by Margie Burns
American Reporter Correspondent
August 12, 2009
AS G.O.P. RAILED AT DEMOCRATS, IT HID FLAWED FINANCE REPORTS
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2009 -- Documents from the Bush White House and the Republican National Committee newly released by the House Judiciary Committee show that while the Justice Department under President Bush was aggressively prosecuting local Democratic officeholders around the nation, the White House Political Affairs Office was simultaneously circulating weekly broadsides about the legal actions on a flier entitled "Democrat Ethics Breakdown."
The flier circulated in emails by Bush Administration officials among hundreds of pages of detailed tracking polls and opinion surveys on elections state by state, detailed statistics on local and state demographics around the country, and political calendars noting in detail the public appearances of Democratic political candidates in every state, along with political events and fundraisers hosted by Democrat-supporting organizations, including the well-known Emily's List coalition of pro-feminist contributors.
Much of the statistical material, including the tracking polls and memos with political talking points, was issued by the office of then senior White House advisor Karl Rove, and was obtained by the House Judiciary Committee in ongoing negotiations to get testimony from Rove and former White House advisor Harriet Miers on the selective firing of several Republican U.S. attorneys under the previous Administration. Those emails appear to implicate Rove in the firings, news reports said Thursday.
While circulating the illustrated flier excoriating Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, among others, in the same email correspondence, the Office of Political Affairs was acknowledging difficulty in reporting financial contributions appropriately.
Several public interest groups have protested the Siegelman conviction, including Project Save Justice, an alliance of attorneys and journalists.
E-mails circulating in late April 2006 show Jonathan Felts, an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney who later became President Bush's White House political director, belatedly adding transfers from political finance committees to the record of financial contributions to Republican candidates.
An email dated April 24, 2006, 5:26 p.m., from Jonathan Felts to Sara Taylor, then White House political director, and Scott Jennings reads, "... I think I figured out the problem -- the number MEllis [Michael Ellis] is using does not include the transfer from the JFC [a GOP finance committee]. So, that would also mean that all of our candidates who had a JFC last quarter would not have those totals listed."
Taylor replied a minute later, emailing April 24, 2006, at 5:27 p.m. to Felts, Jennings and Michael Ellis, "What do you mean? If someone wrote a check to a candidate -- even a JFA, it would have to be listed on their disclosure."
Taylor was later removed as White House political director and was replaced by Felts.
Ellis emailed Taylor, Felts and Jennings April 24, 2006, 5:33 p.m., "Apparently (as I'm finding out now), those funds were counted as "transfers other authorized committees" and not as "contributions."
Ellis added, "I can go back and change the number on our sheets--it would only affect the Q1 raised column [amount raised in the first quarter], not the cash on hand."
Taylor emailed the others in this string April 24, 2006, 5:33 p.m.: "Please do. Thanks."
The final email in the string went out from Ellis to the others April 24, 2006, 6:59 p.m.: "Here is a new version, with the Q1 fundraising figures changed to reflect total receipts rather than contributions." [Ellis's emphasis] "Most of the numbers didn't change, but a few changed substantially. Apologies for the confusion."
By law, all political contributions of any kind must be reported in a timely manner; the fiscal first quarter ends March 30. As Taylor noted, reportable contributions include transfers of cash from party committees.
In the next emails, the "Democrat Ethics Breakdown" broadside for the following week emphasized the indictment of Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, indicted and imprisoned - on a second prosecution by the local Bush-appointed U.S. attorney - on controversial charges, amid allegations of Republican judge-shopping.
The emails referencing the "confusion" over reporting financial contributions and the ethics broadside are among RNC documents released and posted Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.
The released emails show that Siegelman was a subject of ongoing attention from Rove and the RNC. A Sept. 14, 2006, memo from Rove to then White House speechwriter William J. McGurn, attests to Siegelman's political effectiveness. The memo concerns a photo-op and ceremony to benefit Alabama GOP Gov. Bob Riley at a Republican Governors Association reception to be held at the Birmingham convention center, where President Bush was to speak.
In his email, Rove notes that Riley "narrowly" defeated incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman in 2004 with 49.1 percent of the vote to 48.9 percent, and that Riley is only the second Republican governor in Alabama since Reconstruction, although Mr. Bush won Alabama with over 62 percent of the vote in 2004.
Rove's suggested talking points for Alabama Republican politicos predictably include the Siegelman case, noting that the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Alabama was assisted by Siegelman's being indicted - a point mentioned numerous times in the RNC emails.
Siegelman was indicted Oct. 26, 2005, an event not much noticed in the national press since it occurred so close to the highly publicized indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The RNC emails note that Siegelman's trial was scheduled to start May 1, 2006, with jury selection scheduled to begin April 19, 2006 - just when the Democratic gubernatorial primary was coming up. An email in RNC documents dated April 19, 2006, handicapping the Alabama gubernatorial election, emphasizes Siegleman's prosecution as a factor in the race.
The national and Alabama GOP did not disclose publicly the correction of the previous quarter's financial reporting to include transfers from a Republican central finance committee to individual candidates.