>When is it more important to prevent voter fraud than rape? Very possible answer: When you’re in the Bush Administration Department of Justice managed by AG Alberto Gonzales.
In 2004 Congress enacted a budget a section of which required the Department of Justice to submit quarterly reports on its efforts to reduce murder rates, domestic violence, child abuse and other violent crimes committed against Native Americans. [Indianz] $2.75 million was dedicated to the FBI Indian Country unit to assist with crime prosecution efforts. $7.55 million was to be used for the creation of a liaison office to help Native communities eliminate domestic violence.
There was a reason for this legislation. Between 1992 and 2002 the rate of violent crime victimization among Native Americans aged 25-34 was more than 2 1/2 times that for all other persons of the same age. The rates of violent crime victimization for both Native American men and women were higher than for all other races. [DoJBJS]
And, for trying to carry out the Congressional mandate to help Native Americans improve law enforcement activities to reduce these statistics — former Minnesota U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger was one of the 30 prosecutors the Bush Administration wanted to fire. He was also one of the U.S. Attorneys Monica Goodling thought should be removed for spending “an extraordinary amount of time” prosecuting crimes against Native Americans. [TP]
Heffelfinger’s reaction: “I did spent a lot of time on it,” Heffelfinger said of the American Indian issue. “That’s what I was instructed to do” by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Given the higher rates of violence suffered by American Indians, Heffelfinger said, the time was warranted, but it didn’t take away from other priorities. “I had to work hard, but I was comfortable with the mix of my local responsibilities and my Native American responsibilities,” said Heffelfinger, who oversaw his office’s investigation into the 2005 shooting that claimed 10 lives on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota.” [KARE]
That Red Lake shooting — in 2005 the second deadliest school shooting in the U.S., now unfortunately the third — the one about which the President had nothing to say until the Washington Post and other media outlets printed reports comparing his response to the Schiavo Case to the Red Lake Tragedy: “The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can’t take time to speak is very telling,” said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.”
The silence from the White House was so obvious that “Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, called the White House on Thursday to inquire about Bush’s silence. “I wanted to make sure the White House is paying attention to this issue,” she said. “I wasn’t sure.” [WaPo] President Bush eventually commented on the tragedy during a subsequent Saturday radio broadcast.
For spending time dealing with the tragedy at Red Lake, and all the numerous and unrecorded smaller tragedies on Native American lands, the political operatives in the White House and the Justice Department put Mr. Heffelfinger on a list of those to be replaced by the likes of Rachel Paulouse, a close friend of Ms. Goodling.
So, the tragedy continues, compounding itself as the Bush Administration seeks to politicize the Department of Justice and denigrate attempts to solve problems on Reservations. Would it be too much to ask that the Administration spend an “extraordinary amount of time” noting that the BIA law enforcement section is staffed at just 31% of its needs? Or, take action regarding the fact that the violent crime rate in Indian Country is 101 per 1,000 compared to the national average of 41 per 1,000. Or, notice that Native American women are 2 1/2 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted as other women in America. [Helena Ind]
Republican members of Congress may whine that the “fishing expedition” into the firing of U.S. Attorneys is an inconsequential partisan activity. [TPmm] And, the President may groan that the “political theater” is being “drug out.” [TPmm] But, this issue illustrates exactly where the rubber meets the road.
When a competent prosecutor who is attempting to follow the mandate of Congress, and the instructions from the man who hired him (Ashcroft), to make progress toward achieving the worthwhile goal of reducing crime against Native Americans — is “rewarded” for his efforts by being placed on a firing list — then something is, indeed, very very wrong. Unless, of course, one believes that replacing such attorneys with ones more amenable to bringing phony voter fraud cases is more important.
In 2002 while a resident of a reservation was 2 1/2 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than the rest of the American population, Republicans weren’t focusing on the murders committed or the rapes perpetrated. They were exercised about the possibility that the Democrats were going to ‘steal’ the election with fraudulent votes from South Dakota Reservations. [TPM] It seems there was some voter fraud going on — six Republican party staff members and campaign workers in South Dakota resigned in October, 2004, over a voter fraud scandal. The GOP reassigned one of them, Larry Russell head of the South Dakota GOP-GOTV operations to Ohio. [TPM]
With this brief history in mind, it’s no surprise that Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and Rep. John Conyers are asking for communications related to Heffelfinger’s replacement, and for documents about efforts to “enforce” voter fraud and ballot integrity laws in Minnesota. [WCCO] After all, it seems far more important to the Bush Administration to punish so-called voting fraud crime BY Native Americans than to address violent crimes done TO Native Americans.
What’s needed at this juncture, whether the Republican lock-steppers in Congress like it or not, is an “extraordinary amount of time” spent investigating who’s manipulating the Department of Justice into allocating resources to chase the phantoms of voter fraud while Native Americans are waiting all night for a BIA cop to respond to a burglary, rape, or murder 911 call.