Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that former Minnesota U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger may have been targeted for removal by the Justice Department because of his role in protecting the rights of Native American voters.
Heffelfinger, who resigned last year for personal reasons, had raised concerns that an effort by the Republican Secretary of State, Mary Kiffmeyer, to bar certain uses of Tribal IDs for voter identification would result in electoral discrimination against Indian voters.
Heffelfinger’s efforts to dig deeper into the issue were blocked by two controversial political appointees in the Department, Bradley Schlozman and Hans von Spakovsky, who used bureaucratic measures to prevent an internal department investigation:
After reviewing the matter, Rich recommended opening an investigation.
In response, he said, Bradley Schlozman, a political appointee in the department, told Rich “not to do anything without his approval” because of the “special sensitivity of this matter.”
Rich responded by suggesting that more information be gathered from voting officials in the Twin Cities area, which includes Minnesota’s two most populous counties.
A message came back from another Republican official in the department, Hans von Spakovsky, saying Rich should not contact the county officials but should instead deal only with the secretary of state’s office.
Von Spakovsky indicated, Rich said, that working with Kiffmeyer’s office reduced the likelihood of a leak to the news media.
The orders from Schlozman and Von Spakovsky, who wielded unusual power in the civil rights division, effectively ended any department inquiry, Rich said.
Yesterday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) about Schlozman’s upcoming testimony to Congress, urging Leahy to question him “closely” about:
— his efforts to effectively quash the investigation into possible voter discrimination against Native Americans;
— what role, if any, Tom Heffelfinger’s efforts to protect the voting rights of Minnesota’s Native American communities placed him on the Department’s now infamous list for termination.
Schlozman, who is suspected of politicizing the hiring of non-political jobs in the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division, will testify on Tuesday, June 5.
UPDATE: The Legal Times previews Schlozman’s testimony.