Horses Stolen! Barn Door Confirmed Unlocked!

Long suppressed, Department of Justice memorandum recommended that the re-redistricting map forced upon the Legislature by Tom DeLay and his cronies should be rejected, because it did not sufficiently protect the rights of minority Texans

Whatever happens in the Tom DeLay, et al. trial next month – one conspiracy felony stricken this week, a couple more for the Sugar Land Bug Man to exterminate – the ill-gotten gains of the perpetrators remain in their possession. That would be the remade Texas congressional delegation, and along with it a Republican stranglehold on the U.S. House. As if we needed any confirmation, last week The Washington Post acquired a copy of the officially suppressed Department of Justice memorandum prepared by the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division. As long suspected, the professional staff of the division unanimously recommended that the re-redistricting map forced upon the Legislature by DeLay and his cronies should be rejected, because it did not sufficiently protect the rights of minority Texans – indeed, it was "retrogressive" as that term is defined in the constitutional challenges brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the memo's analysis, the GOP map illegally "reduces the level of minority voting strength," by reducing the number of congressional districts with significant minority voting influence by at least two and possibly three districts.

The eight career Civil Rights staffers who prepared the analysis were not only overruled by Bush administration political appointees, their Dec. 12, 2003, "Recommendation Memorandum" was subjected to an internal gag order. Despite suspicions about its contents, the memo was unavailable until the Post obtained a copy last week.

Redistricting maps rejected by the DOJ cannot be appealed; the approval meant that Democratic and minority plaintiffs went to federal court under a much higher standard of proof to persuade the court that the map was biased against minorities. They lost, and the map was approved and installed for the 2004 elections, although a voting rights case against it is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the DOJ memorandum relies heavily on the court's 2003 Georgia v. Ashcroft decision – especially the doctrine of "totality of circumstances" – in its analysis of the maps, its contents may have some weight in determining whether the court might take up the appeal. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is defending the DOJ's action, saying the matter has been settled in court, but lead plaintiffs' attorney Gerald Hebert told Quorum Report, "There is compelling evidence that this violates the law. … You can't just say, 'This is my decision, go ahead and violate the law.'"

Of course, the Supremes didn't have a problem with such niceties in Bush v. Gore, and it remains to be seen whether Travis Co. DA Ronnie Earle will have any better luck in prosecuting the corporate money shell game established by DeLay and his cronies at Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee – which effectively seized the Lege and made possible the entire re-redistricting fiasco in the first place.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Tom DeLay, Washington Post, Dept. of Justice, Texas Legislature, Georgia v. Ashcroft, Gerry Hebert

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