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How the GOP Hijacked the Justice Department to Suppress Voters

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Under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was transformed from an organization that defended the voting rights of minorities into a tool in a Republican Party campaign to suppress minority voters, McClatchy Newspapers report. McClatchy says that at least a dozen political appointees at the Department of Justice were involved in the scheme. The key figure was a former Republican Party electoral tactician from Georgia named Hans von Spakovsky.

During four years as a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, Hans von Spakovsky went so far in a crusade against voter fraud as to warn of its dangers under a pseudonym in a law journal article. Writing as “Publius,” von Spakovsky contended that every voter should be required to produce a photo-identification card and that there was “no evidence” that such restrictions burden minority voters disproportionately.

Now, amid a scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, Congress is beginning to examine allegations that von Spakovsky was a key player in a Republican campaign to hang onto power in Washington by suppressing the votes of minority voters. “Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration’s pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote,” charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him. He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.

The McClatchy piece documents a long list of antics that von Spakovsky undertook, including:

  • the promotion of “Jim Crow” legislation designed to block minorities from voting,

  • tinkering with a commission studying voter fraud to delay its report and then falsifying the report to suggest that it found there was some basis for voter fraud claims – when it found the opposite,

  • engineering the firing of the Republican chair of the commission because he considered him insufficiently ferocious and partisan.

The McClatchy report provides substantial further detail to accusations which have been laid out before. It also ties closely to the plan to purge U.S. attorneys around the country, as a focal complaint in a large number of cases – most recently demonstrated by evidence coming out of Kansas City – had to do with their failure to participate in the fraudulent voter suppression campaign.

As columnist Marie Coco states in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star, drawing on the McClatchy report, “It is time to stop referring to the ‘fired U.S attorneys scandal’ by that misnomer, and call it what it is: a White House-coordinated effort to use the vast powers of the Justice Department to swing elections to Republicans.” The evidence for this proposition is now overwhelming.

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