Skip to comments.Landrieu Redux ~ WSJ. '97
Posted on 11/15/2002 3:15:22 AM PST by Elle Bee
REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)
Voting New Orleans - style
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 1997, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
Morris Reed is the forgotten candidate in the burgeoning investigation of Louisiana's disputed U.S. Senate election. Last November, Mr. Reed was on the same ballot as a challenger to the longtime New Orleans District Attorney. A Democrat and former judge, he maintains that both he and GOP Senate candidate Woody Jenkins were victims of a concerted effort at vote fraud by elements of Mayor Marc Morial's LIFE political machine. "This isn't a partisan issue, this isn't a racial issue, this is about the integrity of the ballot box and whether my state must continue to suffer such practices," Judge Reed told us.
Mr. Jenkins's challenge is before the Senate Rules Committee, which will hear testimony today from both him and Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who was certified the winner last November by 5,788 votes and then seated provisionally by the Senate. Last week, a bipartisan team of outside lawyers recommended a preliminary probe into Mr. Jenkins's allegations that gambling interests financed the use of dozens of vans to pick up New Orleans voters, pay them and then haul them from one voting precinct to another to vote. The outside lawyers declined to recommend an investigation of the counting of ballots, though they acknowledged that New Orleans was the only one of 64 parishes to violate state law by opening all of its voting machines without any candidate present as a witness.
Mr. Reed says the Jenkins challenge is more than sour grapes. "A committed federal prosecutor could be busy for years down here with vote fraud," he told us. Mr. Reed has street-wise experience to draw on. After serving as a police officer and detective, he went to law school and served for four years as an assistant U.S. Attorney handling civil rights cases. Elected a district court judge in 1992, he resigned to run against District Attorney Harry Connick, the favored candidate of Mayor Morial's LIFE organization. He forced Mr. Connick into a runoff under Louisiana's unique primary system, and the two Democrats ran against each other in the general election.
As a black candidate facing a white opponent in a city where 63% of voters are minority, Mr. Reed was given a good chance to win. He had the support of William Jefferson, the local Democratic Congressman. But before the runoff Mr. Reed received reports that LIFE was planning an illegal "vote hauling" effort to win both the D.A.'s race and a pro-gambling measure on the ballot. LIFE has never filed financial reports with state or federal regulators, but it is known that it charges $5,000 for endorsements in each local race, including judgeships. "That means the district attorney's re-election bid was financed in part by judges who have long feuded with him but who paid money to" LIFE, concluded an investigation last week by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Mr. Reed was sufficiently worried that he wrote Attorney General Janet Reno and his old colleagues at the Justice Department requesting that federal poll watchers be called in. He never received a reply. "With Clinton wanting to win Louisiana, I was an inconvenient fact and they just as soon would rather I not exist," he says.
In the end, Mr. Reed lost by 15,000 votes, which makes it unlikely fraud could have represented the difference. But Mr. Reed says there's no doubt that Mr. Jenkins's razor-thin loss is questionable given the dozens of irregularities, some of which led a New Orleans assistant city attorney to resign in protest. U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin sent 50 pages of material on voter fraud to Attorney General Reno and requested an investigation. This month she turned him down, saying she would wait to see if the Senate found something. As with the calls for an independent counsel in Indogate that she's ignoring, at least Ms. Reno is consistent.
With local officials hopelessly compromised in conducting any investigation, it's likely that only the Senate can ferret out the facts on Louisiana's election. That argues for the Rules Committee to approve the broadest possible investigation of the Jenkins-Reed allegations. We trust that committee Democrats, who just finished successfully arguing for expanding the Senate's probe of the 1996 election to include "improper" as well as "illegal" activities, will agree with Judge Reed that what's needed is a full and complete look at what laws were broken in Louisiana.
Go for broke.
Perhaps we should revisit how Ms. Landrieu won her first Senate race back in 1996.
The election in S.D. is over, because Thune has conceded. But now the reputation of the state is on the line to see whether it will find out what happened, and pass laws including voter ID to prevent the same sort of gross incompetence (at best) or outright fraud (more likely) in the next close election in that state.
All comments and criticism are gratefully received.
Mark Morial's New Orleans may have set the high-water mark for corruption & old-time machine politics, but I haven't found enough info on the web to make a decent post about it.
Sadly, it's not new- I am re-reading The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymor Hersh, and the level of vote fraud and corruption the Kennedys pulled off- repeatedly- is astounding. And yep, the Jackal Pack press was silent then, too...
Once it slips from the radar screen the party eite just let it fade away.
Can you imagine how fun it'd be to git a bunch of FReepers convening in the FReenchQuarter?!!
But if the RNC does not get off their haunches and show the rank and file they are really fighting this, I am afraid it's going to start being settled in the streets.
The Republican elites are fighting fraud, you know. It's just a very genteel sort of drawing room tiff, at the moment. Wouldn't want to do anything to slow down business as usual with the Democrat power structure, or make any non-PC remarks about groups who make up the Democrat base, real and illegitimate.
Oddly enough, the half-hearted new election laws do give ordinary citizens extraordinary powers in fraud cases. It's just that the DOJ has not made the methods and procedures very clear.