Charges of Voter Fraud Ignite Accusations of Racism Against Justice Department, Tea Party

With two weeks to go until Election Day, charges of voter intimidation and voter fraud are flying, and the Justice Department, which has been rocked by accusations of reverse racism in its handling of similar allegations, is likely to take on as many cases as it did in the 2008 presidential year.

The Justice Department is looking into allegations of voter intimidation by poll watchers in predominantly minority neighborhoods in Harris County, Texas, during the first day of early voting. A liberal blog suggested that some of the poll watchers could be members of a local Tea Party group.

But the Justice Department has made clear that its investigation has nothing to do with the Tea Party.

"There is no investigation into any specific political organization, including the Tea Party, at this time regarding this matter," DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a written statement.

In another set of fly-by charges, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who is battling to capture President Obama's old U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, accused his Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, of setting up voter fraud-watch areas in Chicago in an attempt to discourage black voters.

That claim, disputed by Kirk -- he argued that Giannoulias might be the last person in Illinois to think the state doesn't have fraud problems -- could benefit Democrats among an energized urban electorate in a non-presidential cycle likely to be dominated by suburban voters.

Taken together, the complaint and the report shifts the spotlight back on past and current accusations of racism against the Obama administration and the Tea Party movement.

The Justice Department has been fending off charges of reverse racism ever since two former Civil Rights Division attorneys alleged that the department under Attorney General Eric Holder follows a policy of not bringing civil rights charges against black defendants on behalf of white victims.

The Tea Party movement has been repeatedly accused of harboring racist elements ever since some Tea Party activists catcalled U.S. lawmakers, including some minority members, during an anti-'Obamacare' protest on Capitol Hill earlier this year.

And even as several recent studies indicate the Tea Party racism charge is far-fetched, the NAACP attempted to build on the theory Wednesday with a report calling on the "first political formation of the 21st century" -- the Tea Party -- to embrace the "social complexities" of the 21st century.

The NAACP was careful to point out that it believed that the majority of Tea Partiers are sincere but warned that controversial groups like the border-patrolling Minutemen are trying to co-opt the energy of the movement to pursue their own agenda.

Much of the NAACP's criticism was focused on Mark Williams, the controversial former leader of the Tea Party Express. Williams was expelled from the group in July after publishing a racially charged letter on his blog.

A story on the liberal blog Talking Points Memo suggested Tea Party members could be among the poll workers in Texas allegedly "hovering over" voters, "getting into election workers' faces," and blocking or disrupting lines of voters who were waiting to cast their ballots as early voting began Tuesday.

The allegations occurred in a county where a Tea Party group launched an anti-voter fraud effort, noted Talking Points Memo, which later on Wednesday scaled back its headline.

The story also notes that the Texas Democratic Party is accusing the Tea Party group of working alongside the GOP on their anti-voter fraud effort.

It's unclear whether lawyers with the Justice Department, which has been the target of reverse racism charges since it backed off a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party last year, have even confirmed that any of the poll watchers have ties to the Tea Party. But such information would not be relevant to what the Justice Department insists is its narrow inquiry into voter intimidation accusations.

Asked how widespread complaints of voter intimidation are around the country, a Justice official said the department doesn't have exact numbers but it's "probably going to be a lot," similar to the 2008 presidential election year.

Fox News' Mike Levine contributed to this report.