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Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) writes a letter to US Attorney David Iglesias complaining about what she considers to be evidence of possible voter fraud in her district. She reports that an unusually large number of mailings from her office to newly registered voters are being returned as undeliverable. She asks Iglesias to “investigate whether these voter registrations were lawful and whether any organizations or groups are intentionally causing false voter registration forms to be filed with the county clerk.” Iglesias will not respond to Wilson’s letter until October 29, 2004, just days before the November elections, and will inform Wilson that he is referring her complaint to the FBI “for their review and possible action. The FBI will determine whether a federal investigation may be warranted.” Wilson will forward Iglesias’s response to her chief of staff with the handwritten comment: “What a waste of time. Nobody home at US Attorney’s Office.” Wilson will later state that she faults Iglesias for not pursuing her complaint in a timely manner. It is unclear whether she is aware of Iglesias’s Election Fraud Task Force, formed in September 2004 (see September 7 - October 6, 2004). The FBI will find that the undeliverable mailings referred to in Wilson’s complaints were returned because of incomplete addresses on voter registration cards (i.e. apartment numbers left out), errors by Wilson’s office in addressing the envelopes, or because the people mailings were sent to, usually college students, had since moved. The FBI will recommend, and the task force will concur, that no further investigation of Wilson’s complaints is warranted. (US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General 9/29/2008) Wilson’s letter is spurred by New Mexico Republicans’ efforts to block ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) from registering new voters in largely Hispanic and poor areas. The effort is being led by Matt Henderson, an Albuquerque resident and ACORN head organizer; under Henderson’s leadership, ACORN is registering thousands of new voters, whom Republicans in New Mexico and Washington, DC, correctly fear will vote largely Democratic. ACORN and other groups are battling Republican efforts to institute strict voter ID laws, which critics say will hinder poor, minority, and elderly voters from participating in elections. In 2000, the state had gone for Democrat Al Gore by a vanishingly small margin of 366 votes; both parties believe that the 2004 presidential election will be equally close. By August 2004, ACORN and other groups have signed up some 65,000 new voters in Bernalillo County, which encompasses Albuquerque. Sheriff Darren White is the person who allegedly found voter registration errors in some 3,000 forms filed with the Bernalillo County clerk, including forms lacking Social Security numbers, complete addresses, and the like. White, the chairman of the New Mexico Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, who proudly admits to being made chair in order to deliver Bernalillo County for Bush-Cheney, calls those errors evidence of massive and systematic voter fraud. He has already written to Iglesias, on August 5, asking that Iglesias investigate the “suspect” registration forms. Wilson’s letter to Iglesias comes less than two weeks after White’s letter. (Atlas 2010, pp. 213)
The US Attorney’s Office (USAO) of New Mexico, headed by David Iglesias (see October 18, 2001), announces the formation of a state and federal task force to address the issue of voter fraud in the state. Iglesias forms the task force in part because of complaints by Republican lawmakers and state party officials about what they term “rampant” voter fraud in the state that is, they say, affecting elections (see August 17, 2004), and as a response to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s stated goal to ramp up voter fraud investigations throughout the nation. “It appears that mischief is afoot and questions are lurking in the shadows,” Iglesias tells local reporters.
'Suspicious' Registration Forms - According to Nancy Scott-Finan of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Affairs, Iglesias opens the task force after hearing from Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrara, a Democrat, who wanted to discuss some 3,000 “suspicious resignations” with him. He has also received a letter from Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, a Republican, about “thousands” of “questionable” voter registrations—the same 3,000 “suspect” forms—turned in by voter-outreach groups working primarily on behalf of Democrats. (Iglesias was invited to take part in what New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh called “the [New Mexico Republican P]arty’s voter fraud working group” a month ago, but declined. Weh forwarded the invitation to a number of prominent New Mexico Republicans, including Senator Pete Domenici, Representative Heather Wilson—see August 17, 2004—and others. Domenici’s chief of staff Steve Bell called the issue a “critical matter.” Iglesias did not join the group, and no evidence exists that the group was actually formed.) Iglesias wants to avoid the perception of partisanship in his task force, so aside from Republicans on his task force, he asks Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron (D-NM) to join; she assigns a member of her office to serve in the organization. Officials from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (the state’s law enforcement agency), the US Veteran’s Administration Inspector General’s Office, the FBI, and the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) also agree to participate. Two days after the announcement, Iglesias announces that a voter fraud hotline for the task force has been activated, and says that all allegations of fraud will be thoroughly investigated. Rumaldo Armijo, Iglesias’s executive assistant, and two other Assistant US Attorneys are assigned to the task force.
New Mexico Republicans Critical of Task Force - However, some New Mexico Republicans complain that the task force’s bipartisanship renders it useless. Mickey Barnett, a powerful state Republican, writes an email to Iglesias informing him that “[m]ost of us think a task force is a joke and unlikely to make any citizen believe our elections and voter registrations are honest.” New Mexico attorney Patrick Rogers, another prominent state Republican, says of the State Department representative that he has “includ[ed] the target on the task force.” White, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in New Mexico who will later tell reporters he was brought on by the Bush-Cheney campaign in order to help win Bernalillo County, later says he would have preferred the USAO to investigate and prosecute cases without the involvement of state agencies, and he believed Iglesias’s concerns about bipartisanship to be misguided. Vigil-Giron will also question the task force, saying: “This is just an attempt to let people know that Big Brother is watching. It may well be aimed at trying to keep people away from the polls.” Iglesias meets with the task force members several times before the November 2 elections, and reminds them that Justice Department policy forbids his office from indicting people on voter fraud charges before upcoming elections, in order to avoid the perception that the indictments are being filed to impact the elections.
Almost All Complaints Minor, No Criminal Cases Developed - Almost all of the complaints received by the task force are quite minor—complaints of yard signs being stolen, harassing phone calls, and non-criminal registration issues. These complaints are forwarded to local election officials. Several more serious complaints, including the complaints from Republican lawmakers and state officials, are forwarded to either the FBI or the Department of Public Safety. Iglesias will say that when he began the task force, he thought it would develop cases worth prosecuting, but after months of work, he found that it was unable to develop a single criminal case. The task force will stop meeting after the November elections and will conclude its efforts in January 2005, but will not officially disband until 2006, after the FBI completes the last of its investigations. The Justice Department will recognize Iglesias’s task force as an example to other offices as to how voter fraud investigations should be handled, and Iglesias will give an address to a department-sponsored symposium on voter integrity (see October 2005). (Becker and Eggen 9/20/2004; US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 4/13/2007 ; US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General 9/29/2008; Atlas 2010, pp. 213-216) On September 30, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) calls the Justice Department to ask about Iglesias’s task force. He speaks with Assistant Attorney General William Moschella. He says he is concerned about voter intimidation, and says he has heard no allegations of widespread voter fraud. He also says the local FBI told him the task force “was on thin ice,” apparently meaning that it is not finding anything of consequence. (US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 4/13/2007 )
Iglesias Refused 'Show Trials,' Says Reporter - Investigative reporter Greg Palast will say of Iglesias’s voter fraud task force: “That’s where Iglesias drew the line in the sand. He said a press conference is one thing, which he probably shouldn’t have done, but literally handcuffing innocent voters for show trials—and then, of course, then you drop the case later—that is one thing he absolutely was not going to do.” (Goodman 5/14/2007)
Scott Jennings, an aide in Karl Rove’s White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA), sends two emails to Rove’s deputy, veteran Republican political operative Timothy Griffin (see October 26, 2004), about the White House’s desire to fire US Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico (see October 18, 2001). The emails are part of a larger “chain” sent back and forth between Jennings, Griffin, and other officials. Jennings writes in the first email, sent on May 2: “[W]hat else I can do to move this process forward? Is it too early to formulate a list of extremely capable replacements? There are several I know personally and can recommend.” The email contains a synopsis of claims by Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and several New Mexico Republicans that Iglesias did not aggressively pursue “hundreds” of voter fraud charges using evidence White and the Republican activists provided (see September 7 - October 6, 2004). The email also states that Iglesias went against the wishes of New Mexico Republicans in creating his “bogus” voter fraud task force (see August 17, 2004, September 7 - October 6, 2004, and September 23 - October 2004), and placed a New Mexico Democrat on the task force who reportedly stated that voter fraud violations were entirely imaginary. The second email, from June 28, reads in part: “I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM USATTY. I was with CODEL [the New Mexico congressional delegation] this morning, and they are really angry over his lack of action on voter fraud stuff. Iglesias has done nothing. We are getting killed out there.” Griffin responds to the second email, saying: “I hear you. It may not be that easy, though. The president has to want to get rid of him. I will ask counsel’s office to see if it is even in contemplation.” Griffin is referring to the White House Counsel’s Office, headed by Harriet Miers. Leslie Fahrenkopf, a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office, tells Griffin: “He is on my radar screen. I raised it with Harriet a few weeks ago (see May 12 - June 9, 2005) and she would like to wait until his term is up in October 2005. If you think it merits another conversation with her, let me know.” Rove will later testify that he knows nothing of Jennings’s communications with Griffin, and will say: “Obviously, Scott had strong feelings about this, having been involved out there. And, from the review of the documents, he was freelancing a little bit here, apparently.… But it’s clear Scott, from reading this, ‘please let me know what else I can do to move this process forward,’ he’s clearly trying to get Iglesias out.” As for Griffin’s response, Rove will say: “I see this as a brushback. I see Tim Griffin telling a subordinate, I understand, not that easy, this is the president, not you, who is in charge, and I will check on this. I see this as a brushback pass.” Griffin is Jennings’s immediate supervisor in OPA. In 2004, Jennings served as the executive director of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in New Mexico. Rove will say that Jennings has been in touch with New Mexico Republicans who are unhappy with Iglesias’s purported failure to pursue voter fraud charges (see August 17, 2004, September 7 - October 6, 2004, September 15-19, 2004, September 23 - October 2004, and May 6, 2005 and After). (US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 6/15/2009 ; Rove 7/7/2009 ; US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 7/30/2009 ; US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 8/11/2009) Miers will deny ever seeing the email until years later, when Congress begins investigating the US Attorney firings (see December 7, 2006). She will refuse to speculate on what Jennings might mean by saying, “We are getting killed out there.” Her questioners will ask if he might be referring to a large number of Democratic voter registrations, and Miers will say he could be talking about massive voter fraud issues, though she will add, “I should say, I’m not suggesting I know whether there was voter fraud or not.” (US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary 6/15/2009 )
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