Body Stretching, Feel the Wretching, in the Cage!


On Tuesday I poked some fun at Greg Palast, the investigative reporter who unloaded at great and terrible length after a Daily Kos commenter doubted his big story about Karl Rove plotting to steal the next election by purging the voter rolls. Dalia Lithwick, who knows a lot more about the law and elections than I do, thinks Palast is on to something. Soon-to-be-ex-U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin might have broken the law by using direct mail "caging" to attack legitimate voters. (He did it when working at the RNC, not in the government.)

Vote caging is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren't living at (because they are, say, at college or at war). The Republican National Committee reportedly stopped the practice following a consent decree in a 1986 case. Google the term and you'll quickly arrive at the Wizard of Oz of caging, Greg Palast…

Lithwick praises Palast but notes he dramatically oversold the story.

He is one of many who have repeated the claim that, "In an Aug. 24 e-mail, the Justice Department's Monica Goodling wrote to Sampson, that Griffin's nomination would face opposition in Congress because he was involved 'in massive Republican projects in Florida and elsewhere by which Republicans challenged tens of thousand of absentee votes. Coincidentally, many of those challenged votes were in black precincts.' " Goodling wrote no such thing. That quote is from an article circulated by Goodling on Aug. 24. It's an unfair smear of both Griffin and Goodling (both of whom have proven amply capable of smearing themselves).

This is the problem with Palast's stuff: He over-promises what he has and gusses it up with lots of weird jokes and snark. In his last big post about caging:

'Caging' voters is a crime, a go-to-jail felony.

It isn't a crime unless you can prove racial bias in the list of names you tried to "cage." Palast hasn't done that yet, and the only list he (actually has made available is largely black but includes the odd Bauknecht, Eberhardt, and Ligenzowski. Palast also dresses up his story with claims like this:

Our BBC team broke the story at the top of the nightly news everywhere on the planet — except the USA — only because America's news networks simply refused to cover this evidence of the electoral coup d'etat that chose our President in 2004.

The point is that Palast shouldn't be laughed off, and this story could break the U.S. Attorneys scandal wide open, but some less eccentric reporters might want to take it on.