- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris today will accuse the U.S. Civil Rights Commission of conducting a bogus investigation into the presidential election because its chairman, Mary Frances Barry, was rooting for Al Gore, The Washington Times has learned.
Mrs. Harris has drafted a stinging indictment of the commission's majority ruling, which accused her and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of presiding over an election in which blacks were systematically disenfranchised. The majority's report, which was leaked earlier this month to liberal newspapers, was based on a statistical analysis conducted by a former consultant to Mr. Gore, The Times revealed last week.
"Instead of helping to create a blueprint for an election system that no American ever again doubts whether his or her vote counts, the majority have crafted a battle plan for politicians interested in wielding the sword of racial division," Mrs. Harris said in the executive summary of her rebuttal, which will be released today after Senate hearings on the election.
She blamed the commission's partisanship on the fact that the election's loser was Mr. Gore, "the candidate the chairperson of the commission supported."
Miss Berry did not return phone calls to The Washington Times. But Nathea Lee, who described herself as a "functionary" for Miss Berry, complained that the chairman had not yet seen the Harris rebuttal.
"It's a tad odd that you get it before she does," Miss Lee told a reporter. But when offered a copy of the rebuttal last night, Miss Lee said Miss Berry would still not comment.
Ironically, it was Miss Berry who was accused of leaking the majority opinion to liberal newspapers earlier this month, before it had been distributed to the two Republican appointees of the eight-member commission.
The leaks were orchestrated before the ruling was shown to Mrs. Harris or Mr. Bush, even though they had been promised they could write rebuttals that would be included in the document.
"The leaking of the degrading and defamatory bromides … constituted an obviously malicious attempt to poison public opinion before any person could conduct an impartial, sober evaluation of the majority's findings," Mrs. Harris wrote. "Such activity betrays a political bias that implodes the presumption of rectitude that has historically accompanied the commission's mandate."
Abigail Thernstrom, one of the Republican appointees on the commission, said Mrs. Harris' conclusions were "absolutely correct."
"I believe that if we had seen the report in a timely manner, and if the commission staff had been willing to work with us in revising the report on the basis of feedback, the report would have been improved," Mrs. Thernstrom said. "The commission has undermined its credibility and once you lose your credibility, it's hard to recover."
Mrs. Thernstrom and the other GOP appointee, Russell Redenbaugh, will release their dissenting opinion today, before Mrs. Thernstrom and Miss Berry testify before the Senate Rules Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. The 57-page document, which echoes many of the arguments in the Harris rebuttal, includes a statistical analysis conducted by John R. Lott Jr., senior research scholar at Yale University Law School.
It was not the first time Mr. Lott has waded into the postelection controversy in Florida. Earlier, he conducted a study that concluded President Bush suffered a net loss of 10,000 votes in the western panhandle of Florida when the TV networks erroneously awarded the state to Mr. Gore while polls were still open.
Similar conclusions were reached by analyses conducted by John McLaughlin & Associates, a Republican polling firm, and Bob Beckel, the Democratic strategist who tried to "flip" faithless electors.
While Mr. Lott's work has enjoyed bipartisan affirmation, Republicans complained that the commission's own statistical analysis was conducted by American University history professor Allan Lichtman, who once worked as a consultant to Mr. Gore.
Mr. Lichtman has denied any bias and emphasized that he has done work for Republicans over the years, although he never worked for Mr. Bush.
Moreover, the commission's two GOP appointees said they were denied access to the raw data Mr. Lichtman used to conclude that blacks were disenfranchised. They were reduced to filing Freedom of Information Act requests.
In her rebuttal, Mrs. Harris excoriates the commission's majority for not giving Mr. Redenbaugh time to arrange for someone to read him the report, as The Times disclosed last week. Mr. Redenbaugh, who is blind, was presented with the lengthy report two days before a public hearing at which the document was discussed page by page.
Mrs. Harris said the majority demonstrated a "shocking insensitivity to the visual impairment of one of the dissenters."
She added that the Democrat-controlled commission "has abdicated their moral authority, due to its politically tinged use of its investigative powers and its shameful violations of due process."
She said the commissioners "have grossly failed to substantiate their legal authority to investigate the 2000 presidential election in Florida, as their statements in the report indicate an apparently total disregard of the prerequisites to such an investigation."
Mrs. Harris, who was savaged by the Gore team and the press during the postelection struggle, points out that the Miami Herald now buttresses her criticism of the commission's report.
"The report goes too far in concluding that Gov. Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris bear prime responsibility for the problems of Nov. 7," the paper said in a June 5 editorial titled "A Blame Game."
Mrs. Harris points out that many of the problems experienced in Florida were the responsibility of individual election supervisors in the state's 67 counties. She also notes that she has since authored the most comprehensive election reform legislation in the nation.

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