." An October 31, 2001, Seattle Times article about McKay's swearing-in as U.S. attorney described McKay as a "moderate Republican," and a May 20, 1999, Associated Press article identified McKay as a Republican and quoted him referring to the GOP as "our party." The Department of Justice website documented that McKay previously worked for Republican Rep. Joe Pritchard (WA) and as a White House fellow under George H.W. Bush in 1989-90. Also, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly, McKay's family has been "involv[ed] in four Bush Presidential campaigns."

From the March 14 Wall Street Journal editorial:

And it may be this very amateurism that explains how the current Administration has managed to turn this routine issue of replacing Presidential appointees into a political fiasco. There was nothing wrong with replacing the eight Attorneys, all of whom serve at the President's pleasure. Prosecutors deserve supervision like any other executive branch appointees.

The supposed scandal this week is that Mr. Bush had been informed last fall that some U.S. Attorneys had been less than vigorous in pursuing voter-fraud cases and that the President had made the point to Attorney General Albert Gonzales. Voter fraud strikes at the heart of democratic institutions, and it was entirely appropriate for Mr. Bush -- or any President -- to insist that his appointees act energetically against it.

Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129-votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.

Posted In
Elections, Election Law
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
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