The Bush Redistricting Plan
March 1, 2006 - 11:04am ET
Today, the Supreme Court looks at the constitutionality of the Texas redistricting plan, pushed through in 2003. The coverage of the case gets right many important facts: it resulted in a gain of six Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives; it was opposed by career lawyers at DOJ, whose objections were overruled by Alberto Gonzales. But the media neglects to mention how the Bush White House was intimately involved in pushing the plan back in 2003 beyond Gonzales' support. Or that, now, the White House is one of the parties defending the plan to the Court. Recently, The Texas Observer's<!--StartFragment --> Lou Dubose sketched out on TomPaine.com what he calls the "campaign" to net the GOP more seats in the House:
the White House submitted an amicus brief supporting the Texas plan. That surprised no one who paid attention to the protracted and polarizing fight over the congressional district lines in Texas. Because the Bush team worked hand in hand with the majority leader. DeLay—known for the intimidating and at times thuggish behavior that earned him the name “the Hammer”—did the heavy lifting in Texas. The president and his advisers applied the pressure in Washington. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove did much of the work, but the campaign extended beyond the White House. The president’s political appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice helped out, suppressing a legal opinion that found the DeLay plan in violation of minority voters’ rights.
We now know that redrawing the congressional districts in Texas was a genuine collaborative effort. Before DeLay started leaning on Republican legislators in Texas, he met with Rove, who got behind the plan. Rove, in turn, did his part, calling Republican state senators to pressure them to approve the plan. Rove wasn’t the only Bush operative in the deal. While the Republican lieutenant governor deliberated suspending the procedural rules of the state Senate so he could pass the redistricting act, he was paid a discreet visit by Bush adviser Karen Hughes. (As part of a more public campaign, Hughes openly complained that her Democratic representative, Lloyd Doggett, didn’t represent her views in Congress. A reporter informed Hughes that she resided in a district represented by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith.)
<!--StartFragment -->Yet with all that pressure, the redistricting scheme wouldn’t have become law and been approved by federal courts without the approval of the Voting Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington. The Justice Department cleared the plan—which crammed ethnic and racial minorities into urban Democratic Party Bantustans surrounded by white conservative districts. If the Justice Department's approval of the plan was a surprise, it was because it never exactly happened. A report prepared by five career lawyers and two demographic experts at the DOJ concluded that the DeLay Plan, (more accurately the DeLay-Bush Plan) violated minority-voter protections in the Voting Rights Act. The critical report was overruled by a small group of Bush political appointees at the Department of Justice.
Tom DeLay's ethically challenged antics are well-covered these days by the media. What they don't often do enough of, however, is connect the dots from the disgraced politician's misdeeds to the highest office in the land.
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