Hans von Spakovsky

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Hans A. 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.[1]

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.[2][3] 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.[4]

While von Spakovsky and the Bush Administration denied the accusations of partisanship, the nomination was withdrawn on May 15, 2008.[5] Von Spakovsky subsequently joined the staff of the Heritage Foundation, a politically conservative think tank.

Early career[edit]

Von Spakovsky, originally from Huntsville, Alabama, is a second-generation American whose German middle class mother and Russian father 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.[6][7] Von Spakovsky became a member of Voting Integrity Project, which investigated alleged voter fraud across the United States,[8] 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.[6] After Bush's election victory, von Spakovsky was appointed to the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.[8]

Justice Department tenure[edit]

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."[8] Von Spakovsky was also tasked with guiding the Bush Administration's role in passing legislation that became known as the Help America Vote Act.[8] 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,[9] despite strong objections from Justice Department staff that the law would disproportionately harm and disenfranchise African-American voters.[7] 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.[10] The Georgia law was subsequently overturned by a federal judge, who compared it to a "Jim-Crow era poll tax".[10] During von Spakovsky's tenure, more than half of the career Justice Department staff left the voting section in protest.[11] 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.[8]

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.[10]

Federal Election Commission[edit]

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.[12] 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."[13][14][15] 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.[16]

Faced with mounting opposition, von Spakovsky ultimately withdrew from the FEC confirmation process.[5] He subsequently assumed a position with the Heritage Foundation, a politically conservative think tank.

Von Spakovsky has claimed that about 1400 votes, four times the margin of victory, were cast by ineligible prisoners in the 2008 Minnesota race for U.S. Senate, which was won by Al Franken.[17]However, Von Spakovsky's statistics have been labeled "fraudulent" by the Hennepin County Attorney who investigated the matter.[18]

Fairfax County[edit]

Mr. Von Spakovsky was vice-chairman of the Fairfax County board of elections in 2012.[19]


  1. ^ Edsall, Thomas (January 5, 2006). "Bush Appointments Avert Senate Battles". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ Kane, Paul (May 17, 2008). "Contested Nominee To FEC Drops Out". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ Evans, Ben (June 13, 2007). "Democrats criticize Bush's FEC nominee". USA Today. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ Crabtree, Susan (June 19, 2007). "Opposition against von Spakovsky's is firming". The Hill. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Nominee for F.E.C. Withdraws". New York Times. May 17, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Toobin, Jeffrey (September 20, 2004). "Poll Position". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Eggen, Dan (April 13, 2006). "Official's Article on Voting Law Spurs Outcry". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Rutenberg, Jim (29 July 2015). "A Dream Undone". New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Eggen, Dan (January 23, 2006). "Politics Alleged In Voting Cases". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c Gordon, Greg (May 20, 2007). "Efforts to stop 'voter fraud' may have curbed legitimate voting". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ Goldfarb, Zachary (June 8, 2007). "Hearing on FEC Pick Could Add Fuel to Debate Over Justice Dept.". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  12. ^ Stump, M. K. (June 13, 2007). "The grilling of von Spakovsky". Salon.com. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  13. ^ Bolton, Alexander (June 14, 2007). "Feinstein warns FEC member of rough confirmation process". The Hill. Capitol Hill Publishing. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  14. ^ Rich, Joseph; Robert A. Kengle; Jon Greenbaum; David J. Becker; Bruce Adelson; Toby Moore (June 12, 2007). "Letter to Reject Hans von Spakovsky". (via Talking Points Memo Document Collection). Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  15. ^ Rich, Joseph; Robert A. Kengle; Stephen B. Pershing; Jon Greenbaum; David J. Becker; Bruce Adelson; Toby Moore (June 19, 2007). "Letter to Reject Hans von Spakovsky". (via Talking Points Memo Document Collection). Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  16. ^ Gordon, Greg (June 13, 2007). "Lawyer can't recall his role in controversial policies". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  17. ^ Tom Troy, "Lecturer: Photo ID laws needed"
  18. ^ Jane Mayer,"The Voter Fraud Myth". The New Yorker. October 25, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  19. ^ Reilly, Corinne (November 1, 2012). "Fairfax County Democrats sue over rules for observers at polling places". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 

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