- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2001

Got a clothespin at hand? Not for a hands-on seminar on energy conservation a la Streisand, but rather to spare the old nose during an update on the increasingly fetid adventures of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission report on the presidential election in Florida.

Thanks to the reporting of this newspaper´s Bill Sammon, it has been revealed that the by-now infamous commission report, which sensationally concludes that black Floridians were disenfranchised en masse even as it fails to prove a single incident of discrimination, is based on the statistical work of a former political consultant to Al Gore, American University history professor Alan Lichtman. That means that not only was the investigation supervised by Mary Frances Berry, an open Gore supporter before (and even during) the investigation, and not only did its findings hit the press before the commission´s two Republican appointees were able to review them, but the findings themselves were based exclusively on the analysis of someone described on his university web site as a "consultant to Vice President Albert Gore Jr."

As Mr. Lichtman would agree, the web site needs an update. "I haven´t been a consultant for Gore for six years," he said, citing Republican consulting work he has performed in the past for the late Lee Atwater and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Abigail Thernstrom, the commission´s sole Republican, considers Mr. Lichtman´s attempt to plump up his bipartisan credentials nothing less than "hilarious." "The fact is, he´s a hired gun for minority plaintiffs in voting rights cases," Mrs.Thernstrom said. "He´s very driven by his commitment to finding disenfranchisement and finding violations of the Voting Rights Act. I mean, it´s blatant in all his work."

So which is it bipartisan consultant or hilarious hired gun? Certainly, an examination of Mr. Lichtman´s findings should help answer the question. One problem: The group´s Democratic majority has been so slow to provide the raw data to Mrs. Thernstrom and Russell Redenbaugh, a registered independent who is the other Republican appointee, that they have had to take the extraordinary measure of submitting Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to their own committee to obtain the computer disks with the statistical databases and models Mr. Lichtman presumably used to conduct the study. These data are crucial, the Republican appointees say, to the completion of their dissenting report before next Wednesday´s election hearings in the Senate.

But there´s another problem: Both Mr. Lichtman and commission staff director Les Gin say there are no disks just paper copies of raw numbers and a list of web site sources. As Mr. Gin put it, "Dr. Lichtman doesn´t have that data on a disk; he doesn´t have it one place. He just took the information off the Internet." No one has to be a statistician (Mr. Lichtman clearly is not) to find this methodology on the eccentric side and that´s putting it kindly. In fact, Mr. Redenbaugh is probably understating the case when he says that Mr. Lichtman´s methodology is "not at all mainstream and not universally accepted."

Except when it comes to the Al Gore for President Florida Committee sorry the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In keeping with the commission´s startlingly casual outlook on questions of academic rigor, not even the newly revealed information about Mr. Lichtman´s consulting history with the former vice president gives it pause. "If we had known, would it have made any difference?" Mr. Gin asked rhetorically. "The truth is, it probably would not have." The fact that it didn´t is at the dark heart of what makes clothespins necessary.

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