The Attorney General scandal is now moving beyond questions of "who said what, and when did they say it" to the deeper issue of the political agenda that motivated the firings: rolling back voting rights.

We've been covering Tim Griffin, the Arkansas attorney who helped "cage" African-American votes in 2000. But he wasn't the only one, as McClatchy newspapers reported last Friday:

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing. [...]

Taken together, critics say, the replacement of the U.S. attorneys, the voter-fraud campaign and the changes in Justice Department voting rights policies suggest that the Bush administration may have been using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes.

In 2004, Southern Exposure published an in-depth investigative report (pdf) on how the Department of Justice was increasingly using "voter fraud" as a way to restrict voting access -- and benefit Republicans. As Southern Exposure reporter Jordan Green observed:

The department launched the Voting Access and Ballot Security Initiative shortly after Bush took office. The initiative reflects two central concepts of voting rights law, which often clash. "Voting Access" refers to removing barriers to voting (traditionally a concern of the Democratic Party), while "Ballot Security" refers to combating vote fraud (historically a Republican Party priority). Since 2001, the department appears to have made Ballot Security a higher priority.

In October 2002, the Department of Justice held a day-long "Voting Integrity Symposium" to train personnel in about 300 FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices on how "to prevent election offences and bring violators to justice," according to a recent report by the Center for Voting Rights and Protection that provides a history of Republican "ballot security" programs.

The DOJ's more pronounced interest in limiting the number of people who can vote rather than expanding ballot access is also seen in the professional background of Hans A. von Spakovsky, a top lawyer in the Voting Section.

Jeffrey Toobin, in the Sept. 20 edition of the New Yorker, reports that von Spakovsky is a longtime "voting integrity" activist from Georgia. Before coming to the Bush administration, he served on the board of advisers for an outfit known as the Voting Integrity Project (V.I.P.). In 1997, he wrote an article for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation advocating a campaign to "purge" felons from the voting rolls. The V.I.P. coordinated with Database Technologies, the company infamous for designing the program that disenfranchised thousands of legitimate Florida voters whose names were falsely matched with actual felons. During the 36-day recount in Florida, von Spakovsky worked as a volunteer for the Bush campaign.