Wednesday, September 21, 2005

DeLay’s Prosecutor Offered “Dollars for Dismissals”

How Ronnie Earle works.
National Review

EDITOR'S NOTE: Travis County, Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, the man behind Wednesday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on state campaign-finance charges, has also indicted several corporations in the probe. But last June, National Review's Byron York learned that Earle offered some of those companies deals in which the charges would be dismissed — if the corporations came up with big donations to one of Earle's favorite causes. Here is that report, from June 20, 2005:
Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who has indicted associates of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in an ongoing campaign-finance investigation, dropped felony charges against several corporations indicted in the probe in return for the corporations' agreement to make five- and six-figure contributions to one of Earle's pet causes.
A grand jury in Travis County, Texas, last September indicted eight corporations in connection with the DeLay investigation. All were charged with making illegal contributions (Texas law forbids corporate giving to political campaigns). Since then, however, Earle has agreed to dismiss charges against four of the companies — retail giant Sears, the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, the Internet company Questerra, and the collection company Diversified Collection Services — after the companies pledged to contribute to a program designed to publicize Earle's belief that corporate involvement in politics is harmful to American democracy.
Some legal observers called the arrangement an unusual resolution to a criminal case, at least in Texas, where the matter is being prosecuted. "I don't think you're going to find anybody who will say it's a common practice," says Jack Strickland, a Fort Worth lawyer who serves as vice-chairman of the criminal-justice section of the Texas State Bar. Earle himself told National Review Online that he has never settled a case in a similar fashion during his years as Travis County district attorney. And allies of DeLay, who has accused Earle of conducting a politically motivated investigation, called Earle's actions "dollars for dismissals."


Suit slams voter ID law


Plaintiffs assail Ga. requirement as illegal 'poll tax'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Voting and civil rights groups launched a legal assault Monday on the state's requirement that Georgians show a government-issued photo ID at the polls — a law they call the most restrictive of its kind in the country.

A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two African-American voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, League of Women Voters, black legislators and others calls the new law a "poll tax" that will rob black, elderly and rural people of their right to vote.

Supporters of the new law condemned the suit, arguing that the law will eliminate the likelihood of fraud at the polls. House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) called it a "ludicrous lawsuit."

"This lawsuit is nothing more than liberal special interests using unconscionable scare tactics to frighten Georgia voters," Richardson said.

While long expected, the suit raises the stakes of a debate that has raged since last winter's session of the Legislature. The suit won't affect today's special elections in Cobb County and elsewhere, but opponents hope a judge throws out the law before elections being held in November in many Georgia cities.

"There is no place for a voter-suppression law," said Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and an attorney for the plaintiffs. "The case against House Bill 244 is strong, and we intend to prevail in court."

The law, which went into effect earlier this year after approval by the Legislature and Gov. Sonny Perdue, requires voters to show one of six forms of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license. Previously, Georgians could show one of 17 forms, including a Social Security card or utility bill.

Although Georgia is one of five states requiring voters to show photo IDs, its law has been called the most restrictive because other states allow photo IDs that are not issued by the government, such as work badges.

The U.S. Justice Department, which must review changes to Georgia voting laws to ensure that minority rights are not infringed upon, approved the new law in August. But the suit argues that the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act by placing obstacles to voting.

"The new photo ID requirement ... imposes an unnecessary and undue burden on the exercise of the fundamental right to vote on hundreds of thousands of citizens of Georgia who are fully eligible, registered and qualified to vote, but who do not have Georgia driver's licenses, passports, or employer ID cards or other forms of photographic identification issued by the state or federal government," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends the requirement's true purpose is to suppress "voting by the poor, the elderly, the infirm, African-American, Hispanic and other minority voters by increasing the difficulty of voting."

The suit cited Secretary of State Cathy Cox's testimony that during her nine years in office, she has not documented a case of voter fraud at the polls by people pretending to be someone they are not.

The lawsuit also alleges that requiring Georgians to pay for a state identification card constitutes a poll tax that is outlawed under the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition to the $20 to $35 fee for an ID card, there are also travel costs associated with getting an ID card, since only 56 of Georgia's 159 counties offer them at Department of Driver Services offices.

The new law waives the ID fee charged to indigent voters, and the state is sending a bus around Georgia to issue free IDs to those who need them. But the lawsuit said the definition of indigent is vague and does not take into account travel costs.

Two African-Americans are named as plaintiffs: Tony Watkins of Rome and Clara Williams of Atlanta. The lawsuit states that both do not have a picture ID and "cannot readily obtain a photo ID card." Watkins declined to comment Monday, and Williams could not be reached.

African-American voters are disproportionately affected because census data indicate they generally earn less than whites and are three times less likely to have access to a car, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also notes that the new law allows voters to cast an absentee ballot without showing photo ID.

Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), who sponsored the bill, said Georgians have to show photo IDs all the time.

"I don't even see what their argument is," Burmeister said. "It's not about race. It's not about age."

The suit was filed as a federal commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter called for Americans to be required to show a photo ID card to vote by 2010, in part to establish a national standard. Carter called the Georgia statute a "disgrace to democracy."

"If you read the Georgia law that was passed this year, you see that it is highly discriminatory and, in my personal experience, directly designed to deprive older people, African-Americans and poor people of a right to vote," he said.

Staff writers Bill Rankin and Eunice Moscoso contributed to this article.

Free voter photo ID proposal blasted

WASHINGTON -- A private commission trying to restore public confidence in national elections recommended on Monday requiring a free photo ID for voters, drawing opposition from Democrats and some voting rights activists.

Critics suggested that having to acquire the ID cards in order to vote could be an obstacle for minorities, the poor and older Americans and might intimidate some people.

''We believe such a requirement would constitute nothing less than a 21st century poll tax,'' said a letter from Representatives John Conyers (Democrat-Mich.) and John Lewis (Democrat-Ga.). Poll taxes were once used in some states to prevent black citizens from voting.

'Abominable laws'

Former President Jimmy Carter, a co-chair of the commission, said he was hesitant about the free photo ID proposal at first, but laws passed in some states like Georgia convinced him that a national approach was a better idea. Republican lawmakers in Georgia pushed through legislation that requires a new voter identification card that costs $20 for five years.

''Some states have passed abominable laws that are a disgrace to democracy,'' Carter said.

Nineteen states require voters to show identification; five request photo ID, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.


Media misleading on Katrina

Cal Thomas, columnist

It was a perfect moment for the media to use President Bush’s speech from New Orleans against him.
ABC correspondent Dean Reynolds corralled about 10 evacuees and put them in chairs in the parking lot of Houston’s Astrodome where they watched the president’s nationally televised address. Afterward, they were asked to comment.
All of the evacuees were black and apparently poor. Given the template of news coverage — a majority of blacks are said to believe aid was slow in coming because white people like George Bush don’t like them — one might have expected a unanimously negative verdict to the president’s address.
The verdict was unanimous, but it was unanimously positive. One by one, the evacuees replied to Reynolds’ questions. ‘‘What did you think of what the president said tonight?’’ he asked one woman. She replied, ‘‘I think the speech was wonderful.’’ Did she find anything hard to believe? ‘‘No, I didn’t,’’ she answered.
Reynolds put his microphone in front of another evacuee. Surely the previous one must have been a fluke. What did the next person think of the president’s promises? ‘‘I really believe what he said. I believe. I got faith,’’ she said.
A slight note of desperation seemed to creep into Reynolds’ voice. Quickly, the microphone went to another evacuee. Reynolds tried another tactic. Would the woman like to criticize the slow response of the federal government (meaning the Bush Administration) to the carnage left in Katrina’s wake? The woman blamed state and local officials for their slow response, not the president.
A question to all: Wasn’t there anything that anyone could object to in the speech? Apparently not. Back to you Ted Koppel.
This delicious moment, which came after the other broadcast networks had quickly returned to regularly scheduled programs, speaks volumes about the media coverage of Katrina and the edited messages they have tried to shove down the public’s throat.
Those messages are: White Republicans hate blacks; big business and big Republican government are evil and won’t help blacks; Democrats are good and are the only ones who care for black people.
Reynolds’ interviews were live, so no one could edit the content. Viewers saw and heard for themselves what at least these black people felt and believed. The ABC guest booker must have had his or her own assumptions about how such an interview would go. Surely the assemblage of black evacuees would mean unfettered criticism of President Bush. Who’s racist now?
Houston’s predominately Southern Baptist, but also diverse religious community has united to help the hurricane victims. Members of the mostly white and prosperous Second Baptist Church — whose pastor, Dr. Ed Young, was asked by Houston’s mayor to head the faith-based assistance effort — defied stereotypes about rich, white evangelical Christians. They applied the teaching of their Master by getting down and dirty with the poor. The Houston Chronicle also carried ads from people in many states offering help to people in need of a place to stay and assistance in finding a job.
Politicians, race-baiters and the media have an interest in keeping the racial pot boiling. For the media, it provides conflict (and ratings) so that race hustlers can blather on about a pre-voting rights, pre-open housing America.
For the politicians, mostly Democrats, it affords them the opportunity to stir the class warfare pot and claim that only by voting for Democrats will blacks who are poor ever escape poverty. But the political and humanitarian realities are quite different from these templates.
True compassion is not demonstrated by government, but individuals. The fundamental cause of poverty is not race, otherwise how to explain the vast and growing black middle and upper classes? A child may be born into poverty, but if he makes decisions to stay in school and study, not produce children outside marriage, refrain from taking or selling drugs and committing other crimes, there is a strong likelihood he will escape poverty.
These are the messages the government and media should be sending instead of relying on the race-class liberal Democrat templates through which it filters most contemporary issues.