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Why Karl Rove Cared

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, May 14, 2007; 1:02 PM

Why would Karl Rove want to fire a bunch of U.S. attorneys?

If you think it seems out of character, you don't know Rove -- or more precisely, you don't know the two sides of Rove. President Bush's powerful adviser is one part spreadsheet-carrying, vote-counting political wonk, and one part no-holds-barred, brass-knuckled political operative.

Vote-counting Rove knows that -- particularly in battleground states, where a few votes can make all the difference -- every little bit helps. Brass-knuckled Rove has energetically used government power to meet political ends.

Vote-counting Rove has long been obsessed by voter fraud, either because (according to him) it threatens the integrity of the elections process or because (according to his critics) it gives Republicans an excuse to pursue measures that suppress poor and minority turnout. They also disagree on whether fraud is widespread (Rove) or rare (his critics).

And it's not hard to believe that brass-knuckled Rove decided at some point that politically appointed federal prosecutors were important tools in his bag of tricks -- tools that occasionally needed a little sharpening, or replacement.

Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein write in today's Washington Post: "Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election-law violations, according to new documents and interviews. . . .

"It has been clear for months that the administration's eagerness to launch voter-fraud prosecutions played a role in some of the firings, but recent testimony, documents and interviews show the issue was more central than previously known. The new details include the names of additional prosecutors who were targeted and other districts that were of concern, as well as previously unknown information about the White House's role. . . .

"New information also emerged showing the extent to which the White House encouraged investigations of election fraud within weeks of November balloting.

"Rove, in particular, was preoccupied with pressing [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales and his aides about alleged voting problems in a handful of battleground states, according to testimony and documents.

"Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove's office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales's office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee. A Justice aide told congressional investigators that he quickly put the package aside, concerned that taking action would violate strict rules against investigations shortly before elections, according to statements disclosed this week."

Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor wrote for McClatchy Newspapers on Friday: "Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators."

I've written a fair amount on voter fraud over the past several months.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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