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Public Statements

Letter To Senate Rules Committee Chaiwoman Feinstein, And Ranking Member Bennett

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter To Senate Rules Committee Chaiwoman Feinstein, And Ranking Member Bennett

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Ranking Member Robert Bennett (R-UT), raising concerns about the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Elections Commission. In the letter, Obama says that nominees to the Commission should demonstrate a consistent ability to uphold the law and overcome partisan biases, but von Spakovsky's tenure at the Justice Department and as a Georgia election official do not reflect a record of nonpartisanship, fairness, and judgment necessary to enforce election laws. Obama previously sent a letter to President Bush in December 2005 expressing concerns about von Spakovsky's potential nomination to the FEC.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairwoman Feinstein and Ranking Member Bennett:

I am writing to express my serious concerns about the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The FEC is an independent regulatory agency tasked with the enforcement and administration of the Federal Election Commission Act. Individuals named to the Commission should have a demonstrated record of fair administration of the law and an ability to overcome partisan biases. Unfortunately, Mr. von Spakovsky's experience both as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Department of Justice and as a Republican appointee to the Fulton County Registration and Election Board in Atlanta, Georgia, do not demonstrate the evenhandedness required of an FEC Commissioner.

As you know, Mr. von Spakovsky played an active role in not only the creation of the Georgia voter identification law, which required all voters to provide certain government-provided identification at the polls, but also played a role in the approval of that law by the Department of Justice. Reports indicate that Mr. von Spakovsky joined other senior officials in overruling the recommendations of several career staff lawyers who had reviewed the Georgia voter ID law and determined that it would unduly hinder the ability of black voters to cast their ballots. After Mr. von Spakovsky reached his decision, both federal and state courts found that the Georgia voter ID law was unconstitutional and should be enjoined. Recent reports also indicate that Mr. von Spakovsky played a role in other apparently political decisions in the Department, including overriding staff recommendations on a Texas congressional redistricting plan, as well supporting the Department of Justice's failed attempts to purge the Missouri eligible voter rolls.

Mr. von Spakovsky's role in supporting the Department of Justice's quixotic efforts to attack voter fraud raises significant questions about his ability to interpret and apply the law in a fair manner, as does his decision to ignore the recommendations of long-serving career attorneys on several occasions. Moreover, his role in the creation of the Georgia voter ID law should have led to his recusal from the Department of Justice's evaluation of the law. His failure to recuse himself from that case further demonstrates a lack of judgment that is not befitting an FEC Commissioner.

Unless Mr. von Spakovsky can provide legitimate explanations for his conduct in these matters, I believe that he should not be confirmed to this important position.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator


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