Wisconsin Spotlight | Nov. 16, 2022
MADISON — The U.S. Department of Justice has stonewalled the release of its plans to carry out President Joe Biden’s constitutionally suspect executive order to use the federal government as a get-out-the-vote engine. Now the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is asking a federal judge to order the DOJ to release the long-overdue documents.
Earlier this month, the government watchdog filed a cross-motion in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. FGA is asking the court to compel DOJ to immediately turn over the documents, originally slated for release on Sept. 8. Biden’s Justice Department did not fully comply with the original court order.
Biden’s executive order demands an “all-of-government” effort to “promote voter registration and voter participation.” That’s raising concerns about the real possibility of partisan poisoning of U.S. election systems.
Under Biden’s mandate, DOJ is required to adopt election-related policies, something the agency has publicly touted. And even though the Department of Defense has made its get-out-the vote strategic plan publicly available, “DOJ is erroneously asserting executive privileges under Exemption 5 and unlawfully withholding [its strategic plan] and other public records,” FGA argues in its motion.
“The Constitution does not envision a role for the president in administering elections, yet that is precisely what President Biden is seeking to do—and his administration is taking great pains to hide their efforts,” said Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability. “DOJ is claiming the documents it is withholding are protected by certain privileges, but neither of the claimed privileges applies to the documents we’re seeking to share with the American people.”
Documents obtained by FGA through a Freedom of Information Act Request in May 2021 show a Senior White House official expressed gratitude to a number of federal agencies for the “ambitious and creative ideas that agencies across the government have already begun to develop in order to advance the EO’s mandate to expand access to voter registration and political participation.”
The Biden administration also has refused to release records to members of congress.
“Federal executive agencies, which have no business engaging in voter registration or mobilization efforts, as the EO directs, will surely exceed the scope of their authority under federal law,” stated a letter sent in October by nine Republican House members, led by Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
A group of Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville), in July called out the administration for exceeding its constitutional and statutory authority in directing federal agencies to get involved in elections.
Among its provisions, Biden’s March 2021 executive order:
- Directs federal agencies to assist states with voter registration if a state requests assistance
- Expands the use of gov and suggests agencies add a link to it on their websites
- Proposes ways to increase federally funded government employee participation in the voting process.
In January, the Small Business Administration (SBA) proudly announced it was the first federal agency to apply to be a voter agency. Others have since followed suit.
“As the first federal agency to request designation as a voter agency, small business owners and others will have the services they need to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box and fair representation for their communities,” the agency declared.
It’s not clear how much involvement federal agencies had in voter engagement in the recent midterm elections, but concerns are growing about how the partisan Democratic Party machine that is the Biden administration will use taxpayer-funded resources in advance of the 2024 presidential election.
“If you’re concerned about Mark Zuckerberg spending $400 million of his own money on election administration you should be terrified of Joe Biden using unlimited federal dollars and the full force and might of the federal government and the entire force of the police state to meddle in the elections,” Adam Gibbs, communications director for the Foundation for Government Accountability, told Empower Wisconsin this week.
He said the court’s ruling on FGA’s latest motion could come at anytime.
Bragdon said the administration’s efforts, along with the secrecy it has imposed, have raised questions about how fair the administration’s voter registration and voter mobilization program is and whether it is aimed at providing a boost to one party over another.
“It makes you wonder: what are they hiding? Whatever it is, FGA intends to find out,” Bragdon said.