Hans von Spakovsky
Hans Anatol von Spakovsky (German pronunciation: [ˈhans ˈanatɔl ˌfɔn ˈʃpa.kɔfˌskɪ]; born March 11, 1959) is an American attorney and a former member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). He was nominated to the FEC by President George W. Bush on December 15, 2005 and was appointed by recess appointment on January 4, 2006.
However, von Spakovsky's nomination was opposed by Senate Democrats, who argued that his oversight of voter laws was unacceptably partisan and that he had consistently acted to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Opposition to the nomination was bolstered by objections from career Justice Department staff, who accused von Spakovsky of politicizing his nominally non-partisan office to an unprecedented degree.
While von Spakovsky and the Bush Administration denied the accusations of partisanship, the nomination was withdrawn on May 15, 2008. Von Spakovsky subsequently joined the staff of the Heritage Foundation, a politically conservative think tank.
Von Spakovsky, originally from Huntsville, Alabama, is a second-generation American whose German parents of minor noble lineage immigrated to the United States in 1951 after meeting in a refugee camp as displaced persons after the end of World War II. He received a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981 and a J.D. from the Vanderbilt University Law School in 1984. Von Spakovsky is a member of the Georgia and Tennessee bars. Before entering politics, he worked as a government affairs consultant, in a corporate legal department, and in private practice.
Von Spakovsky served as Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Georgia, and as a Republican appointee to the Fulton County Registration and Election Board, where he championed strict voter-identification laws. Von Spakovsky became a member of Voting Integrity Project, which investigated alleged voter fraud across the United States, as well as a member of the politically conservative Federalist Society. He worked as a lawyer for George W. Bush's team during the 2000 Florida Presidential election recount. After Bush's election victory, von Spakovsky was appointed to the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Justice Department tenure
Von Spakovsky was hired to the Justice Department as an expert on elections, and he advocated for what he described as the application of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a "race-neutral manner." Von Spakovsky was also tasked with guiding the Bush Administration's role in passing legislation that became known as the Help America Vote Act. Von Spakovsky's tenure at the Justice Department was marked by a focus on voter eligibility and voter fraud. In 2005, he led the Department's approval of a controversial Georgia law requiring voters to produce photo ID, despite strong objections from Justice Department staff that the law would disproportionately harm and disenfranchise African-American voters. Von Spakovksy subsequently acknowledged that he had written a law review article supporting such photo ID laws under the pseudonym "Publius", prompting concerns that he should have recused himself from the Justice Department decision. The Georgia law was subsequently overturned by a federal judge, who compared it to a "Jim-Crow era poll tax". During von Spakovsky's tenure, more than half of the career Justice Department staff left the voting section in protest. Von Spakovsky argued against the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, but the re-authorization overwhelmingly passed Congress and was signed into law by the Bush Administration.
Von Spakovsky also served on the Board of Advisors of the Election Assistance Commission, a government commission created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. He clashed with the Commission head, Paul DeGregorio. Several individuals with knowledge of the situation, speaking anonymously to McClatchy Newspapers, alleged that DeGregorio had resisted an overtly partisan agenda and his removal was therefore engineered by von Spakovsky.
Federal Election Commission
Von Spakovsky received his recess appointment by President Bush to the FEC in January 2006. His confirmation hearings were contentious, as Democratic Senators criticized von Spakovsky's Justice Department tenure and accused him of partisanship. A group of career Justice Department staff wrote a letter to the Senate arguing against von Spakovsky's appointment, saying that he "played a major role in the implementation of practices which injected partisan political factors into decision-making on enforcement matters and into the hiring process, and included repeated efforts to intimidate career staff." In response to questioning from the Senate, von Spakovsky repeatedly asserted that he could not remember or recall his involvement in various controversial Justice Department decisions, drawing comparisons to the testimony of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Faced with mounting opposition, von Spakovsky ultimately withdrew from the FEC confirmation process. He subsequently assumed a position with the Heritage Foundation, a politically conservative think tank.
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- Tom Troy, "Lecturer: Photo ID laws needed"
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