Sunday, August 31, 2008

Voter Suppression in Mississippi

Still At It
Posted by dday
August 22, 2008.
This time, in Mississippi.

We often chronicle the voter suppression and
intimidation machinations from the right. There's also
the use of US Attorneys to investigate Democrats at
fortunate times for their Republican opponents. Despite
the high-profile nature of the Don Siegelman case and
others, this element of the Republican machine hasn't
been shut down. In fact, it's in full force in a Senate
race in Mississippi.

As federal courtwatchers wonder if the Mississippi Beef
Plant investigation will entangle Senate candidate
Ronnie Musgrove, a Federal Election Commission check
shows U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee contributed to his

Greenlee was nominated for the U.S. attorney post in
2001 by President George W. Bush, supported by
Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.
On Oct. 11, 2002 - just weeks before then-U.S. Rep.
Roger Wicker won another term in Congress - Greenlee
made a donation of $200 to Friends of Roger Wicker [...]
In U.S. District Court, where Greenlee is the chief
prosecutor, two Georgia company executives recently
pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign
contribution to then-Gov. Musgrove's 2003 re-election
campaign. They admitted they hoped to ask Musgrove for
help as they realized the Mississippi Beef Plant
construction project was in trouble.

The project ultimately failed, leaving hundreds of
people out of work and the state of Mississippi holding
the bag on millions of loan guarantees. Two men have
gone to prison on related fraud charges.

However, Musgrove has not been indicted and repeatedly
insists he did nothing wrong.

Scott Horton has taken notice of this one, as it shares
similarities with the Siegelman case that he's been
following closely - a former Democratic governor in the
Deep South, a Republican operative masquerading as a US
Attorney, and trumped-up charges designed to take down
Musgrove. These executives plead guilty to the illegal
contributions in a plea deal:

The three, all executives with The Facility Group of
Smyrna, Ga., were largely left off the hook on the more
serious charges that they had swindled the state out of
at least $2 million and had left the plant's vendors and
contractors holding the bag. Instead, they were allowed
in a plea bargain to confess to trying to buy influence
with Musgrove by steering $25,000 to the then-governor's
unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2003.

The orchestrated guilty pleas - and the prosecutors'
suggestion that more indictments could be forthcoming -
are a boon to the campaign of Republican Roger Wicker,
who was appointed to the vacant Senate seat in December
but is considered vulnerable. They leave a cloud over
Musgrove in voters' minds and provide more fodder for
negative campaign ads from the G.O.P. camp, even though
Musgrove has not been charged with any wrongdoing and
there's nothing in the court records to document he did
anything illegal.

Well, maybe we can get somebody over at the Justice
Department to investigate. Or I know, an independent
body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights! Anyone
know any of their new hires?

It looks like Hans von Spakovsky, an old TPM favorite,
is back in business. The former Justice Department
official, whose nomination to the Federal Election
Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to
his long record of support for restrictions on voting
rights, has been hired as a "consultant and temporary
full-time employee" at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) the agency confirmed
to TPMmuckraker [...]

Among Spakovsky's duties will be overseeing the USCCR's
report on the Justice Department's monitoring of the
2008 presidential elections, a source inside the USCCR
told TPMmuckraker.

Spakovsky's hiring is at the request of Commissioner
Todd Gaziano, who works for the conservative Heritage
Foundation on FEC issues and has defended Spakovsky in
the press before. According to a federal government
source, Gaziano has recommended Spakovsky at the
government's highest payscale -- which would work out to
about $124,010 annually if Spakovsky was to stay for an
entire year.

Looks like we're in good hands.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis