Friday, June 22, 2007

Rove Aide Details Klamath Actions

On May 10th, Susan Ralston, an aide to Karl Rove, gave a deposition (Here it is. Page 52) to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that included questions about Rove's involvement in diverting Klamath River water to Oregon farmers in 2002.

Tom Hamburger, then of the Wall Street Journal, first broke this story and I covered it extensively in the documentary, getting confirmation both on and off camera of Rove giving a PowerPoint presentation to a sizable group of Interior Department managers at a retreat, using the Klamath situation as an example of how policy impacts politics. I also have documents that I obtained through FOIA about the subsequent Interior Department Inspector General's investigation. I may post some at a later date.

Why did Karl Rove and his aides care about water flow levels on an obscure western river in 2002? Because they wanted to reelect Republican Gordon Smith to the Senate by appealing to agricultural interests in Oregon. Plus, as a bonus, it might give them a shot at Oregon's electoral votes in the 2004 general election. Smith was reelected, but they lost Oregon to Kerry.

Many observers thought talk of Rove's involvement in the Klamath water battle was far-fetched at the time, but Ralston's testimony, if anything, shows that Rove and his political team were far more involved than anyone suspected. If they were using government resources (including setting up a commission on the Klamath crisis) to impact a political race, it's a violation of the Hatch Act, which is a law that Congress, at least in the days when I was in Washington, takes very seriously.

A small incident? Maybe. But like the story of the fight over water and salmon in the Klamath River Basin, it may have larger implications than what it first seems.

Jason Leopold of Truthout has more.

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