Watergate started with a third-rate burglary at the Democratic headquarters that got little attention at the time. The recent arrest of a young Republican operative dumping voter registration forms in the trash has received no more coverage than that. Maybe it is just an “isolated incident” as the State Board of Elections claims. But Salon’s Brad Friedman builds a compelling case by connecting this dot with others, that we could be witnessing a full-fledged Republican conspiracy to suppress Democratic voter registration through outright election fraud.
That is, to be clear, a theory — we don’t know all the facts yet. But the reason we have law enforcement officials is to investigate suspicious incidents and prosecute the guilty. And this brings us to the top legal authority in the state, Attorney General Cuccinelli.
Where is he? For a couple years now, Republican officials have been wailing about what a problem voter and election fraud are and how we need to act against these threats. Yet faced with evidence of genuine election fraud happening — in his very own state — Cuccinelli is silent.
We know that he has political incentives to stay silent if he so chooses — because it is less than three weeks away from a major election and why would he want to rock the boat for his party in that time? But being Attorney General is about much more than party politics. It’s supposed to be about upholding the law and investigating potential violations of it, wherever they may lead.
While there is lots of room for partisanship on the issues where we may disagree, upholding the law is supposed to be one of those areas where politics must not interfere. Justice is the blindfolded lady holding the scales. She doesn’t wear the button of either party on her gown.
If Cuccinelli continues to ignore calls to investigate this potential scandal in his own back yard, this could well turn into the Achilles’ heel that cripples him in his race for governor next year. He would not be able to portray himself as a fighter for freedom or justice or any other of the great principles he claims to follow if he is revealed to be just another partisan hack suppressing criminal investigations to help his party. This is a line of attack that would resonate not just with Democrats but with independents and even with principled Republicans.
While I doubt that he cares about any of these principles, I have no doubt that AG Cuccinelli cares very deeply about preserving his own hide. But Votergate, if it mushrooms, could well be the anchor that brings down his whole career.
As Senator McEachin and others have stated, Cuccinelli as AG has a responsibility today to get to the bottom of this situation and find out if there is anything deeper going on there. He will be judged by his actions, one way or another.