Smith: DOJ Relied on Democratic Data Firm in Challenge to Texas Law

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the Justice Department’s decision to hire an explicitly Democratic data firm to conduct analysis on the Texas voter identification law. According to court documents, the Justice Department’s decision to block the implementation of the Texas law was based, in part, on the analysis provided by Catalist, a firm described by The Atlantic as a “big Democratic data warehouse.”

In his letter to Attorney General Holder, Chairman Smith expressed serious concern about the credibility of the Department’s case and the appropriateness of Catalist’s involvement. Excerpts from Chairman’s letter are below.

The Department of Justice has a responsibility to enforce and uphold the laws of the land without the influence of partisan politics … This is why I was disappointed to learn that the Department hired an explicitly partisan Democratic data company, Catalist, to provide the data by which it is justifying its decision to block implementation of Texas’s voter identification law.

Though Catalist is technically a private, for-profit company, it is really an agent of the Democratic Party. And Catalist’s involvement in the Department’s election law litigation against Texas creates a clear conflict of interest. There is at least the appearance that, rather than election laws that protect Texans’ right to vote in a secure and fair election, Catalist might prefer that Texas’s election laws favor Democratic Party candidates.

Equally troubling, nothing in the record indicates that the Department conducted an open bidding process when it obtained Catalist’s data services. I am concerned that the Justice Department may have prohibited other, non-partisan organizations from even bidding for the contract to review Texas’ voter ID law. If the Justice Department intentionally chose an organization with a left-leaning bias to review Texas’ voter ID law, this would be a disturbing misuse of taxpayer dollars and undermines the credibility of the Department’s challenge to the law…

It is unacceptable for the Department to go into court in a case involving the integrity of Texas elections on the basis of data provided by a Democratic Party campaign operation. Imagine the outrage if a Republican administration intervened to block a New York City election law on the basis of data provided by a firm run by Karl Rove. The Department’s engagement of Catalist in blocking Texas’s voter identification law is no different.

I ask you to explain why the public should have faith in the neutrality and impartiality of the data provided by Catalist that the Department is citing to support its legal position … If you cannot vouch for Catalist’s non-partisan independence and reliability, then I request that you drop the Department’s objections to Texas’s voter identification law. The Department should never ask a federal court to adopt a voting rights theory that is based on partisan political strategy rather than neutral analysis of the facts and law.

Chairman Smith requested the Department respond to his letter by Monday, July 9. A copy of Chairman Smith’s letter to Attorney General Holder can be found here.


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