In the last two weeks, two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department, have told me that a scheme was hatched in the upper echelons of the Bush Administration shortly after it took office in 2001 or early in 2002. The project identified John Edwards and Hilary Clinton as likely Democratic challengers to President Bush, and identified prominent trial lawyers around the United States as the likely financial vehicle for (Edwards's) rise. It directed that their campaign finance records be fly-specked, and that offenses not be treated as administrative matters but rather as serious criminal offenses.As Horton points out, this goes beyond even Nixonian tactics to something that you'd find in Third World dictatorships. Karl Rove was likely behind it and, of course, it can be tracked to the highest levels of the administration:
The scheme contemplated among other things that raids be staged on the law offices involved, and that the records seized not be limited to campaign finance—there was an acute interest in all politically oriented documents, in order to seize valuable intelligence on strategic planning from the enemy camp.
Why, I wondered, would the attorneys involved not scream bloody murder about this? Then it struck me. The threat of criminal investigation and prosecution is devastating to their law practices. Of course, they would keep it completely secret. And that silence has made the entire scheme possible. I am told that these cases involved the attorneys general personally—both John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales—that their go-ahead was needed to stage the raids. And that in each case, the greatest concern within the political pirates commanding the operation has been that the public would get wind of the bigger picture. It was essential to pull it off that each case be viewed as something standing all on its own, and that the fact that there was a politically motivated project be obscured.This again shows the lengths the Bush people will go to in using U.S. government departments for purely political purposes. Horton says it best:
The key factor here is that all the cases involve campaign finance violations which are of a rather mundane nature. And in each case the FEC violations have been hyped into something quite preposterous. The political angle, I am told, is simple: make trial attorney’s money radioactive. Dry up the source. Take out a key element of the Democrats’ campaign finance strategy.
If the scheme to get the Edwards trial lawyer supporters is as described to me, then it was a criminal conspiracy and those involved in it need to be tracked down, removed from office for their abuses, and punished.Indeed. I would hope this will go to the top of the list of things Democrats have to investigate.