Murray Waas at National Journal unravels some of the involvement of GOP operative and Karl Rove protege Mark Hearne in the Arkansas and Missouri chapters of the US Attorney scandal. Hearne is probably involved in all of the those situations where USA’s were being pressed to bring “voter fraud” charges. Hearne, who was legal counsel for Bush Cheney in 2004, is known as the head of the bogus and now defunct American Center for Voting Rights.
Waas’ story clearly shows the bending of the Justice Department to partisan purposes. And it shows the importance of getting Karl Rove’s testimony; he is the dot that connects the White House to political intervention in the investigation and/or prosecution of individual cases.
Mark (Thor) Hearne, a Republican Party operative who had served as national election counsel for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and played a behind-the-scenes role in both cases. Hearne’s role provides a window into how a Republican activist was pushing Bush administration officials — and perhaps in some cases working in concert with them — to use the Justice Department for partisan purposes.
[ex-USA for Arkansas] Cummins said in an interview that a former senior Justice Department official from the Bush administration, William Mateja, repeatedly contacted him during the investigation and asked whether Blunt was implicated in the corruption probe. Cummins said he was unaware at the time that Mateja was making his calls at the behest of Hearne, whose law firm had retained Mateja on Blunt’s behalf.
In the case involving ACORN, Hearne had urged the Justice Department long before the election to investigate the activist organization and similar groups that registered Democrats. When Hearne came to believe that the U.S. attorney for western Missouri, Todd Graves, was not taking seriously allegations that ACORN workers were registering people who did not qualify to vote, he took his complaints to senior officials in Justice’s Civil Rights Division and to the White House, according to a former Justice official and a private attorney who worked with Hearne. The private attorney said in an interview that Hearne boasted to him about having discussions with administration officials who wanted Graves replaced.
The White House declined to comment on any of its discussions with Hearne.
At the insistence of the Bush administration, Graves resigned on March 10, 2006. Graves has said publicly that he believes his dismissal was the result of clashes he had with his superiors for not aggressively pursuing voting-fraud cases.
When Graves resigned from Justice, Bradley J. Schlozman, one of his superiors, replaced him. The two had disagreed on the voting-fraud cases when Schlozman was acting head of the Civil Rights Division’s voting-rights section.
Schlozman had pressed Graves to bring a civil suit against Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, for allegedly failing to crack down on voting fraud. Graves expressed serious reservations about the case, saying it lacked merit. Subsequently the voting-rights section filed the suit. Later, U.S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey dismissed it, concluding: “It is … telling that the United States has not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a result of deficiencies alleged by the United States. Nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred.”
Hearne found his niche in the GOP’s operation in Florida in 2000:
Among his mementos are personal letters from President Bush and Karl Rove thanking him for his work in the 2004 campaign and a picture of Hearne holding up and examining a ballot with a “dimpled chad” in Broward County as a representative of the Bush campaign during the contested 2000 Florida recount.
In February 2005, with encouragement from Rove and the White House, Hearne founded the American Center for Voting Rights, which represented itself as a nonpartisan watchdog group looking for voting fraud. Critics, including the liberal group People for the American Way and state chapters of the League of Women Voters, say that the group was a Republican front and pursued only allegations of voting fraud by Democrats. The group now appears to be defunct.