Abuse of law enforcement powers for partisan ends

Yes, it’s happening: from the Republican side, of course.

If you don’t read right-wing blogs, you might have missed it, but Republicans tried to make a flap about the fact that the Obama campaign announced a “Missouri Truth Squad” to rebut false charges against Obama, and the “Truth Squad” included some law enforcement officials. Gov. Blunt of Missouri charged, in a semi-hysterical statement released on official stationery, that the goal of the group was to use law enforcement powers to intimidate critics. Blunt referred to “the stench of police state tactics” and likened the effort to the Sedition Acts.

Of course, the law enforcement types never threatened anyone with anything, as the reporter who did the interview that led to the flap points out: “If they think a group has put out a misleading ad, they’re basically going to call a press conference and say the ad is misleading. I’m sure the Republicans would do the same thing.” And, sure enough, McCain has law enforcement officials, including a state attorney general, on some of his own “truth squads.”

But of course mere facts don’t slow down people like Michael Barone, who wrote a completely over-the-top piece about the coming “Liberal thugocracy,” or Glenn Reynolds, who referred in a post to “Missouri Goon Squads.”

(Reynolds, of course, is a special case; either he has a great willingness to deceive others or an extraordinary capacity to deceive himself. When there was a genuine abuse of law enforcement power in the course of this campaign &#8212 when some “senior law enforcement official,” anonymously and in clear violation of DoJ rules, leaked a report that the FBI is investigating ACORN for voter fraud &#8212 and the Obama campaign quite properly demanded an investigation into who had abused official position in this way, Reynolds summarized the matter [full text of Reynolds’s posting]: “Apparently, Obama thinks you should be prosecuted for even making claims of voter fraud.”)

But given their deep, deep concern about the abuse of law enforcement for partisan ends &#8212 admittedly, a concern that did not extend to worrying about pressure on U.S. Attorneys to prosecute meritless “vote fraud” cases &#8212 no doubt Barone, Reynolds et al. will be up in arms about the fact that a county prosecutor in Ohio, who is also the local campaign chair for McCain, has subpoenaed personal information on a list of people who registered and voted early.

Intimidating? Ya think?

Footnote So far, I’ve had no luck finding a Red blogger willing to defend any of this “voter fraud” nonsense on bloggingheads. Reynolds, Yousefzadeh, and Maguire have all refused or ignored challenges sent personally by email. Consider this an open challenge, my wingnut friends. Surely one of you must have some stones. No?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com