Last week, Hans von Spakovsky testified before the Senate Rules Committee that he'd been something of a wallflower when he worked at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. His critics had it all wrong, he said. Despite claims that he'd led the Department's efforts to overturn the voting rights section's traditional work protecting African-American voters -- using the division's power instead to spread the myth of voter fraud and purge state voter rolls -- von Spakovsky said that he'd merely been there in an advisory capacity. People asked his opinion and he gave it, that's all.
But those who actually worked under him in the voting rights section say otherwise
, calling him the de facto head of the section.
And in a letter to the Senate Rules Committee yesterday (the committee is considering von Spakovsky's nomination to be a commissioner at the Federal Election Commission), a group of former voting rights professionals in the Department laid out the numerous areas where von Spakvosky had been less than forthright in his testimony. You can read the letter here.
We've already noted one area
where von Spakovsky's testimony is highly disputable. McClatchy, reporting
on yesterday's letter, highlights another.
Under questioning from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) about the Civil Rights Division's failure to file discrimination cases on behalf of African-American voters while he was there, von Spakovsky argued that Durbin had it all wrong. They'd actually filed two cases (von Spakovsky didn't mention that one of those was actually initiated during the Clinton administration), and there were two other cases that the leadership at the Department had approved for filing, but that hadn't moved forward. He was all for protecting African-American voters, really.
What he didn't mention was this
A former Justice Department political appointee blocked career lawyers from filing at least three lawsuits charging local and county governments with violating the voting rights of African-Americans and other minorities, seven former senior department employees charged Monday....
Von Spakovsky blocked a major suit against a St. Louis suburb and two other suits against rural governments in South Carolina and Georgia and halted at least two investigations of election laws that appeared to suppress minority voting, one of them in Wyoming, said Joseph Rich, the former voting rights section chief....
Monday's letter included the first allegations that von Spakovsky torpedoed suits and investigations over alleged state, county or local laws that diminish the voting strength of African-Americans, Native Americans or other minorities or prevent them from voting altogether.
Von Spakovsky, the letter said, stripped the voting rights section chief of his authority to open investigations of discrimination without his superiors' approval.
As McClatchy reported
last week, despite Democratic opposition to von Spakovsky's nomination, Republicans may be able to protect him by legislative maneuvering. Regardless of von Spakovsky's fate, though, his nomination, along with the U.S. attorney firings investigation (which has shined a light on von Spakovsky's former colleague, Bradley Schlozman), is proving a valuable opportunity to expose what's been happening at the Civil Rights Division under the Bush administration.