Lieberman: Federal Authority Misused by Texas Republicans

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn, concluding that federal resources and authority were used in an ongoing redistricting battle in Texas, renewed his call for the Administration to disclose what role, if any, White House officials may have played in this partisan, political matter.

The facts show that, at the behest of Texas Republicans, at least a dozen federal offices were asked to become involved in the search for Democratic lawmakers boycotting a legislative vote on a new redistricting plan. At least four of those offices, in fact, did become involved.

These facts, Lieberman said, make his request for information from the White House all the more relevant.

Lieberman added that his pursuit of this matter has already led to improved policies regarding the appropriate use of federal power to assist state and local officials.

Following is Lieberman’s statement:

“The results of three Inspector General investigations confirm that Texas Republicans, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, went to great lengths to try to bring the resources and authority of the federal government to bear in a local partisan political dispute – and that, in some instances, they succeeded in gaining the federal assistance they sought.

“I appreciate the efforts of the Inspectors General to get to the bottom of this matter. And I now call on the White House – which has so far refused to provide any written response to my questions – to report fully to the American public on what role, if any, those in the White House may have played in the Texas redistricting dispute.

“I have received reports from the Inspectors General of the Departments of Justice, Transportation, and Homeland Security. The reports of the Justice and Transportation IGs reflect thorough and professional investigations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Department of Homeland Security’s IG office, which chose to conduct a far narrower and less rigorous investigation than the other two and issued a largely conclusory report.

“Still, the three reports taken collectively document that Texas Republicans, or state law enforcement agents acting on the orders of Republicans, sought to involve at least a dozen federal offices in their search for the absent Democratic legislators. The offices that they sought help from included:

  • Three Federal Aviation Administration offices -the Mike Montoney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center, and the Office of Legislative Affairs in FAA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters; the latter, in turn, also involved a fourth FAA office — the Washington (D.C.) Operations Center;
  • Four FBI offices – in Dallas, Corpus Christi, and Austin, Texas and in Ardmore, Okla.;
  • Two U.S. Marshal offices – in the Western and Northern Districts of Texas;
  • The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Antonio (two of whose officials – the U.S. Attorney and the Deputy U.S. Attorney – were contacted by Texas Republicans);
  • The Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Justice’s headquarters (who, in turn, consulted with officials in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Office of Legal Counsel, and Deputy Attorney General’s office); and
  • The Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center in Riverside, California, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security whose mission is ordinarily to protect against terrorists and drug smugglers.

    Texas Republicans or Department of Public Safety officials were able to obtain the assistance they sought from at least four of the offices. The FAA’s Washington Operations Center, for example, provided Texas Republicans with what appears to be the first indication of the Democratic legislators’ location in Ardmore, Okla., by tracking the location of a Democratic representative’s airplane, and an FBI agent in Corpus Christi confirmed to Texas officials that two specific legislators were at that location.

    “The revelations in the IGs’ reports make my inquiries of the White House all the more relevant. Yet, in contrast to the information that has been made available about the Justice, Transportation and Homeland Security Departments’ involvement, little or no information has been forthcoming from the White House, which has thus far refused to report on what involvement, if any, it has had in the Texas redistricting dispute. In letters to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, on May 27 and June 8, 2003, I asked whether any White House officer or employee was contacted by anyone seeking information about or federal assistance in the search for Democratic legislators and whether any White House officer or employee had done anything in response to any such contact that occurred. While Mr. Card orally acknowledged to me that both President Bush and his Senior Advisor Karl Rove had spoken with Rep. DeLay about the Texas redistricting dispute, I have yet to receive a complete or satisfactory response to the questions I posed.

    “It is not unreasonable to ask whether any of those who have now been shown to have so aggressively solicited help from throughout the federal government also contacted the White House seeking assistance in the redistricting dispute – and whether anyone in the White House has provided such assistance. I therefore call once again for the Administration to provide a detailed account of any involvement those in the White House may have had with the redistricting dispute in Texas.

    “I am encouraged that the Justice and Transportation Department IGs recommended that their agencies provide clarifying guidance to employees as to when it is appropriate to make use of federal powers and access to information to aid state and local officials seeking assistance and when it is not. The Department of Transportation has already acted on its IG’s recommendations and I expect the Department of Justice will soon follow suit. Because the Department of Homeland Security IG’s investigation was so highly circumscribed, the Department’s polices remain, for now, unexamined and unchanged.”

    Following are URLs to previous letters and statements Senator Lieberman has released regarding this issue:

  • May 15, 2003 May 15, 2003 Letter to Tom Ridge, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
  • May 22, 2003 Letter to Lisa Redman, Acting Assistant Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security
  • May 27, 2003 Letters to Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff; Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General, Department of Justice; and Kenneth M. Mead, Inspector General, Department of Transportation

  • June 8, 2003 Letter to White House
  • July 10, 2003 – May 22, 2003 Letter to Lisa Redman, Acting Assistant Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security
  • July 11, 2003 Statement on Report Issued by Department of Transportation Inspector General
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