Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boy, that was fast!

In a story by former Stribber Tom Hamburger (now of the L.A. Times), printed in both the Strib and the Times today, some dots get connected about Tom Heffelfinger's departure—perhaps in advance of a firing—as US Attorney in Minnesota:

WASHINGTON — For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor. Named U.S. attorney for Minnesota in 1991, he won a series of high-profile white-collar crime and gun and explosives cases. By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department.

So it came as a surprise — and something of a mystery — when he turned up on a list of U.S. attorneys who had been targeted for firing.

Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans.

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes' photo IDs.

You will remember, boys and girls, that Monica Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee that Heffelfinger might have been on the firing list for spending too much time on Indian stuff. Eric Black didn't buy it, and neither did Spot. But maybe Monica was being Freudian, she wanted to come up with some kind of half-plausible performance reason to terminate Heffelfinger, but she got closer to the real reason than she intended. It wasn't that Heffelfinger was spending too much time on Indian stuff; it was just the wrong stuff.

Hamburger's story is a good one, boys and girls, and Spotty tells you to read the whole thing at one of the links above. It is regrettable that it had to be written by an L.A. Times reporter. But what caught Spot's eye in the article, and the Wege's as well, was this:

After Heffelfinger resigned, his job went to a conservative Justice Department employee, Rachel Paulose. One of her first acts was to remove Lewis, who had written the 2004 e-mails to Washington expressing concern about American Indian voting rights.

Paulose noted Wednesday evening that those e-mails "were drafted ... when I was still in private practice. I was, and remain, unaware of their alleged existence."

Rachel Paulose has been extremely tight-lipped about the whole l'affaire Heffelfinger. But when confronted with the fact that she removed an assistant U.S. attorney [from responsibility for this issue, apparently, not the office itself], she has a canned—and frankly artificial sounding—statement all ready to go.

Maybe Hamburger touched a nerve, eh Spotty?

Spot thinks so, grasshopper. "Their alleged existence," Spot's hind end. Like Sgt. Schultz, she knows nothing, even now! That just isn't credible.

But why would she be eager to get out in front of this issue? If she is tied to efforts to stamp out pockets of resistance in the U.S Attorney's office to the GOP's voter suppression efforts, all the king's horses and all the king's men (nor Katie) will be able to put Rachel back together again.

That would be at best, odious partisan political interference in the work of the U.S. Attorney's office, at worst it is obstruction of justice.

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