Five days before the 2006 mid-term elections, Bradley Schlozman, then the U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri, filed indictments against four voter registration recruiters for the community organization group ACORN.
The timing of the indictments contradicted long standing Justice Department policy, which advises that “most, if not all, investigations of an alleged election crime must await the end of the election,” to avoid influencing the outcome.
During testimony Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Schlozman why he had violated this policy by bringing indictments so close to an election. Schlozman deflected the question, saying that he he had only “acted at the direction” of Craig Donsanto, the director of the Election Crimes branch in the Public Integrity section. Watch it:
Donsanto literally wrote the Justice Department’s manual on how to approach election crimes. Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told TPMMuckraker that it is highly unlikely that Donsanto authorized the indictments. “I had numerous conversations with [Donsanto] over the course of two years, I can’t believe that he’d have gone 180 degrees on that policy,” Iglesias said. “I just don’t believe it.”
At a press conference attended by ThinkProgress today, Joseph Rich, who ran the Justice Department’s voting rights section from 1999 to 2005, concurred with Iglesias assessment. “That would have been my judgement,” said Rich.
Rich also implied that foul play may have had a role in the indictments. “Schlozman’s the person who recommended those lawsuits, he pushed to get them,” said Rich. “And I suspect [Schlozman] pressured Donsanto.”
Rich suggested that Schlozman may have appealed to Donsanto’s superiors. “I’ve heard that Schlozman talked to [Michael] Elston, which indicated he may have gone over Donsanto’s head to get approval,” said Rich. At the time, Elston was the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I wanted to ask a few follow up questions on the ACORN indictments. Sen. Leahy asked you about them. As you know, the four workers voluntarily turned over evidence to investigators. And they were cooperating fully with the investigation. And yet you went ahead and shortly before that election, you brought these indictments. And on page 61 of this book, it’s rather clear that that is effectively a ‘no no.’ Why did you do that?
BRADLEY SCHLOZMAN: Senator, I acted at the direction of the director of the Election Crimes branch in the Public Integrity section. We asked whether he wanted us to go forward, or delay until after the election, and he said go forward. In e-mail traffic.
FEINSTEIN: And who was that, that ordered you to go forward?
SCHLOZMAN: Craig Donsanto, the head of the Election Crimes branch.