Thursday, December 03, 2009

Not Exactly News

A new report by the Government Accountability Office auditing the activities of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice from 2001 to 2007 has issued, and it confirms what we all suspected: the Bush administration played fast and loose in politicizing this division. From the NY Times, which obtained a copy of the report:

The 180-page report, obtained by The New York Times, is densely packed with statistics about civil rights enforcement by the division’s sections. The accountability office also examined a sampling of matters that were closed without further action, finding several cases — including the curtailed voter intimidation inquiry — in which supervisors rejected the recommendations of career lawyers to go forward.

The report represents a comprehensive review of the division’s litigation activity in the Bush administration. When compared with the Clinton administration, its findings show a significant drop in the enforcement of several major antidiscrimination and voting rights laws. For example, lawsuits brought by the division to enforce laws prohibiting race or sex discrimination in employment fell from about 11 per year under President Bill Clinton to about 6 per year under President George W. Bush.

The study also found a sharp decline in enforcement of a section of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits electoral rules with discriminatory effects, from more than four cases a year under Mr. Clinton to fewer than two cases a year under Mr. Bush.
[Emphasis added]

This is hardly surprising, but having the hard facts at hand will certainly help in establishing just how far the last administration was willing to go to control elections and to keep the GOP in power. The plan didn't work, but it might have. To ensure that such dangerous and corrosive meddling with civil rights isn't repeated, the House of Representatives will release the report as it takes up its first oversight hearing of the Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration.

Sometimes looking backward is necessary to prevent such egregious behavior from ever happening again. What would be even more helpful is a full investigation by the current Justice Department into the issue with prosecutions as warranted, although I suspect that would be expecting too much.

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