Over the past two days, I have been studying the unprecedented use of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Unit to investigate the office of our county attorney.  According to a speech given by the Assistant Attorney General of Civil Rights, Thomas Perez "this investigation will focus on allegations that OPS, MPD and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office are failing to adequately investigate and prosecute alleged sexual assaults against women in Missoula, due to gender discrimination in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.  There have been at least 80 alleged rapes in Missoula in the past three years.  The investigation will look at assaults against all women in Missoula, not just university students." This may be the stated reason, but what Mayor Engen said on CNN last night is right: on average 80 reported rapes in a college town isn't abnormally high. So, what is the real reason for the investigation?

My working theory is that the DoJ is in Missoula to bring attention to Joe Biden's "Violence Against Women Act." It is not abnormal for Attorney General Holder to use his office for political purposes (Fast and Furious), and the Department of Justice is making no attempts to hide that it is currently backing legislation that even the NAACP thought was a bad idea (they were against mandatory HIV testing for people accused of rape that had not been convicted). President Obama has brought the bill up on the campaign trail, and as recently as two weeks ago, Holder officially spoke out in support of the legislation. If you visit the DoJ website you will find the speech rotating proudly on the front page.

Only about 5 to 15% of the worst national cases are handled by the DoJ, the rest of the bulk being handled at the county or district attorney level. The only explanation I've been able to come up with for why the DoJ would step in to Missoula is to dredge up political material for the coming election. Look forward to the material found, if any, being used as part of the women's vote theme of the campaign. If I were to guess, I would bet that the actions of the DoJ in our town go all the way to the top . . . or at least to the Vice President. It was Joe Biden after all, who authored the Violence Against Women Act and got it originally passed in 1994.