Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NOT COOL: Opponents of Maryland's Redistricting Plan Hire Rightwing Extremist Lawyers

Maryland's 2012 redistricting plan has been the subject of sometimes loud controversy, especially given the vocal complaints of some elected officials and organizations representing communities of color.  As I previously mentioned though, it is very difficult to balance fair racial representation with the need to counter the GOP's aggressive national gerrymandering program. Even still, it seemed inevitable that the new redistricting plan would lead to a lawsuit of some sort -- after all a coveted Congressional seat is at stake. But the alliance that has formed in the courts is downright disgraceful.

Indeed, last week The Washington Post reported on a lawsuit from the civil rights-oriented Fannie Lou Hamer project:
Nine Maryland voters filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Thursday, alleging that the state’s new congressional district map violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the electoral strength of minorities.

Organized by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee and a handful of other groups, the complainants want the current plan — which was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) last month — thrown out. They asked the court for “the creation of congressional redistricting plans that will not cancel out, minimize or dilute the voting strength of African American voters in Maryland....” 
“We join the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC, the Legacy Foundation, Marylanders for Fair and Coherent Representation, and citizens from across Maryland to reaffirm our belief that redistricting should not be done solely on partisanship or incumbent preference,” said Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney. “We are eager to see the Governor’s map remedied so that the rights of all Marylanders, regardless of race, geography or political affiliation, are not denied.”
It gets worse. According to The Baltimore Sun, an Iowa-based rightwing group is financing the lawsuit:
Christopher Rants, a Republican former speaker of the Iowa House who heads the Legacy Foundation, confirmed that the group is paying for the legal challenge, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

"When I saw the maps, I was just incredulous," Rants said in a telephone interview. "We don't do things like that out here."

The foundation — which has previously defended Arizona's contentious immigration law — was created to "advance individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government," according its website.
Not cool at all. Two Maryland Juice readers sent in additional (unsolicited) information:

Source 1:
A redistricting lawsuit was filed last week by a group of nine African American residents: five from Prince George's and one each from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Charles County and Montgomery County.  No Hispanics or Asians.
Read the Fannie Lou Hamer/GOP Redistricting Lawsuit Complaint:

Counsel is a firm out of VA called Holtzman Vogel, which is a right-wing Republican outfit.  Jill Holtzman Vogel is a Republican state senator from Northern Virginia.  Check out the firm here:

Also, the actual member of the federal bar who filed the case is a NORTH CAROLINA lawyer.  They couldn't even find a MD attorney to serve as local counsel?  Wow.

The Legacy Foundation?  An Iowa right wing group best known previously for the Border Sheriffs Association, a group of Arizona sheriffs supporting the Arizona immigration law.

These Fannie Lou Hamer PAC people are getting taken to the cleaners politically.  They're in bed with the worst kind of right wing kooks.  This is Republican opportunism at its most cynical.  Plus, the merits of the case, at least as pled in the complaint, are dubious in the extreme.  There's a case to be made, I think, but this isn't it.
Source 2 - Information about the redistricting opponents lawfirm HoltzmanVogel:
From Politico: "The boutique political law firm Holtzman Vogel represents not only Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination, but also the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Crossroads outside groups conceived by Karl Rove, which plan to spend $120 million on tough ads targeting Obama and Democratic congressional candidates."

Holtzman Vogel - an interesting firm to represent minority interests. From TPMMuckraker: "The Republicans’ latest failed effort to make it harder for minorities to vote is being led by a lawyer for the same GOP firm that’s behind a recent bid to undermine restrictions on robo-calls. The day before the 2008 election, the Republican National Committee filed suit to end restrictions on GOP programs to combat voter fraud. Those 'programs' have sometimes involved 'voter caging' — challenging voters’ registration if mail sent to their residences was returned as undeliverable — and other tactics designed to suppress minority votes....
Almost as interesting as the fate of the lawsuit, though, is the identity of the lawyer behind it. That’s Tom Josefiak, a former FEC commissioner and long-time RNC counsel, who also happens to be a partner at HoltzmanVogel — the GOP law firm behind a slew of shady efforts to manipulate the voting process in favor of the Republican party....
Torchinsky is working on behalf of a shadowy conservative group that last year (2008) unleashed a barrage of anti-Obama robo-calls so vicious and misleading that they were denounced even by some Republicans."
There is much, much more out there, folks.

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