Another one for you to file under "fox guards the henhouse": The Senate rules committee votes tomorrow (Wednesday) on whether to give Hans A. von Spakovsky a full six-year term on the Federal Elections Commission. For Senate Democrats to even consider allowing someone with von Spakovsky's background to sit on the independent agency tasked with protecting the integrity of federal elections is beyond incredible. If von Spakovsky is confirmed, it will be yet more evidence that Democrats have no more regard for the rule of law, or the integrity of the Justice Department, than Karl Rove does.
Von Spakovsky currently sits on the FEC as a result of a recess appointment made by President Bush in January of 2006. Before that he served as counsel to the assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division at Justice. Von Spakovsky's Senate confirmation hearing last June was noteworthy for many oddities, not the least of which was a letter sent to the rules committee by six former career professionals in the voting rights section of the Justice Department; folks who had worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations for a period that spanned 36 years. The letter urged the committee to reject von Spakovsky on the grounds that while at DoJ, he was one of the architects of a transformation in the voting rights section from its "historic mission to enforce the nation's civil rights laws without regard to politics, to pursuing an agenda which placed the highest priority on the partisan political goals of the political appointees who supervised the Section." The authors named him as the "point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights."
Von Spakovsky's response to these charges at his confirmation hearings? "I was not the decision maker," he claimed. "I don't remember that complaint at all,'' he demurred. "It's privileged," he insisted. That's the kind of bobbing and weaving that likely cost Alberto Gonzales his job. That the same absurd testimony from von Spakovsky might be rewarded with a professional upgrade is unfathomable.
And what was von Spakovsky trying to hide at his hearing? Why is the nation's largest civil rights coalition urging that his confirmation be rejected? Because this man was one of the generals in a years-long campaign to use what we now know to be bogus claims of runaway "vote fraud" in America to suppress minority votes. Von Spakovsky was one of the people who helped melt down and then reshape the Justice Department into an instrument aimed at diminishing voter participation for partisan ends.
I won't belabor these claims here, as few of them are even disputed. Von Spakovsky's preferred method of defending himself—his recent forgetfulness notwithstanding—appears to involve scrubbing his fingerprints off the Web, fudging questions of authorship on an article that indicates his biases. But even a brief poke at his résumé shows a man who has dedicated his professional career to a single objective: turning a partisan myth about voters who cast multiple ballots under fake names (always for Democrats!) into a national snipe hunt for vote fraud.
Richard Hasen has sketched the outlines of the vote-fraud crusaders efforts here for Slate. Adam Lambert has done yeoman's work reporting on von Spakovsky here. The curious among you can check out this 2004 article by Jeffrey Toobin that highlighted a change of direction in DoJ's Voting Section and flagged von Spakovsky's early involvement with the Voting Integrity Project, where, among other things, he spoke out in defense of an effort to keep the Green Party off the Georgia ballot in 2000.
Among his numerous accomplishments at the Voting Section at DoJ, von Spakovsky can take credit for approving the Tom DeLay-sponsored midcensus redistricting in Texas—part of which was later deemed by the Supreme Court to have violated the Voting Rights Act. (To do so, von Spakovsky overrode a 73-page memo written by seven voting-rights experts finding that the DeLay scheme violated the Voting Rights Act by reducing minority voting strength in Texas.) Von Spakovsky similarly pushed for approval of Georgia's restrictive voter-ID law, again over the four-to-one objection of staff lawyers who (in a 51-page memo this time) felt the new law would disenfranchise black voters. State and federal courts later found that statute unconstitutional.