Post Reporter: ‘So What Is This Caging Thing?’

In her recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, former Justice Department official Monica Goodling tried to dismiss voter suppression allegations against Karl Rove-protege U.S. attorney Tim Griffin. As ThinkProgress noted, she called the voter suppression tactic — known as “caging” — just as “direct-mail term.”

In today’s washingtonpost.com daily chat, Washington Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman was asked about why Congress didn’t follow-up on her erroneous testimony:

Orlando, Fla.: I want to know why Congress didn’t jump on Monica Goodling’s testimony about caging? Aren’t they aware that it is illegal? Thank you.

Jonathan Weisman: They jumped on lots of stuff. I thought Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama won the prize for best performance as a grand inquisitor. So what is this caging thing?

The allegations against Griffin are serious. They are serious enough that Goodling briefed Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty on them before he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Congressional sources have also told ThinkProgress the Bush administration was worried about the allegations and decided not to proceed with the Griffin nomination before the Senate because it would draw attention to this very topic.

In 2004, BBC reporter Greg Palast obtained two e-mails — prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign’s national research director — that listed “1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas” of the Jacksonville, FL Naval Air Station. Palast explains:

Here’s how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, “Do not forward”, to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as “undeliverable.”

The lists of soldiers of “undeliverable” letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters’ registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballots being counted.

In 2004, African-American leaders denounced the caging scheme as “another ‘shameful’ Republican effort to keep blacks from voting.”

So to respond to Goodling and Weisman: caging is a voter suppression tactic. Suppressing votes on the basis of race is not only illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act, but also unconstitutional.

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