[Hpn] OUCH!!!

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 12 Jan 2001 19:23:10 -0700

From: DRCNet <drcnet@drcnet.org>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 14:35:35 -0500
To: drc-natl@drcnet.org
Subject: www.StopJohnAshcroft.org -- Oppose John Ashcroft for Attorney

   -----------  http://www.StopJohnAshcroft.org  -----------

Dear friend of drug law reform:

As you've probably read in mainstream news accounts, former US
Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) has been nominated by President-
Elect George W. Bush for the office of Attorney General.
DRCNet, as a nonpartisan organization devoted strictly to drug
policy reform, is opposing the Ashcroft nomination because of
his record as one of the most hawkish drug warriors supporting
some of the most extreme drug war legislation during his
tenure in the Senate.  We are writing to ask you to visit a
web site we've set up to encourage grassroots opposition to
the Ashcroft nomination -- http://www.StopJohnAshcroft.org --
and to use the information and the online petitions there to
help defeat this nomination while there's still time.

If drug policy and related Constitutional issues are the
criteria, there is no question that John Ashcroft has one of
the worst records on Capitol Hill.  As Senator, John Ashcroft
sponsored a bill that would have simultaneously violated the
spirit if not the letter of both the 1st and 4th amendments to
the US Constitution: the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation
Act" would have criminalized certain drug- and drug policy-
related discussions on the Internet, and would have allowed
police to conduct secret searches of homes, with the residents
never being informed before or after that the police were
there.  Indeed, in his six years in the Senate, Ashcroft
proposed amendments to the Constitution a full seven times,
including an amendment to make it easier to amend the

As Senator, John Ashcroft demonstrated an unwillingness to
deal seriously with the problem of racial disparity in the
criminal justice system.  While outwardly professing support
for a bill to study racial profiling, Sen. Ashcroft in reality
use his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on the Constitution
to bottle it up in committee for several months; the bill
never made it to the Senate floor despite bipartisan support.

In response to charges that the powder/crack cocaine
sentencing disparity is racially discriminatory, Sen. Ashcroft
rejected legislation recommended by the US Sentencing
Commission and sponsored by African American legislators that
would have reduced crack cocaine sentences to the level of
powder cocaine sentences.  Instead, Sen. Ashcroft supported a
bill to raise the powder cocaine sentences -- despite a
consensus among criminal justice experts that the disparities
are driven by enforcement policy and prosecutorial bias in
conjunction with the laws, and that powder cocaine enforcement
is also carried out in a racially discriminatory way.

Sen. Ashcroft objected vociferously to spending money on drug
treatment rather than drug interdiction, claiming that
treatment "enables" drug users and that enforcement is a more
effective use of funds.  But after decades characterized by
intensive interdiction efforts during which time the
availability of drugs has increased and the price plummeted,
and despite study after study showing that treatment is
dramatically more effective than enforcement, to claim that
interdiction is more effective than treatment demonstrates an
astonishing inability or unwillingness to evaluate drug policy
in an objective manner.  Indeed, there isn't clear evidence
that drug interdiction is more effective than doing nothing;
to claim interdiction is more effective than treatment is
simply off the reality meter.

As Attorney General, John Ashcroft would have enormous power
and influence over policies such as these.  Particularly
troubling is his lack of seriousness about racial disparity in
the criminal justice system, at a time when the problem of
racial profiling is just beginning to get attention.  The
documents released recently by the New Jersey Attorney
General's office -- http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/njprofiling/
on our web site -- show the US Dept. of Justice to be both
hero and villain in racial profiling -- DOJ's civil rights
division has played a leading role in forcing police
departments to take steps to stop it, while DOJ's Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) has literally conducted
national training programs explicitly encouraging racial
profiling.  To address racial profiling, DOJ needs to be
headed by someone who will encourage the civil rights division
and rein in the DEA's abuses in this area.  Based on his
record, John Ashcroft is not a sound pick to play such a role.

We consider the mandatory minimum sentences that John Ashcroft
so enthusiastically supports to be gross violations of human
rights; and we deplore his apparent lack of allegiance to the
spirit of the US Constitution that he was sworn to uphold.
That Constitution is the highest law of the land, a law which
is in part intended to place restrains on the forces that the
Attorney General directs.  This is not a matter of liberal vs.
conservative or anti-crime or "pro-criminal," as the Senator
has labeled some of his opponents.  This is a matter of sanity
in the criminal justice system and respect for basic
Constitution rights.

So please visit http://www.StopJohnAshcroft.org today and help
stop the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General --
or, just call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121,
twice, have them transfer you to each of your two Senators in
turn, and urge they vote "no" on the Ashcroft appointment.

If you are a conservative, or support the Ashcroft nomination
for other reasons, and didn't read our clarifying notes issued
last week (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/167.html#urgentaction),
we wish to emphasize that our opposition to the Ashcroft
appointment is based strictly on DRCNet's cause of opposition
to the criminal justice and military aspects of the "war on
drugs."  We are a nonpartisan organization, and in fact
opposed President Clinton's drug czar nominee, Gen. Barry
McCaffrey, five years ago, the only comparable Cabinet
nomination since DRCNet was formed.

We are criticizing only Mr. Ashcroft's record on drug policy
issues, not his personal character nor his conservative
political alignment.  Our own supporters span the full range
of the political spectrum -- from liberal to conservative to
libertarian and all the rest -- and even include a few who
have let us know they support the Ashcroft nomination for
other reasons, despite disagreeing with him on drug policy.

We respect their opinions, but decided to oppose the
nomination nonetheless, because of the enormous power and
influence that the US Attorney General has on drug policy --
hence http://www.StopJohnAshcroft.org to join that fight.


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