Exclusive: Meet the Radical Lawyers the DOJ Hired to Oversee Elections
This column by ACRU Policy Board members Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams was published April 6, 2016 by PJ Media.
In 2011, PJ Media published the Every Single One series. The series documented the Obama administration’s hiring of ideologically leftist and partisan lawyers to fill the career ranks of the lawyers in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from the day it came into office. The different sections of the Division exercise enormous power over the everyday lives of Americans, ranging from employment, education, housing, religious liberty, abortion, prisons, policing, and much, much more.
If a president wanted to launch a radical transformation of the country, he would start it in the Civil Rights Division. And a radical transformation of American elections would begin in the Division’s Voting Section. That is precisely what the first Every Single One series showed was happening in the Voting Section.
Today, we start with an update of the hiring in the Voting Section since 2011.
Perhaps the most damage the Obama Civil Rights Division has inflicted on the American constitutional fabric has been in elections. The lawyers in the Voting Section have waged an all-out assault on election integrity. Attacking Voter ID laws in Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania is just one example of how the Voting Section has tried to stop efforts to plug the vulnerabilities used by criminals to exploit American elections.
But this attack on Voter ID is just the most prominent example of malfeasance. What the Voting Section hasn’t done is just as damaging.
For example, under the National Voter Registration Act (“Motor Voter”) passed in 1993, the Department of Justice has the responsibility to enforce requirements designed to ensure that only legitimate voters are registered to vote, and only in one place. The Obama administration has deliberately decided not to enforce this law.
As a consequence, 1.8 million deceased individuals remain registered. And 2.75 million people are registered in more than one state, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
When Hawaii undertook a racially discriminatory, separatist election that permitted only people of a certain ancestry to vote, the Obama Justice Department —- incredibly —- sided with the racially discriminatory voter qualification.
When members of the New Black Panthers stalked a polling place with weapons to support President Obama’s election in 2008, the Obama Justice Department made sure they got a pass.
When Democrat Wendy Rosen was caught voting twice for President Obama in 2012 because she was registered in both Florida and Maryland, the Obama Justice Department did not pursue this federal felony offense. The only reason Rosen was caught, in fact, was because she was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District at the time.
Yet when states like Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Georgia aren’t registering enough voters in welfare agencies and methadone clinics, the Obama Justice Department can’t sue them fast enough. But it’s a one-way ratchet. Indeed, when people are caught admitting they voted three, four, or even six times for President Obama, as Melowese Richardson did in Cincinnati, the Obama Justice Department refuses to enforce federal criminal laws against her.
Instead, Democrats threw her a party.
In short, when it comes to American elections, the Obama Justice Department has taken the side of criminals over law-abiding citizens. It has taken the side of racial discrimination over equal enforcement of the law. It has used selective enforcement of the law to help Democrats retain power.
Let’s meet the attorneys the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has hired to enforce federal election laws since 2011, a task easily accomplished through the resumes these lawyers submitted with their job applications, which we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
David Cooper has been instrumental in trying to prevent Kansas and other states from verifying that only American citizens are registering to vote. Cooper’s resume proudly featured his leftist bona fides. He worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to help preserve federal oversight of elections in 16 states, a power that the Supreme Court struck down in Shelby County v. Holder. Cooper also worked for the ACLU and wrote an “advocacy document regarding sex offender legislation.” The ACLU has consistently opposed laws designed to protect children from recidivist sex offenders.
While in law school at the University of Michigan, Cooper took the time to write an attack on intelligent design celebrating a court ruling that banned its mention in public schools. Cooper also externed at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (formerly known as the “Welfare Law Center”), an organization that litigates to increase the size of the welfare state.
Oliker-Friedland got his start in political activism when he was just ten years old. He was promised ice cream for walking precincts for Democrat Russ Feingold during his campaign for U.S. Senate. He also worked on various progressive activist causes in Wisconsin, and bemoaned how “hard” it is for college students to vote after he missed voting in an election: “Not only must we navigate complicated ID requirements to register to vote for the first time, but many of us must also apply for an absentee ballot,” he complained to the South Carolina Progressive Blog. The seeds of his frustration were no doubt sown during his undergraduate days at Brown, where he helped author a project entitled “Anita Bryant and the Birth of the Anti-Gay Ballot.”
Oliker-Friedland later joined forces with the thoroughly radical Tova Wang, Common Cause, and the Century Foundation to write a dubious and biased report that railed against Voter ID laws and robust verification of eligibility during voter registration. In keeping with the typical doom-and-gloom narrative where voting rights are forever under attack, the report concluded that because states are requiring reasonable safeguards during third-party voter registration campaigns, “the League of Women Voters may have to shut down their operations.” Nearly a decade later, that dire prediction has proven to be completely wrong. The report also called for greater government control of campaign speech. One sponsor of the report, the Century Foundation, calls itself “a progressive, nonpartisan think tank.”
Oliker-Friedland was also the deputy director of data and technology at the New Organizing Institute, working on projects “to help give the progressive movement the infrastructure it needs-particularly in the field of election administration.” The New Organizing Institute was a Soros-funded project to “build leadership within the social justice field by providing thousands of activists and organizers annually with training, research, and skills development to better use the tools of the Internet for advocacy campaigns.”
He plainly has moved his progressive “activism” to the Voting Section.
Oliker-Friedland was first hired by the Justice Department as a legal intern to work against what his resume says are “strict voter ID laws.” His resume also highlighted his efforts to work as an Election Day field organizer for “Promise Arizona.” He similarly labored as a research fellow for Common Cause, which has continually attacked Voter ID laws.
Oliker-Friedland gave an interview about what Republicans need to do to attract young voters. His answer? Become Democrats:
I feel like, I hear Republican consultants who say we need to use the internet better and if we have better designed websites that isn’t the case. We want to see a safer healthier more just society. …We aren’t fooled by masking bad policies in hip lingo. What we want to see is meaningful change.
Oliker-Friedland also displays a certain smugness. He once wrote a scolding letter to the Washington Post criticizing another letter-writer for pointing out an ungrammatical headline: “However, as any sociolinguist will tell you, the use of case-marked ‘whom’ is —- quite unsurprisingly —- nearly gone from the language,” he said. “There’s no reason for people like Brown to complain. This is language change, it’s a natural process, and self-appointed guardians of the language would do well to learn more about it.” What a joy he must be at the Voting Section water cooler.
Finally, we’d point out that Oliker-Friedland was a donor to the failed candidacy for Michigan Secretary of State of Jocelyn Benson, a member of the board of the directors of the Southern Poverty Law Center. And if there was any doubt about his progressive bona fides, his resume made sure to mention his involvement with “Outlaws (LGBT Law Student Affinity Group).” The Obama Civil Rights Division hiring committee must have literally jumped at this candidate.
Elizabeth Ryan is one of the Voting Section attorneys attacking Voter ID laws in North Carolina (as is David Cooper).
While attending the University of Michigan Law School, Ryan worked closely with Professor Ellen Katz as a research assistant. Katz infamously advocated for raw partisan enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to help Democrats in a law review article called “Democrats at the DOJ: Why Partisan Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act Might Not Be So Bad After All.”
Katz argues that “partisan enforcement” of the law has “beneficial consequences.” If Ryan believes what her professor has written, we should be very concerned.
Ryan also wrote a law review article in 2009 attacking a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in LULAC v. Clemens. She complained that the court had actually required a plaintiff in a Voting Rights Act lawsuit to show more than a simple correlation between race and voting patterns. Imagine that. What audacity! Her approach would permit plaintiffs to bring lawsuits where no actual discrimination occurred that are designed to help Democrats get elected while superficially claiming civil rights were violated.
Ryan started working for Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont two years after he switched from Republican to Democrat. Her resume says she worked on “environment” and “smart growth” issues. For those who don’t know, “smart growth” is a euphemism for central planning and anti-suburban activists who want to force Americans into denser living arrangements and using mass transit, curtailing freedom of choice in housing and transportation.
Alex Tischenko came to the Voting Section with all the right qualifications. He was a contributor to the Obama 2012 Victory Fund. He worked in the White House Counsel’s office in 2013. And he served stints with two of the most ideologically progressive voter mobilization organizations there are: the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the Advancement Project.
MALDEF is the most prominent open borders, pro-amnesty organization in the nation and routinely opposes all election laws designed to ensure that only citizens are voting legally. At MALDEF, Tischenko helped lead an attack against the 2010 Texas legislative redistricting in Perez v. Perry, a lawsuit designed to force the state to draw more Hispanic districts based entirely on the race and ethnicity of the voters.
Tischenko also worked at the Advancement Project, a Soros-funded organization that opposes election integrity measures of any kind. According to his resume, he drafted a “demand notice to state officials regarding National Voter Registration Act preemption of certain state regulations of community based voter registration drives.” An example of the type of regulations he was targeting was a law in Texas designed to curb abuses by harvesters of voter registration forms who would sometimes fail to turn in the forms by the registration deadlines, thus disenfranchising potential voters, or otherwise engaging in abuses such as forging voter names on registration forms.
Tischenko previously served as a youth vote organizer for “The Bus Project,” an Oregon get-out-the-vote project for progressives. The website talks about “how to practice ‘fourth-quadrant politics’, how to practice interest-based negotiation, how to use ANSVA [Attention, Need, Solution, Visualization, Action], how to abide the Rule of Halves, how to make a Presumptive Close, and the meaning of Priceless: worth a lot, not for sale,” a great example of the confusing “jiggery-pokery” of the Left. What does any of that mean?
The Bus Project delivers loads of volunteers to knock on doors for candidates in exchange for two free meals. “In election years, Bus Trips are all about tipping the balance in close elections that determine the future of Oregon,” says the website.
Tischenko praised a Bus Project volunteer (whom he supervised) who was caught by the Department of Homeland Security because she was an illegal alien. He told Blue Oregon that she was “one of the most exceptional young leaders I have ever had the privilege of knowing.” It is no wonder he ended up in a section that has been fighting all efforts by states to verify the citizenship of voters.
Amanda Hine worked for law firm Mayer Brown after graduating from law school in 2006, where she worked on a Supreme Court amicus brief, filed on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, urging the Court to overturn the convictions of five defendants for being covert Cuban intelligence agents and for conspiring to commit murder due to alleged “pervasive community prejudice” against the Cuban government. Part of the indictment described how these agents were charged with “infiltrating” political groups in Miami-Dade County and “sowing disinformation” with local organizations.
Hine also endeavored to stop D.C. Councilman Jack Evans from using a photo he took of himself with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier on a campaign flyer. Hine was joined in this effort by the American Civil Liberties Union in a case that was eventually dismissed because no laws were broken.
It bears reminding readers that PJ Media had to sue the Justice Department in federal court to obtain the resumes of the individuals hired into career positions in 2011. While the Justice Department provided the resumes, it did not turn over the resumes of at least two lawyers in the Voting Section who were hired since 2011 and thus a discussion about the backgrounds of those lawyers does not appear here. PJ Media has asked for the resumes of those lawyers but so far has not received them.
You can read the Voting Section’s hires from 2009 to 2011 in the original Every Single One report here. What is clear from those resumes, as well as the ones showcased here, is that the enforcement activity (and lack thereof) in the Voting Section is explained in large part by the extraordinary bias and partisanship of the individual lawyers hired into the Section’s career attorney slots. It is no surprise that for the past eight years of the Obama administration, that activity has been governed by predominantly political, not legal, factors. As we said before, Americans deserve much better from the Department of Justice.