- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

The U.S. Civil Rights Commissions study that concluded Florida blacks were disenfranchised in last years presidential election was conducted by a consultant to former Vice President Al Gore, The Washington Times has learned.
To obtain the raw data from this study, the commissions two Republican appointees said they have been reduced to submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to their own commission.
They said the groups Democratic majority has been slow to provide this and other information they need in order to write their dissenting opinion before Senate Democrats begin hearings next week.
The study, which Democrats on the commission leaked to The Washington Post and the New York Times, was conducted by American University history professor Alan Lichtman, who is listed on the schools Web site as "consultant to Vice President Albert Gore Jr."
"Hes obviously very pro-Gore," said Russell Redenbaugh, one of two conservatives on the eight-member commission. "The Lichtman statistics are arcane and controversial. The statistical methodology used is not at all mainstream and not universally accepted."
Mr. Lichtman yesterday emphasized that he also has done consulting work for Republicans, including Lee Atwater and New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, although he has never worked for President Bush.
"I havent been a consultant for Gore for six years," he said. "So its really unfair of them to be attacking me personally."
Republican Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom said Mr. Lichtmans attempts to portray himself as bipartisan were "hilarious."
"The fact is hes a hired gun for minority plaintiffs in voting rights cases," she said. "Hes very driven by his commitment to finding disenfranchisement and finding violations of the Voting Rights Act. I mean, its just blatant in all his work."
Les Gin, staff director for the Democrat-controlled commission, said the staff did not know when they retained Mr. Lichtman that he had been a consultant to Mr. Gore.
"If we had known, would it have made any difference?" he asked rhetorically. "The truth is, it probably would not have."
Mr. Gin said Mr. Lichtman was hired partly because the staff liked his testimony during the commissions hearings in January in Tallahassee, Fla.
"I think he did a very nice job of presenting as a witness down in Tallahassee," he said. "At that point, I think there was a feeling that Dr. Lichtman was a very good person to finish this project."
But the commissions Republican appointees cited Mr. Lichtmans January testimony as proof that his conclusions about black disenfranchisement were a foregone conclusion.
"While Ive done no study of my own, Ive handed out to you a New York Times article from Nov. 29, which does show that in fact there are disparate election systems used in the state of Florida," Mr. Lichtman testified at the time.
"Minorities perhaps can go to the polls unimpeded, but their votes are less likely to count because of the disparate technology than are the votes of whites," he added.
After the commission appointed him, Mr. Lichtman conducted a statistical analysis that claimed to confirm that thesis. But Republicans said the study should have been conducted by a statistician, not a historian, and certainly not by someone who once worked for Mr. Gore.
Moreover, the GOP appointees complained that Mr. Lichtmans study was sprung on them just two days before the commissions June 8 hearing. Mr. Redenbaugh, who is blind, did not have enough time to arrange for someone to read him the report.
"Its an [Americans with Disabilities Act] violation, even though he wont say anything because he hates being in the category of disabled and making a fuss about it," said Mrs. Thernstrom.
"I mean, were discussing a report page by page that a commissioner who is blind has not had an opportunity to read," she added. "He had no access to that report, in effect. They treated him as not a commissioner who was entitled to read this document."
Mr. Redenbaugh downplayed his lack of timely access to the report.
He said the important point is that Democratic members of the commission have refused to provide the raw data on which the study is based.
Both Mr. Redenbaugh and Mrs. Thernstrom have filed FOIA requests to obtain this and other information they say is crucial for their dissenting opinion, which is due next week.
"Its appalling that we have had to submit a FOIA request," Mrs. Thernstrom said. "But we cant get the data. Weve got some paper, but we cant enter all these numbers and make them machine readable. I want his disks because the taxpayers paid for them."
But Mr. Lichtman said he has no computer disks containing statistical databases or models. Besides, he said, he provided paper copies of the raw numbers and listed the Web sites for his source materials.
"Its all on the Web," he said. "In my report, I point out all the Web sites. I mean, this data has been available for months. Theres no secret data and they got a hard copy of all the data as well. So this is nonsense."
Mr. Gin agreed.
"Im a little surprised by the fact that theyve filed FOIA requests, because thats not the way we do business with commissioners," he said. "Dr. Lichtman does not have that data on a disk; he doesnt have it in one place. He just took the information off the Internet."
Republicans rejected the idea that they should re-create Mr. Lichtmans study by trying to duplicate from scratch his collection methods and analysis of data from numerous sources.
They accused the Democrats of deliberately stonewalling so that the dissenting report will not be published before Wednesday, when Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, convenes hearings on the election.
The first two witnesses at the hearing will be Mrs. Thernstrom and the commissions liberal chairman, Mary Frances Berry. Miss Berry, who has given $19,000 to Democrats since 1992, did not return phone calls for this story.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide