DOJ Conspiring with ACORN-Connected Project Vote?
Something fishy is going on over at the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ). And it very well could threaten the integrity of the 2012 elections.
As you may recall, Judicial Watch investigated a partnership between the DOJ and ACORN-connected Project Vote to use the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) to register more individuals on public assistance, widely considered a key voting demographic for the Obama 2012 campaign. (Remember, President Obama previously worked for Project Vote.)
Well, this week we obtained some new records courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on August 19, 2011. The records detail communications between the DOJ and Estelle Rogers, a former ACORN attorney currently serving as Director of Advocacy for Project Vote. These documents leave no doubt that a suspiciously close relationship between Project Vote and the DOJ is developing behind closed doors. Our friend J. Christian Adams summed up the records in a recent column:
Judicial Watch has done it again. It has produced-following a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ)-documents that suggest extensive coordination and communications between the DOJ Voting Section and former ACORN affiliate Project Vote.
Project Vote appears to be directing DOJ resources toward particular states; is having meetings with DOJ staff; and is even recommending lawyers to work in the Justice Department Voting Section that will oversee the 2012 presidential election.
Now, let’s review what we know about the activist Estelle Rogers before we get into the meat of these records.
As Director of Advocacy for Project Vote, Rogers – a former attorney for ACORN, which was besieged with charges of corruption and fraud before declaring bankruptcy in November 2010 – is a primary contact person on policy matters at Project Vote on both state and federal levels and has been actively involved in voter registration issues. By threatening lawsuits under Section 7 of the NVRA, Project Vote has aggressively sought to force election officials in various states to increase the registration of people receiving public assistance.
The question we’ve been asking is, “To what extent is the Obama DOJ a participant in this scheme?” That question appears to have been answered.
According to these new records, “civil rights groups” met with Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli on March 17, 2011, to specifically discuss Section 7 of National Voting Rights Act, which requires states to offer voter registration services at all public assistance agencies. The groups included Project Vote, American Association of People with Disabilities, Demos, League of Women Voters, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Elections Legal Network, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
On March 29, 2011, Rogers and the “undersigned voting rights groups” that met with Perrelli sent detailed recommendations to the associate attorney general for strengthening “compliance with the NVRA.” Forwarded to Perrelli by Rogers, the recommendations stated “we are grateful that you have invited us to continue this dialogue on the Department’s [DOJ's] role in providing guidance to states, and we would be happy to supply any additional information you need.”
So, in short, the DOJ invited Project Vote (and other leftist groups) to help provide guidance to states regarding the enforcement of the NVRA.
The records also detail an effort by Rogers to secure jobs for three individual applicants for positions with the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section, the department within the DOJ responsible for enforcing the National Voting Rights Act:
- In a February 23, 2010, email to T. Christian Herren, Chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Section, Rogers wrote, “I want to heartily recommend two candidates to you.” (NAMES REDACTED.) In an April 20, 2010, email, Rogers wrote, “I look forward to continuing to work with you, Chris. And please let me know if you need any more feedback regarding hires.”
- In a December 7, 2010, email, Rogers wrote, “I’d still love to talk for real, but in the meantime, the main reason I called is that you have an applicant for the [REDACTED] position [REDACTED] qualifies her beautifully for your position, and I hope you will give her every consideration. [REDACTED] So she would be a great fit, and I recommend her without reservation. Please let me know if I can tell you more. And give me a call if you possibly can.”
(As I’ve said before, personnel is policy. To install ACORN/Project Vote ideological clones in the DOJ’a voting section is to invite chaos and corruption.)
Regarding Project Vote’s legal strategy, in a July 13, 2010, email to Herren and DOJ political appointee Julie Fernandes, Rogers references NVRA litigation and she informs Herren that she will be bringing Niyati Shah to a meeting at the DOJ.
Shah “will be working on a lot of the litigation we’ll be telling you about,” Rogers writes. Rogers also indicated Nicole Kovite Zeitler, director of Project Vote’s public agency registration project, would also attend the meeting. As reported by The American Spectator’s Matthew Vadum, Zeitler “manages Project Vote’s efforts to advocate for enforcement of Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 through technical assistance and litigation across the country,” according to her bio on Project Vote’s website.
(By the way, do yourself a favor and check out this excellent reporting by Vadum, who has been all over the scandals inside ACORN and Project Vote.)
On June 20, 2011, Rogers and the ACLU co-wrote a letter to the DOJ, asking the department to block Florida’s new election integrity law (H.B. 1355). Florida has since withdrawn its application to the DOJ for “preclearance” of the law, and has taken its case to court instead.
If you take a look at the timeline of some of the NVRA lawsuits that have already been filed, I think you’ll see that Project Vote and the DOJ seem to have implemented a joint litigation strategy in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
On August 4, 2011, Judicial Watch released documents obtained from the Colorado Department of State showing that ACORN and Project Vote successfully pressured Colorado officials into implementing new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons. Following the policy changes, the percentage of invalid voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies was four times the national average. Project Vote also sought a “legislative fix” to allow people without a driver’s license or state identification to register to vote online.
In addition to pursuing public agency registration cases in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and New Mexico, Project Vote and the NAACP filed a lawsuit on April 19, 2011, against the State of Louisiana alleging violations of the NVRA. Less than three months later, on July 12, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division/Voting Section sued Louisiana on the same grounds, claiming that “Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change address for public assistance or disability services.”
The DOJ also sued the State of Rhode Island on March 11, 2011, alleging violations of the NVRA. The lawsuit led to policy changes intended to increase the number of voter registration applications processed by “public assistance and disability service officers.” These two lawsuits, filed within five months of each other, are the first such lawsuits filed by the DOJ since 2007.
Now, as we detailed in our report, The Rebranding of ACORN, Project Vote and ACORN have both been linked to massive voter registration fraud. A total of 70 ACORN employees in 12 states have been convicted of voter registration fraud. And as documented in a July 2009 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of the 1.3 million registrations Project Vote/ACORN submitted in the 2008 election cycle, more than one-third were invalid.
Moreover, Project Vote’s “Field Director,” Amy Busefink, who handled the online registration campaign for Colorado, entered an Alford plea to two gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters in Nevada while working for ACORN. (An Alford plea is a guilty plea, where the defendant does not admit the act or assert innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)
It is an affront to the rule of law and a threat to the integrity of our elections that the ACORN-front Project Vote is coordinating with Attorney General Eric Holder’s DOJ on voting law. At least now we know why the Holder DOJ never bothered to fully investigate voter registration fraud by Project Vote/ACORN. They are in cahoots.
Holder must go. Pick your reason – Black Panthers, race-based decision making, abandoning the defense of marriage law, Fast and Furious killings and lies, or turning the DOJ into an arm of the radicalized left – but Holder must go.
Judicial Watch Responds to Obama’s Unprecedented Secrecy in Court
Hiding behind vague references to “national security,” the Obama administration continues to keep secret photos documenting the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden at the hands of Navy Seals last May. But Judicial Watch will not give up its pursuit of these records, which we believe will complete the record on one of the military’s greatest achievements.
On Wednesday, we filed a new court motion in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.” (We filed the lawsuit on May 13, 2011.)
Specifically, we filed a “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.” (In order for a Motion for Summary Judgment to be granted by the court, the moving party must demonstrate that there are “no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”) Our lawyers also asked for a court hearing on the matter.
We argue to the court that the Obama administration’s motion for summary judgment “should be denied,” because both the CIA and the DOD have “failed to satisfy even the most basic requirements of FOIA law.” Specifically, they have failed to provide sufficient evidence that they conducted an adequate search for responsive records or demonstrated that the records were properly classified pursuant to President Obama’s Executive Order 13526 signed on December 29, 2009, which provided a “uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.”
Conversely, we contend that our “Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment” should be granted because the DOD and CIA “cannot legally justify their claims of exemption” for some of the withheld records, no matter what the outcome of their search. We’re not after any photographs or video recordings that have been properly classified or would actually cause harm to the national security by revealing intelligence methods or the identity of U.S. personnel or classified technology. We only want records that have not been properly classified, as well as those records for which no military or intelligence secrets would be revealed.
We respectfully remind the court that the American people “have a right to these historical artifacts to capture this moment. To date, the government has failed to provide a legally sufficient justification for why such records must not be released. Therefore, the government must be held accountable. The law requires it.”
Obama’s decision to keep these records secret did not come without a debate within his own administration.
Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta at first said the photos would be released. However, then- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly lobbied against the public’s “right to know.” And ultimately Obama agreed. On May 4, 2011, President Obama told CBS News in an interview that he would not release the death photos of Osama bin Laden, who was captured and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, to the public, saying “we don’t need to spike the football” or “gloat.”
We shouldn’t appease our enemies by undermining our nation’s core government accountability law – the Freedom of Information Act. We suspect the administration is playing shell games with the bin Laden death photos and video. President Obama is asking the courts to allow his administration to withhold documents simply because their disclosure may cause controversy. There is simply no legal precedent for this withholding.
Obama’s political calculations are no substitute for the rule of law. The Obama administration has no legal right to withhold this material from the American people, especially now that he is using this military victory in his presidential campaign. The killing of Osama bin Laden is a tremendous historic event. The law simply doesn’t allow President Obama to put the bin Laden photos and video down the memory hole.