The Nashua (New Hampshire) Advocate

Friday, January 14, 2005

News: Election 2004: Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell Loses Staring Contest With Congressman, Now May Face D.O.J. Investigation


The Democratic Party may be out of power right now, but a state-level Republican official banking on the weakness of the Party's elected officials in Congress may just have made the biggest miscalculation of his political career -- with the penalty being a federal criminal investigation into his conduct during the 2004 presidential election.

Ranking Minority Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Representative John T. Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), had previously requested -- in writing -- that the Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio, answer more than thirty highly-specific queries regarding the conduct of the presidential election in Ohio in 2004.

Blackwell ignored the letter.

Representative Conyers then invited Blackwell to testify before an ad hoc meeting of Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Blackwell ignored the invitation.

Representative Conyers then chastised Blackwell publicly for not answering the proffered queries.

Blackwell ignored the chastisement, and referred Conyers to an investigation currently being conducted by the Congressional General Accountability Office.

Following the certification of President Bush's re-election by Congress, Representative Conyers then sent a letter to the G.A.O. -- along with the Ranking Minority Member of the U.S. House Government Reform Committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- directing the non-partisan investigative body to some of the specific queries Conyers had earlier sought to have answered by Blackwell.

Blackwell did nothing.

So Representative Conyers wrote Blackwell yet again to ask him the same thirty-plus questions the Secretary had previously ignored.

Incredibly, Blackwell ignored the questions once more, with a spokesperson, James Lee, telling a reporter flippantly, "I think Representative Conyers' inquiry and motivation speaks for itself."

Lee did not indicate precisely what was meant by this comment, either as to A) how an "inquiry...speak[ing] for itself" was, without more, a prima facie justification for a Secretary of State not complying -- in any particular -- with said inquiry, or B) how Representative Conyers' "motivation speak[ing] for itself" was an explanation for Blackwell's non-compliance, where Blackwell was and is the chief elections official in Ohio, and if Representative Conyers has made one thing clear in the past few weeks, it is that his "motivation" for seeking election reform is, quite simply, improving the nation's (and Ohio's) process for conducting national elections.

Does Secretary Blackwell somehow find this aim contrary to his own? And does the Secretary define his aims as political, or public-service oriented? In the absence of any clarification from Mr. Lee, or any public actions suggesting cooperation with any pending investigations from Mr. Blackwell, The Advocate cannot help but wonder.

But the story doesn't end here.

Blackwell's continued aloofness to any and all accountability regarding the 2004 general election in Ohio has now caused Representative Conyers to issue the following scathing condemnation of the man in an e-mail to the news outlet Raw Story: "I'm amazed that the chief elections official of the state with the most irregularities and the first state-wide electoral challenge in history wouldn't even bother to try to set the record straight on a single irregularity. There is no more significant issue facing congress than making sure our democracy works. We saw unprecedented irregularities in Ohio last November, and I think while the Secretary of State may not think he owes any one congressperson an answer, he certainly owes the nation and the state of Ohio a response."

Moreover -- and most importantly -- according to Raw Story, Conyers and the other Democratic members of the House Judiciary committee have now asked the Department of Justice "to begin a criminal investigation into Ohio's Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell." [See letter, below]. The letter asserts that it would be an "obvious conflict" for the current Attorney General of the United States, Bush-appointee John D. Ashcroft, to oversee the investigation, and thus seeks the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate not only Mr. Blackwell but also the numerous voting irregularities in Ohio during the November 2004 general election.

Is this the beginning of a second Watergate?

We think so too -- and Blackwell certainly can't say he wasn't given enough chances to do the right thing.

See Related Stories:

("Letter from the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Democrats to the Honorable John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States," U.S. House Judiciary Committee Democrats [Courtesy of Raw Story], 1/14/05)


("House Judiciary Democrats to Ask for Special Prosecutor to Investigate Ohio Elections Chief," John Byrne, 1/14/05)