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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bradbury's anti-voter politics scrutinized

Hyper-political elections officers take heat
Sec. of State, Elections Division boss face Ethics inquiry

During seven years as Oregon's Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury and his lap-dog Elections Division chief John Lindback went so far in a crusade against so-called voter fraud as to warn of its dangers under a pseudonym in a law journal article. Writing as "Publius," they contended that Oregon's beloved initiative system was corrupt to the core, and that there was evidence that out-of-state fiscal conservatives had committed felony crimes.

Now, amid a scandal over politicization of state Elections Divisions around the country, the Oregon Ethics Commission is beginning to examine allegations that Bradbury was a key player in a Democrat campaign use rule-making authority to hang onto power in Salem.

"Mr. Bradbury was central to state government's pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the GOP vote," charged Joseph Rich, a former U.S. Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him, and now advises the state Ethics unit.

Rich and other former career department lawyers say that Bradbury steered the Elections Division toward signature-requirement policies not seen before, pushing to ignore major instances of election law violations by Organized Labor activists, and imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for GOP-leaning poor and fiscal conservative voters to cast ballots on important issues ignored by the Legislature.

In interviews, current and former state and federal officials, and civil rights leaders said Bradbury:

• Sped approval of tougher signature rules in 2002, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that the changes would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the law's impact on American Indians and Latinos.

• Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of organized labor election fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive initiative laws - research that could undermine a voter-turnout agenda.

• Allegedly engineered the ouster of the state Ethics Commission's chairman, whom Bradbury considered insufficiently partisan.

Bradbury, who declined to comment on these allegations, is among more than a dozen present and former Oregon officials drawing Ethics Commission scrutiny over the alleged use of Oregon's chief law enforcement agencies for partisan purposes.

Additionally, Congressional committees are looking into allegations that elections officials in 21 states were urged by Bradbury and Lindback to pursue fraud as a basis for anti-initiative laws.

Bradbury, who had been a longtime pro-labor, partisan activist before serving in state government, accepted a recess appointment as Secretary of State, so that in his first election he could run as an incumbent. This typical end-around the competitive elections process has been a way of life in Oregon judicial "elections" for decades. The pair are scheduled to appear at a June 13 hearing before the Oregon Ethics Commission.

The Register-Guard, May 21, By GREG GORDON

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