It's time, Kossacks, to take down the chief architect of the GOP voter suppression movement, Hans von Spakovsky, and it can't be done without your help. Von Spakovsky, as many of you know, reached the apex of his career when he masterminded the Justice Department preclearance of the DeLay Texas redistricting. Some also know that he began his career as a vote thief even before he masterminded the 2000 Florida "felon" purge and worked the recount on behalf of Bush-Cheney. Von Spakovsky was also instrumental in securing Justice Department approval for the Georgia and Arizona photo ID laws that disenfranchised minorities, the poor, and the elderly.
Hans von Spakovsky is up for confirmation June 13 as a member of the Federal Election Commission.
He must be stopped.
If you ever wondered what the face of Republican voter suppression, purges of minority voters, manipulation of the electoral system, and politicization of the Justice Department looks like, you need look no further than to your right (frankly, I can't help but notice an eerie resemblance to Alfred E. Neumann). A very good case can be made that were it not for the actions of this one man, we would now be celebrating the successes of the first and second Gore administrations or, at the very least, be relieved that the election of John Kerry in 2004 had saved us from four more years of George W. Bush.
As early as 1997, Jeffrey Toobin reported in the New Yorker, von Spakovsky "wrote an article for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative research group, that called for an aggressive campaign to 'purge' the election rolls of felons." His tactics were put to good use to further the Republican cause in the lead-up to the 2000 Florida election debacle. Toobin writes:
Within months of that article’s publication, the [Voter Integrity Project, on whose board von Spakovsky served] helped put von Spakovsky’s idea into action. [V.I.P. founder Debra] Phillips met with the company that designed the process for the removal of alleged felons from the voting rolls in Florida, a process that led, notoriously, to the mistaken disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, most of them Democratic, before the 2000 election.
Thousands of votes, most of them Democratic. Remember, Bush "won" Florida by 537 votes. No von Spakovsky purge? Hel-lo President Gore.
When the Florida recount took place, von Spakovsky was there, serving as a volunteer for the Bush campaign. Shortly thereafter, he was hired into a career position in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department but was quickly promoted. As Lee Cokorinos of the Equal Justice Society noted:
Within a few months of Bush v. Gore, large sections of the [right wing's] legal infrastructure were raptured up into the new administration. Among them were the late Hugh Beard and Hans von Spakovsky, named to the "front office" of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division-the Voting Rights Section. Beard was senior counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, which has led the policy assault on affirmative action and "racial gerrymandering" (i.e., Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act).
It was in the Voting Section that von Spakovsky reached the apex of his authority and utilized the full power of the civil rights laws to keep minorities from voting and game the system in favor of the GOP. In 2003, von Spakovsky was instrumental in the decision to approve Tom DeLay's re-redistricting of Texas Congressional districts, which was struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. As noted voting rights lawyer Gerry Hebert tells us:
When the Texas congressional re-redistricting plan pushed through the Texas Legislature by ex-Congressman Tom DeLay in 2003 was sent to DOJ for approval (as required by the Voting Rights Act), over half a dozen career professionals unanimously concluded that the plan discriminated against African American and Latino voters across the State. Unfortunately for minority voters in Texas, these career professionals were overruled by political appointees in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Professor Steve Bickerstaff of the University of Texas Law School has recently published a book on the Texas redistricting, entitled Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom DeLay. Bickerstaff writes on von Spakovsky's role:
The political appointees at Justice controlled how the department would handle the decisions surrounding Texas redistricting, and none of them with any ambition to remain active in this Republican administration or in the Republican Party could dare allow any departmental action to delay or to block it. Loyal service would be rewarded. Hans von Spakovsky, who led the battle within the Civil Rights Division to approve the Texas redistricting in 2003, was appointed by President Bush to the Federal Election commission in 2006. The appointment was an interim appointment not requiring U.S. Senate confirmation.
Von Spakovsky is one of the strongest proponents of voter photo identification laws, laws which study after study has demonstrated discriminate against minorities, the poor, and the elderly [PDF]. While in the Civil Rights Division, he published an article in the Texas Review of Law & Politics under the pseudonym "Publius" which, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported, "strongly advocates requirements for photo identification at the polls and scoffs at critics who argue that such rules disproportionately harm African Americans and other minority voters." After publishing this article, von Spakovsky, whose mind was already made up on the subject of voter photo ID laws, went on to be instrumental in again overriding the recommendations of career professional staffers, who believed the laws illegally discriminatory, and approving photo ID laws in Georgia and Arizona. As McClatchy's Greg Gordon notes:
Months after its publication, he participated in the department's review of Georgia's photo ID law, as required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act for election laws passed in 16 Southern states. After the department approved it, a federal judge struck it down as akin to a Jim Crow-era poll tax on minority voters. [Former Voting Section Chief Joe] Rich called von Spakovsky's failure to withdraw from the case "especially disturbing, given the clear ethical concerns" over his prior work as a Georgia elections official and the bias in his article.
Von Spakovsky sped approval of tougher voter ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Native Americans and Latinos.
As Dan Eggen wrote: "The article and its unusual authorship prompted a letter of complaint to the Justice Department . . . from the Voting Rights Project, an arm of the American Civil Liberties Union that is opposed to Georgia's voter identification plans. The group said the article shows von Spakovsky had already made up his mind on the issue and that his attempt to hide his views may have violated Justice Department guidelines."
Was von Spakovsky punished for his conflict of interest? Of course not. That's not what happens to "loyal Bushies" in this administration. Instead, he was promoted, receiving a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission. Since ascending to the FEC, von Spakovsky has continued his crooked, partisan ways. Greg Gordon continues:
von Spakovsky . . . tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter ID laws - research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda [and] allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DeGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.
(the story above links to emails showing von Spakovsky's attempted manipulation of DeGregorio).
Gerry Hebert sums up von Spakovsky's tenure at the FEC:
In his first year on the FEC, von Spakovsky has made clear that he detests many of the campaign finance laws that he took an oath of office to uphold and enforce. It is fair to say that since his appointment to the FEC, von Spakovsky has consistently taken positions designed to avoid the enforcement of existing campaign finance laws. In that regard, he is playing the same role at the FEC that he played as a political appointee at DOJ.
Von Spakovsky is already under investigation by the House Administration Committee for his minority vote suppression efforts. As El Diario/La Prensa, a Latino newspaper, noted last Friday:
The House Administration Committee is investigating allegations against another Justice Department official -- a civil rights attorney accused of attempting to suppress the votes of minority voters. Allegations include that the attorney, Hans von Spakovsky, used minor instances of voter fraud to push for wide voting restrictions that would bar minority voters.
To try to sum it all up, I contacted a former Voting Section staffer, a committed advocate for minority voting rights, for this diary and asked this individual, who does not wish to be named, to give me Hans von Spakovsky in 150 words or less. The former staffer only needed three (or two and a symbol if you want to get technical). This is, I swear, a direct quote from someone who once worked under him:
Hans = evil
Hans Von Spakovsky will appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on June 13, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. for his confirmation hearing. He must be stopped. Confirmation by the Senate would keep this scourge on the American electoral process on the Federal Election Commission until 2011. Please help keep Hans von Spakovsky off the FEC. Here's the membership of the Committee. I have included telephone numbers and hyperlinked to each Senator's contact page, where you can leave comments electronically.
Dianne Feinstein (CA) - (202) 224-3841
Robert Byrd (WV) - (202) 224-3954
Daniel Inouye (HI) - (202) 224-3934
Christopher Dodd (CT) - (202) 224-2823
Charles Schumer (NY) - (202) 224-6542
Richard Durbin (IL) - (202) 224-2152
Ben Nelson (NE) - (202) 224-6551
Harry Reid (NV) - (202) 224-3542
Patty Murray (WA) - (202) 224-2621
Mark Pryor (AR) - (202) 224-2353
Robert Bennett (UT) - (202) 224-5444
Mitch McConnell (KY) - (202) 224-2541
Thad Cochran (MS) - (202) 224-5054
Trent Lott (MS) - (202) 224-6253
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) - (202) 224-5922
Saxby Chambliss (GA) - (202) 224-3521
Chuck Hagel (NE) - (202) 224-4224
Lamar Alexander (TN) - (202) 224-4944
If you are a constituent of one of these Senators, please call or write. If you are not a constituent of any of these Senators, please call or write anyway and also call your own Senator. If von Spakovsky makes it through committee, we will need the help of all Senators on the floor.
Cross-posted at ePluribus Media Community