Sens. Kennedy, Whitehouse Demand Justice Dept. Investigation Into ‘Caging’

griffinThis afternoon, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, calling on him to promptly investigate allegations that the Republican National Committee and its former research director Tim Griffin may have been involved in voter suppression tactics.

In 2004, BBC News published a report showing that Griffin, the former Rove protege who was placed as a U.S. attorney in Arkansas, led a “caging” scheme to suppress the votes of African-American servicemembers in Florida. In response, Griffin said recently, “I didn’t cage animals, I’m not a zookeeper.” Former RNC researcher Monica Goodling, who dismissively characterized “caging” as a “direct-mail term,” acknowledged discussing concerns about Griffin’s involvement in caging with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty in preparation for his testimony before Congress.

In their letter today calling for an investigation of the RNC’s voter suppression tactics, Kennedy and Whitehouse underscored the seriousness of “caging” and explained what it entails:

Caging is a voter suppression tactic whereby a political campaign sends mail marked “do not forward” to a targeted group of eligible voters. A more aggressive version involves sending mail to a targeted group of voters with instructions to sign and return an acknowledgment card. The campaign then creates a list of those whose mail was returned undelivered and challenges the right of those citizens to vote — on the ground that the voter does not live at the registered address. […]

It is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce.

We, therefore, ask the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct an investigation to determine who in DOJ knew about Mr. Griffin’s potentially unlawful activity before he was named interim U.S. Attorney, and whether appropriate action was taken on that knowledge, and to recommend whatever action is appropriate.

At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice.

Read the full letter here.

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