Holder Employs Obama GOTV Org to Challenge Voter ID Law

Poor Eric Holder. If it’s not one thing (like contempt of Congress), it’s another.  

Consider the Justice Department’s challenge to Texas’s new voter ID law. It’s set to be heard on July 9 in federal district court in Washington, D.C. Thursday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent Holder a letter pointing out that DOJ has hired an “explicitly partisan Democratic data company, Catalist, to provide the data by which it is justifying its decision to block implementation of Texas’s voter identification law.”   

Catalist, whose website says it is dedicated to “serving the progressive community,” is headed by Harold Ickes (pictured above), formerly Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff. According to Smith, Catalist is “really an agent of the Democratic Party” that “might prefer that Texas’s election laws favor Democratic Party candidates.”  

Smith isn’t the only one to identify Catalist as a partisan operation. The Atlantic described the firm as “a big Democratic data warehouse” that was intimately involved with President Barack Obama’s 2008 voter turnout effort. It was, according to The Atlantic, “the conductor for a data-driven symphony of more than 90 liberal groups, like the Service Employees Union – and the DNC – and the Obama campaign.”  

Catalist is in the business of partisan advocacy and is “founded, run, and staffed by dedicated Democratic activists,” according to Smith. Its board of directors includes the political director of the AFL-CIO, Michael Podhorzer, and the data/technology director of the SEIU, Luchelle Stevens. It also includes other “very prominent Democratic Party” stalwarts like Patricia Bauman, vice-chair of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Laura Quinn, former deputy chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore.

Among Catalist’s many “progressive” clients is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Association, several state Democratic parties, the Texas Democratic Trust, Obama for America, at least 43 Democratic members of Congress, and “a host of other progressive and Democratic Party groups.” Many of these clients have falsely condemned voter ID laws as supposed attempts to suppress minority voting.

Catalist was apparently hired without “an open bidding process.” As Smith says, it is “unacceptable for the Department to go into court in a case involving the integrity of Texas elections on the basis of data provided by a Democratic Party campaign operation.” He charges that it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars that undermines the credibility of the Justice Department.

The very idea that a campaign organization like Catalist would provide objective data for DOJ’s misguided challenge to the Texas voter ID law is absurd. But the hiring of this advocacy firm shows the partisan lengths to which this administration will go to get its way in court.

As Smith says, imagine the outrage among the mainstream media and liberal apparatchiks if “a Republican administration intervened to block a New York City election law on the basis of data provided by a firm run by Karl Rove.”

As Smith concludes, if DOJ were to win its lawsuit based on Catalist’s data, that victory “would be tainted by the stench of partisan electoral politics.”

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer.


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