Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ohio State Attorney General Petro Threatens Election Fraud Plaintiffs and Conyers Responds

An article in The Free Press, by Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman, entitled: Ohio's GOP Attorney General launches revenge attack on Election Protection legal team, states the following:

Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Cliff Arnebeck and Peter Peckarsky were named by Attorney General James Petro in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court. Petro charges the November Moss v Bush and Moss v. Moyer filings by the Election Protection legal team were "frivolous." Petro is demanding court sanctions and fines.

"Instead of evidence, contesters offered only theory, conjecture, hypothesis and invective," the Attorney General's January 18th memo about the suit said. "A contest proceeding is not a toy for idle hands. It is not to be used to make a political point, or to be used as a discovery tool, or be used to inconvenience or harass public officials, or to be used as a publicity gimmick."

But Cliff Arnebeck says it has been Petro and Ohio's partisan Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who have stonewalled the election challenge legal proceedings. Both have refused to submit any evidence to the court to refute the allegations in the election challenge case - claiming George W. Bush did not win a majority in Ohio - and Petro's office has also refused to allow any Ohio public election official to be deposed.

"Their cage has been rattled and they popped their cork," Arnebeck said. "The chairman of the Ohio Republican Party is going berserk because he can't stand the fact we are not going away. We are still pursuing the legal investigation and the legal interrogations. They are just besides themselves because they cannot withstand cross examination."

Petro's filing is widely viewed as revenge for the heavy toll on the credibility of the Ohio GOP and Petro's cohort, Secretary of State Blackwell, caused by grassroots activists. Spurred by the lawsuit, by extensive coverage at http://freepress.org and other web sites, and by a nationwide grassroots campaign that was escalated by Rev. Jesse Jackson and a series of public hearings around Ohio and in Congress, some three dozen Senators and Representatives mounted the first-ever challenge to a state's Electoral College delegation.


Petro's action raises suspicions that revenge and an attempt to chill further legal actions are the core motivations for this latest GOP assault on the election protection process.

Still, these tactics will not end scrutiny of Ohio's 2004 presidential vote. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have requested a federal GAO report on election irregularities in the state. Those Democrats have also produced a report detailing many Election Day problems that is now part of the congressional record and will be the basis for federal legislation later in the 109th Congress, many representatives and senators have said.


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This open letter was written by Rep. John Conyers Jr. as a response to this intimidation by the Ohio Attorney General. It is posted in its entirety:

January 20, 2005

The Hon. Jim Petro
Attorney General
State of Ohio
State Office Tower
30 E. Broad St, 17th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Attorney General Petro:

I write to express my concern regarding your recent request to sanction those attorneys who brought a legal challenge to last year's presidential election in Ohio. In particular, I am concerned that by seeking official censure and fines, you are engaged in a selective and partisan misuse of your legal authority. As eager as many disgruntled voters are to have a court of law finally assess the merits of the challenge actions, I have serious doubts about the validity of the sanctions case your office is pursuing.

As an initial matter, one would be hard pressed to see how the legal challenges brought under the Ohio election challenge statute were "frivolous." First off, it is widely known that the Ohio presidential election was literally riddled with irregularities and improprieties, many of which are set forth in the 102 page report issued by the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff. As a matter of fact, the problems were so great that Congress was forced to debate the first challenge to an entire state's slate of electors since the federal Electoral Count law was enacted in 1877. In short, there is more than an abundant record raising serious, substantive questions about the Ohio presidential election.

It is also noteworthy that the Ohio Secretary of State intentionally delayed certifying the vote, thereby insuring that the recount could not be completed by the date the electoral college met on December 13. The Ohio Secretary State also refused to respond to numerous questions regarding the irregularities submitted to him by several members of the House Judiciary Committee, has refused to respond to a single concern set forth in the Judiciary Report, and also sought a protective order to avoid any discovery related to the legal challenges. In short, Ohio election officials have compounded public doubt concerning the election by refusing to provide any sort of accountability and acting in almost every respect as if they have "something to hide."

Given this context, and to help assure the public that you are not selectively pursuing sanctions in these cases for partisan reasons, I would respectfully request that you provide the House Judiciary Committee and the public with an itemization of all sanctions cases brought and considered by your office since January, 2003. In addition, I would ask that you provide to us and make public an itemization of cases you have considered and pursued under Ohio's campaign and election laws since January 2003. Finally, I would like to receive a an estimate of the costs you would expect to expend of Ohio taxpayer funds to pursue the sanction case you are seeking against Mr. Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Cliff Arnebeck, and Peter Peckowsky.


If you believe the election challenge case should not have been brought, I would suggest the more appropriate course of actions may be revisiting the law with the Ohio legislature, rather than pursuing far-fetched sanction cases which on their face would appear to be overtly partisan in nature.

I would appreciate it if you would respond to me though my Judiciary Committee staff, Perry Apelbaum and Ted Kalo, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (tel. 202-225-6504, fax 202-225-4423) by no later than January 27. Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Committee

cc: Hon. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary

Supreme Court, State of Ohio

Ohio Bar Association

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