Tuesday, May 8, 2007

So Who Is Hans von Spakovsky, Anyway

Hans von Spakovsky's name has come up as one of the loyal Bushies who, along with Brad Schlozman, made sure that only the "right kind of people" were hired by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. What is known about Hans.

Currently he is a member of the Federal Elections Commission. According to his official FEC bio

prior to his appointment, Commissioner von Spakovsky served as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he provided expertise and advice on voting and election issues, including of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. . . . (before) entering public service, Commissioner von Spakovsky worked as a government affairs consultant, in a corporate legal department, and in private practice. He received a J.D. from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1984 and a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981. He is a member of the Georgia and Tennessee bars. He is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States in 1951. They met in a refugee camp as displaced persons after the end of World War II. He is originally from Huntsville, Alabama.
Boring stuff but his official bio hides much. Source Watch says Von Spakovsky was orignially appointed to the Commission on January 4, 2006, by President Bush as a recess appointment. A recess appointment? That's unusual. I wonder why?

Well it seems the administration probably thought he couldn't be confirmed by the Senate. His problems all go back to his ground breaking voter suppression work.

The Associated Press's Deb Reichmann reported January 5, 2006 that Senatory Ted Kennedy
"said von Spakovsky, a Justice Department lawyer who was Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Ga., worked toward requiring Georgia voters to have a photo identification - a requirement critics said would harm black voters. Kennedy also contended that von Spakovsky was involved in a decision that rejected a recommendation of career Justice Department lawyers in a Texas redistricting case. Those lawyers had concluded that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it eliminated several districts where minorities had substantial voting power and illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power."
VoteTrustUSA's Warren Stewart wrote in December, 2005,
Most of the attention has focused on Republican Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer in the Department of Justice Voting Section. Von Spakovsky has supported state programs to require voters to have photo identification and was one of the two Department of Justice lawyers who overruled the DOJ experts recommendation that the DOJ file a formal objection to Rep. Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Senator Ted Kennedy has said that von Spakovsky "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."
On April 19, 2007 Digby wrote authoritatively about von Spakovsky in a piece entitled Hans Across America .
Von Spakovsky is not just another Atlanta lawyer. He had for years been involved with a GOP front group called the "Voter Integrity Project" (VIP) which was run by none other than Helen Blackwell, wife of notorious conservative operative Morton Blackwell. (Many of you will remember him as the guy who handed out the "purple heart" bandages at the 2004 GOP convention but he's actually much better known for years of running the dirty tricks school "The Leadership Institute" and is even credited with coining the name "Moral Majority." Let's just say he's been a playah in GOP circles for a long time --- and the VIP is one of his projects.
Digby's long article continues:
I'm sure everyone is aware by now that the recent study by the NY Times pretty much takes voter fraud off the table as anything but a partisan Republican tool for suppressing the Democratic vote:

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Frankly you had to be something of an historical illiterate not to recognize from the beginning that these folks are up to the same tricks they've been using for decades. They tried mightily, with everything they had, the federal government, the Republican Lawyers Association, the country awash in patriotic paranoia, and they still couldn't prove this case --- even crookedly they couldn't do it. In fact, their insistence on finding it where there was none is what has caused their whole edifice to crumble.
He concludes by quoting J.Gerald Herbert's February 10, 2007, article entitled So exactly where were you, Hans von Spakovsky, on the nights in question?
But even putting aside his controversial tenure at DOJ, von Spakovsky’s performance at the FEC over the last year independently raises questions of whether he is worthy of Senate confirmation. His comments at FEC meetings have often been caustic and extraneous to the issue at hand. He has consistently scoffed at the spirit of campaign finance laws, thumbing his nose at the law as he seeks to help create routes of circumvention. He even accuses those reformers who seek regulation of the role of money in our political process as attempting to take us back to the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts. This is an easy accusation to make, and von Spakovsky has employed it a number of times, and it certainly is easier to attack those he disagrees with rather than to explain principled reasons for his own actions.

The Senate Rules Committee hearings will begin soon. When they do, the American people have the right to know all the details of von Spakovsky’s roles in both the Texas and Georgia matters, and his handling of FEC matters as a recess appointee. That record, if compiled, will make the vote on his confirmation quite easy.
If you want to learn more about Hans service to the Bush Administration and Republican Voter Suppression read Herbert's entire article. It is a sorry tale, indeed. Then again, what do you expect from a loyal Bushie.

Note: Recess appointments don't last forever. As the Herbert quote indicates, he has now been nominated for a permanent appointment, his nomination is being considered by the Senate's Committee on Rules and Administration for a term expiring April 30, 2011. I wonder how his nomination is going to be received.