Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FEC commissioner faces disbarment complaint in DC court after

FEC commissioner faces disbarment complaint after Raw Story report

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The progressive non-profit network Velvet Revolution has filed a disciplinary complaint against Federal Election Commissioner Caroline Hunter with the DC Court of Appeals, asking that she be debarred for providing "misleading statements" under oath.

Last month, Raw Story's Brad Jacobson reported that when Hunter was serving as deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee in 2004, she submitted an affidavit in a court case claiming that "the RNC is not initiating, controlling, directing, or funding any programs of 'voter challenges' ... The RNC has not initiated any challenges to the absentee ballots in Ohio or in any other state." The statement was later questioned by the judge, who said her affidavit "belied the evidence" in the case.

The Velvet Revolution complaint, a copy of which was provided to Raw Story, charges that Hunter's affidavit may have been designed to be deliberately misleading and that "the case for Ms. Hunter's disbarment is clear and simple."

"In the final days of the 2004 presidential election," Jacobson's report explains, "the Democratic National Committee [had filed] an injunction against the Republican National Committee in New Jersey federal court, alleging its involvement in using lists of returned mail to challenge 35,000 newly registered Ohio voters. This tactic, also known as voter caging, is historically employed to suppress votes from minority and low-income citizens who tend to vote Democratic."

The judge in the case, Dickinson R. Debevoise, ultimately rejected Hunter's sworn testimony and found the RNC in violation of an earlier consent decree forbidding it to use "ballot security measures" such as caging.

"In granting the injunction," Jacobson writes, "[Judge] Debevoise specifically addresses Hunter's statement denying that the Party was involved in vote caging activities. He finds her sworn testimony -- made as a witness -- unsupported by the facts in the case. ... 'Miss Hunter's information and belief,' he concludes, 'is belied by the evidence developed during the brief period of discovery.'"

Legal experts Jacobson interviewed suggested that Hunter's testimony appeared to have been deliberately designed to mislead the court, which would amount to a breach of legal ethics. Velvet Revolution's filing levels the same charge, relying heavily on Jacobson's research and reporting.

"Caroline Hunter breached her legal duty and violated the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct by giving misleading sworn testimony, belied by the facts, in the U.S. Federal Court in Newark, New Jersey," the complaint reads.

It continues, "RNC e-mails submitted as evidence in the case suggest Ms. Hunter’s involvement in discussions related to the illegal caging of voters, which would constitute a violation of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, while the careful wording of the affidavit may legally shield Ms. Hunter from a criminal charge of perjury, qualified experts agree that the misleading nature of her statement, belied by the facts in the case as documented in the court, merits disciplinary action, including disbarment."

When Hunter was nominated by then-President George W. Bush in 2008 to serve on the Federal Election Commission, she was confirmed by the Senate without any scrutiny of her 2004 affidavit or a close examination of her time on the Election Assistance Commission, on which she served just prior to the FEC.

Since Hunter's appointment to the FEC, she has displayed a pattern of highly partisan ideological decisions, according to election watchdog groups.

The Federal Election Commission's spokesperson declined requests for comment on Hunter's behalf for previous Raw Story reports.

The Velvet Revolution bar complaint can be read here.

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