PAPER TRAILS….The Justice Department has taken some heat recently because its political appointees have taken to overturning the recommendations of staff lawyers who analyze civil rights cases. What do do about this? In the Bush administration, the answer is simple: prevent the staff experts from making recommendations in the first place:

Career voting-rights attorneys who analyze planned state changes have been barred recently from making a recommendation, three former Justice Department officials and a congressional aide familiar with the change said this week.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, said lawyers who assess the state submissions ? known as requests for pre-clearance ? have been told to send their analysis memos to political higher-ups minus the recommendations that have historically been part of the decision-making process.

“They are supposed to present all sides and not even give an inkling as to where the evidence is leading them,” said a former Civil Rights Division attorney. “Clearly it was done ? I don’t think there is any question about this ? so that there would be no paper trail.”

That makes sense. After all, every time some outsider manages to get hold of a paper trail from this administration, it causes no end of embarrassment ? so better not to have them in the first place. Sunshine isn’t a disinfectant for modern conservatives, it’s just a nuisance.

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