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Dreams Didn’t Die in Dallas

22 Nov

jfkcourageDreams didn’t die in Dallas fifty years ago because President Kennedy’s courage continues to inspire so many of us to believe in this nation’s greatness and become better Americans. Today, we pause to remember his legacy and reflect on his visionary leadership. Thank you, sir. Your ideas do indeed live on.

an idea“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” — John F. Kennedy

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Timmywatch!

31 Dec

“Tim Griffin should be in jail.”–Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
[Source: Truthout.org, August 27, 2012]

In 2010, Koch interests dumped $167,183 into Griffin’s campaign for Congress.

[. . .[

In Congress, he’s Rove-bot No. 1, owned and operated by Koch Industries.

Said Ernie Dumas in his piece entitled The Real Tim Griffin (Arkansas Times, July 2010):

Griffin made the group’s list of delinquent aspirants for his part in a sleazy scheme to keep blacks and other potential Democratic voters in Florida away from the polls in the 2004 presidential election when he was an operative for the Republican National Committee and for his unsavory role in the U.S. attorney scandal in 2006, which forced the resignation of seven top Justice Department officials, including the attorney general of the United States.

Wild allegations from the always-reliable Dumas? Hardly.

TIMMYWATCH brings you a more in-depth look at both of the unsavory ordeals that was directly involved with prior to launching his new political empire as Congressman from Arkansas’s Second District.

EPISODE 1: Voter Caging Scandal

As Dumas notes in the above-linked article, Griffin’s antics in the 2004 election did not get much in the way of airtime from Arkansas media, so let’s begin at the beginning.

Voter caging is the act of getting voters bumped from voter rolls if they were unable to sign for registered mail marked “do not forward” and sent to addresses where they were not present (including, say, those absent because they are in college or in the military).  The returned letters are then used as “proof” to prevent the voters from obtaining a ballot at their respective polling places or to prevent absentee voters ballots from being counted.  While there is nothing per se illegal about this act, it is illegal under the National Voting Rights Act of 1993.

Which brings us to Griffin.

In 2004, when Timmy was a Karl Rove sycophant research director for the RNC, he sent out an email to other Republicans, the subject line of which read simply “Caging,” and attached to which were excel spreadsheets full of voters’ names and addresses.  How do we know this?  Because Timmy sent them to addresses ending in “@georgewbush.org,” rather than “@georgewbush.com.” GeorgeWBush.org was a parody site, and the owner forwarded the emails to BBC Television Newsnight, where Greg Palast broke the story.

Here is one of the emails (click to enlarge):

Here’s where it gets sticky (and theoretically criminal): if you plot the addresses in  the attached Excel spreadsheet, you quickly realize that there’s a racial component involved.  As TPM explained (emphasis added):

The result? Our comparative analysis of the spreadsheet with Duval County voter rolls shows that most names were of African-Americans. (For more on the analysis, see below.) Such a finding, voting rights experts told me, strengthened allegations that Griffin, working for the Republican National Committee, was involved in an effort to target African-American voters. “It is difficult to explain other than an effort to target Democrats and by extension, minority voters,” Toby Moore, a former political geographer with the Justice Department, said.

Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at George Mason University and an expert on elections statistics, said that the chance that the list is randomly so different from the population is less than 1 in 10,000. It is illegal to target voters based on their race under the Voting Rights Act. Griffin resigned earlier this month as the U.S. attorney for Little Rock after a six-month stint.

Griffin’s defense against these allegations falsely claimed that there was “not even a scintilla” of proof, did not explain the emails bearing his name, and basically attempted to attack the message by attacking the messenger.

Astute readers will note that Griffin claimed not to even know what “caging” meant, despite the fact that he sent emails with “Caging” as the subject and “caging-1.exl” as an attachment. Weird, that. I generally don’t title emails and Excel files with words that I don’t know the meaning of, but my methods may vary.

As mentioned above, this story didn’t get a lot of play in Arkansas for whatever reason. That said, I would not go so far as to claim that it was “debunked.” Timmy never explained the emails, nor did he even claim they were forgeries or were sent by someone other than him, and he did not offer an explanation for the racial bias inherent in the caging lists. All he did was offer a ridiculous and implausible denial in which he cast himself as the martyr.

EPISODE 2: George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and the U.S. Attorney Scandal

In Timmy’s denial, he mentioned that the caging allegations did not come to light until he “became embroiled in the U.S. Attorney thing.”  That “thing,” as he puts it, was the sudden firing of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Bud Cummins, and his replacement with Timmy Griffin as “interim” U.S. Attorney.  (Similar firings and replacements in other states occurred around the same time, which is what the whole thing noteworthy.)  These new appointments came after the USA PATRIOT Act was re-authorized with changes to the appointment process — the 120-day limit on “interim” U.S. Attorneys was removed and was replaced with a provision that would have let Griffin remain in the post for the remainder of President Bush’s tenure without ever being confirmed by the Senate — and this timing was no coincidence.  Even Timmy knew that he was appointed in this way so as to avoid confirmation hearings, according to Bud Cummins.

Alberto Gonzales and others at the Justice Department have been desperately claiming for months that they’d never intended to circumvent the Senate in the confirmation of U.S. attorneys.

But apparently Timothy Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock, didn’t know it was so taboo.

In written response to questions from Congress made public today, Griffin’s predecessor Bud Cummins says that Griffin had been telling a number of people in Arkansas that he would remain as the U.S. attorney there for the remainder of Bush’s term whether he was confirmed by the Senate or not. An obscure provision in the Patriot Act reauthorization bill, of course, had made just such a thing possible.

Cummins writes of a conversation he had with Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, in late January, the day after Alberto Gonzales had testified to the Senate. Gonzales had said, among other things, that the Justice Department would seek a presidential nomination for the U.S. attorneys in every district. Cummins had called Elston to contest this idea, because “it appeared to [him] that there was no intention to put Tim Griffin through a nomination.” Elston disagreed…

Elston rejected that notion and assured me that every replacement would have to be confirmed by the Senate. I told him if that was the case, then he had better gag Tim Griffin because Griffin was telling many people, including me, that officials in Washington had assured him he could stay in as USA pursuant to an interim appointment whether he was ever nominated or not. Elston denied knowing anything about anyone’s intention to circumvent Senate confirmation in Griffin’s case. He said that might have been the White House’s plan, but they “never read DOJ into that plan” and DOJ would never go along with it. This indicated to me that my removal had been dictated entirely by the White House. He said Griffin would be confirmed or have to resign. I remember that part of the conversation well because I then said to Elston that it looked to me that if Tim Griffin couldn’t get confirmed and had to then resign, then I would have resigned for nothing, and to that, after a brief pause Elston replied, “yes, that’s right.”

Remember that emails show that Kyle Sampson didn’t want Bud Cummins testifying to Congress because he worried that Cummins would testify that Griffin had been blabbing about the Patriot Act provision.

Griffin took over the post from Cummins in December 2006, though the caging-related whispers continued.  Senator Pryor said that he was concerned with how Griffin was appointed sans confirmation, as it was nothing more than a ploy to avoid having Griffin’s legal and political background thoroughly vetted.  Other blurbs about the incident, especially as it related to the attorney firings, continued to bubble up from time to time thereafter.  However, in May 2007, the wheels really began to come off for Timmy.  First, Monica Goodling, who had worked alongside Griffin at the RNC before taking a position at the Attorney General’s office, testified before the House Judiciary Committee that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty had not been 100% accurate in his testimony to that same committee.  Goodling stated:

Despite my and others’ best efforts, [Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty]’s public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects. As explained in more detail in my written remarks, I believe that the Deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision, failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House’s interest in selecting Tim Griffin as Interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, inaccurately described the Department’s internal assessment of the Parsky Commission, and failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote “caging” during his work on the President’s 2004 campaign.

[***]

I don’t … I believe that Mr. Griffin doesn’t believe that he, that he did anything wrong there and there, there actually is a very good reason for it, for a very good explanation.

So, in sum, Goodling said that Griffin had possibly been involved in vote caging, that she thought Griffin thought that his actions were legal, and that Dep. A.G. McNulty both knew and misrepresented to the House committee about Griffin’s actions. This led John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to request the aforementioned caging emails from the BBC as part of the Committee’s investigation.

Less than 24 hours after learning of Conyers’s request, Griffin announced that he was resigning as interim U.S. Attorney, noting that going through confirmation would “be like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus”. Maybe it’s just me, but those sound like the words of someone who knows that some questionable stuff would come out during his confirmation. But I digress.

Anyway, despite ongoing looks into caging as well as who knew what, and when, vis-a-vis Karl Rove and any voter caging plans, little has ultimately been done about the firings. Thus far, Griffin’s quick resignation has managed to save him from the scrutiny he so clearly hoped to avoid. Yet, again, I don’t know how anyone can say that allegations against Griffin and his role in the U.S. Attorney scandal have been “debunked.” Because, as Donald Rumsfeld told us in the run-up to an unnecessary war, “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Decision 2010: Tim Griffin and Allegations of Voter Caging [October 2010]

KARKvideo
Who is Tim Griffin?
 [March 2007]

BBC Newsnight Report on GOP Voter Caging [October 2004]

The Future of Arkansas Democrats

14 Aug

arkdemsbannerIt’s one thing to duke it out and lose. It’s quite another to not even put up a fight when it comes to these important congressional races.

First, Arkansas progressives found themselves wondering what the heck happened to our Forrest Gump candidate in AR-03, now we’re supposed to come to the defense of ol’ sud-sippin’ Grandpa Herb in AR-02. We sent up a school bus driver against an impressive bunch of D.C. insiders in AR-04. Thank goodness for Scott Ellington in AR-01, who at least gives us a shot of not being shutout completely this fall. Seriously, is this the best Dems here can offer? Exactly what was it that the state party did to “regroup” following the historic GOP gains in 2010? No push to recruit top-notch candidates? Are we quietly just waiting it out until President Obama is off the top of the ticket before we even try again? If not, why does it feel that way right now?

Sadly, Governor Beebe does not use his broad popularity to push anything bold or progressive, or even to really push for other Democrats down-ticket. Historically popular politicians generally try to leave their mark on history . . . but I just don’t see a reduction in the grocery tax or a landslide re-election as having a lot of staying power in the minds of future generations. If he were maintaining his spot above the fray in anticipation of a run for federal office, perhaps that approach would make sense. Otherwise, it is just a big ol’ disappointment. Perhaps the Left’s biggest guns here, Bill Halter and Dustin McDaniel, are already setting the stage for a primary bloodbath in two years. And as we saw in the Halter v. Lincoln war, spending millions to tear down each other didn’t bode well in November with so many hard feelings still lingering. As much as I personally admire Halter and his ideas, this “secrecy” he maintains to what his next moves will be make it difficult on other progressives possibly considering runs of their own or wanting to build a movement behind his populist message.

It’s beyond time for progressives here to rebrand themselves (being champions of government ethics reform and protecting the environment in the era of fracking could be winning issues to start) and start developing a roster of young talent to run for office over the next decade. While there has been some movement on this front with progressive groups forming, it must go beyond occasional email list updates or get-togethers downtown to drink and socialize. Considering that seemingly everyone just looked around with shrugged shoulders when it came time to run against Congressman Griffin and his record – from the state’s most progressive and populated region in a seat long-held by someone like Congressman Snyder – just seems to prove that apathy has indeed settled in and that Democrats are subtly just allowing the complete GOP-takeover to occur.

Timmywatch: The Case Against Griffin?

4 Aug

Said Ernie Dumas:

Griffin made the group’s list of delinquent aspirants for his part in a sleazy scheme to keep blacks and other potential Democratic voters in Florida away from the polls in the 2004 presidential election when he was an operative for the Republican National Committee and for his unsavory role in the U.S. attorney scandal in 2006, which forced the resignation of seven top Justice Department officials, including the attorney general of the United States.

Wild allegations from the always-reliable Dumas? Hardly.

Continue reading

AR-02: Building Upon the Snyder Legacy?

13 May

You may have already passed by your office pile of this week’s Arkansas Times and noticed retiring Congressman Vic Snyder on the cover. Yes, just a few days before the (non-early) voters finally weigh in on the Race to Replace Arkansas’s True Blue Democrat, the state’s leading progressive publication has finally cast the spotlight on that “other” highly important Democratic primary battle. In AR-02, Democratic voters have a choice between keeping this seat squarely in the corner of progress and compassionate legislating or trying to “be more like them” by watering down the message and attempting to ignore big issues facing our country because of the fear of what the latest Arkansas poll may say on the matter.

Times writer Doug Smith’s Four of a Kind story is well written, and it articulates the mood of Ark Dems and the decision they’re being forced to make when they enter the voting booth:

Many followers of Arkansas politics believe chances are slim that the Second Congressional District will elect a successor of comparably leftish views. Aspirants are not lacking, however. Five Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination, and four of them resemble Snyder in political orientation. (Though, like Snyder himself, they don’t shout their liberal inclinations.) But three of these are practically unknown, with the election imminent, and the fourth is a black woman. Arkansas has never sent a black woman to Congress. The fifth Democrat is more conservative than the others, and he’s the best-financed of the bunch, the “establishment” candidate, expected by many to lead the ticket in the first primary. The two candidates in the Republican primary are, like all Republicans these days, proudly far-right. One, the favorite in that race, is a Karl Rove protege. From Vic Snyder to Karl Rove is a long drop.

Smith reiterates what we already know: House Speaker Robbie Wills has led an incumbent-style campaign and has attempted (and, somehow, largely succeeded) to get away with not answering the toughest and most potentially divisive questions during interviews and in debates. Though he flatly stated he would have voted “no” to federal healthcare reform, and despite the efforts by candidates David Boling and John Adams to hold him accountable on this stance during the three debates, Wills “These Hands” approach keeps on working somehow as he goes about dodging the issue and spinning his original answer with deliberate mistatements about how reform will affect the state’s Medicaid obligations. In our minds, local media has not done enough to contrast the differences between Wills and the rest of the field, and, instead, has almost rubber-stamped his front-runner status and “inevitable” primary victory. Just another in a long line of name-only good ol’ boy Democrats from Arkansas, if you ask us.

AR-02: Timmy! v. ???

Though the Times rolled out their rather unsurprising endorsement of liberal stalwart State Senator Joyce Elliott last week, we here at TWP have noted her perhaps-too-out-there-even-for-progressives statements in the debates as well as the elephant in the room, her electability in a general election tilt. Smith also notes Elliott’s statements, such as “fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same way” as potential problems for her in this primary and moreso in a November match-up vs. Rove-protege Timmy! Griffin or Huckster-wannabe Scott Wallace.  We do not see her as the candidate best positioned to carry on the Snyder Legacy — one of progressive views, but also with a pragmatism any legislator from this state must bring with them in order to achieve anything meaningful.

So, again we ask, who is the best choice in this field to carry on the Snyder Legacy? Surely his chief-of-staff of the past two years, right? Well, we’ve recounted David Boling’s shortcomings during this primary — most notably how his $300,000+ spent on this campaign in order to be third or fourth in the polls is perhaps one of the biggest election flops we’ve seen here in recent years — and given the fact that Snyder himself hasn’t endorsed Boling (or anyone else), perhaps voters are barking up the wrong tree with that choice. We do applaud his attempts to contrast his positions vs. Wills’, but he just hasn’t been able to connect with voters at the debates or on television.

Lil’ P.K. takes it to tha district… state… world… SOMETHING?

Ok, so we all know that there’s one hot-headed candidate more than willing to contrast himself against the others, but that candidate has offended and alienated so many people (including Jesus?) in such a short time during this primary that we honestly look for him to head back home to South Carolina with his tail between his legs at this point.  Smith notes the “anger” shown by him. It seems that Lil’ P. Kennedy is like a homeless man’s Howard Dean — has the rolled-up sleeves and foaming at the mouth down, but comes nowhere near the adept understanding of policy the former DNC Chair always shows.

Adams: Campaigning on Competence

As Smith mentions, and as more and more local progressives have seemingly started to notice in the past couple of weeks, the real “issues-driven candidate” with the palatable demeanor is Blue Hog Report’s AR-02 endorsee, John Adams. In fact, it was Adams’ performances in the three debates that forced us to think more about his campaign — one under-the-radar in some respects, but one that has been the most consistent, pragmatic, and closest to Snyder’s core values as a lawmaker. Snyder may be given the “liberal” label here, but he is hardly far left by most national standards; rather, he has brought many of the same qualities to office that Adams could bring — ideologically progressive and forward-thinking, but inoffensive and able to win in Republican-leaning election years.

Adams delivered his third straight sound debate performance at the Sticky Fingerz debate Tuesday night. While once again not receiving the local buzz generated by Wills’ rehearsed one-liners or Lil’ P.K.’s post-debate tweets, he was the candidate tackling issues, such as making our tax code fair with true reforms and acknowledging America’s status as the world’s military super power must be re-examined in the context of the world we now face where globalization and the effect of terrorism has changed the 20th Century rules we’ve been playing by.

Who’s Your Congressman? (Arkansas Times)

Most importantly, perhaps, is Adams’ potential electability in a November showdown with whoever the Repugs choose. I just hope voters will give him a second look because he could just the right person at the right time to keep the seat.

An uphill battle to get the chance? Certainly. But hard to not believe in the cause with responses like that, isn’t it?