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Tom Heffelfinger, the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis who was replaced by one of Monica Goodling’s best 30-something friends, Rachel Paulose, has continued to be something of a mystery case. Was he a part of the purge? Or did he just decide to go? Initially, of course, all of the dismissed U.S. attorneys took the position that they had made up their own minds to go. Who, after all, wants to go job hunting acknowledging to new employers that he was dismissed from his last position?
Then documents began to surface making clear that Heffelfinger was on several earlier lists of U.S. attorney targets. But the questions persisted: why exactly?
Today the Los Angeles Times offers a careful review of the story that hits paydirt. Heffelfinger was purged. The decision came out of Karl Rove’s office. And the reasoning was simple. Minnesota has in the last several elections been a “down to the wire” state, in which the break between Democrats and Republicans is about as close as it gets. The state’s Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer decided on a strategy of cracking down on Native American voters–who constitute a considerable part of the total voting population of the state and are arguably the most dependably Democratic identifiable voting bloc.
But Heffelfinger, who was serving on the Attorney General’s committee on Native American issues and who had taken a strong genuine interest in engaging the particular crime issues faced by the Native American population, wasn’t prepared to play along in this effort.
Goodling said she had heard Heffelfinger criticized for “spending an excessive amount of time” on Native American issues. Her comment caused bewilderment and anger among the former U.S. attorney’s supporters in Minnesota. And Heffelfinger said it was “shameful” if the time he spent on the problems of Native Americans had landed him in trouble with his superiors in Washington.
But newly obtained documents and interviews with government officials suggest that what displeased some of his superiors and GOP politicians was narrower and more politically charged–his actions on Indian voting.
About three months after Heffelfinger’s office raised the issue of tribal ID cards and nonreservation Indians in an October 2004 memo, his name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys singled out for possible firing. “I have come to the conclusion that his expressed concern for Indian voting rights is at least part of the reason that Tom Heffelfinger was placed on the list to be fired,” said Joseph D. Rich, former head of the voting section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Rich, who retired in 2005 after 37 years as a career department lawyer—24 of them in Republican administrations—was closely involved in the Minnesota ID issue. He played no role in drafting the termination lists, which were prepared by political appointees.
This case is significant for several reasons. One is that it casts a light on the assault on Native American voting rights, which was a specific element of the Karl Rove “voting fraud” fraud across the country–in Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota, for instance. In South Dakota, John Thune mounted two senatorial campaigns in which the GOP wailed loudly about voting fraud among Native Americans–with the usual GOP surrogates in the media, especially on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal joining in to create a stereophonic effect, giving an illusion of reality to claims that were purely artificial. The claims were bogus. But in the end they allowed Thune to claim a senate seat–that of Democratic leader Tom Daschle. It was Karl Rove’s sweetest victory of 2004, and the Faustian bargain for the soul of the Justice Department is now revealed as a key element in its achievement. Heffelfinger resisted, and paid the price.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”