He’s Baaaack: Civil Rights Commission Hires Spakovsky to Work on Voting Rights

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It looks like Hans von Spakovsky, an old TPM favorite, is back in business. The former Justice Department official, whose nomination to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to his long record of support for restrictions on voting rights, has been hired as a “consultant and temporary full-time employee” at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) the agency confirmed to TPMmuckraker.

If Spakovsky’s history of backing efforts to make voting more difficult strikes you as a poor fit with the Commission’s mission of defending voter rights, consider that of the eight current commissioners at the agency, only two are registered Democrats, a politicization that the New York Times’ Charlie Savage brought to light last year.

Among Spakovsky’s duties will be overseeing the USCCR’s report on the Justice Department’s monitoring of the 2008 presidential elections, a source inside the USCCR told TPMmuckraker.

Spakovsky’s hiring is at the request of Commissioner Todd Gaziano, who works for the conservative Heritage Foundation on FEC issues and has defended Spakovsky in the press before. According to a federal government source, Gaziano has recommended Spakovsky at the government’s highest payscale — which would work out to about $124,010 annually if Spakovsky was to stay for an entire year.

And it seems that Gaziano may not have been exactly excited to make his selection of Spakovsky public knowledge. At a July 28th meeting (pdf) where the commissioners approved the hiring of the “special assistants,” the new hires identities were kept confidential. According to the transcript of the meeting, when one of the commissioners asked for more information on the identity of who was being hired, the question was never answered.

So where is the money coming from? Well it turns out that USCCR is about $400,000 (pdf) under budget, and something had to be done with all that money before December. Although according to a federal source, the agency has other pressing needs — understaffing and out-of-date technology — the commissioners decided instead to spend at least part of that money on four temporary staff assistants.

Attempts to contact Graziano were referred to the Commission public affairs office. Calls to Spakovsky were not immediately returned.