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Hans A. von Spakovsky

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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Ray Hartwell, In Memorial

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

I have to echo Christian Adams’s tribute to our friend Ray Hartwell, who we tragically lost last week. Ray was a very successful lawyer at a big Washington, D.C. law firm, and a man who always wanted to do more to help this great nation that he loved.

We got to know each other through a mutual friend when Ray decided he wanted to start writing about the fight to maintain our liberty and preserve our constitutional form of government. He quickly gained an audience and wrote very thoughtful pieces for publications such as The Washington Times, the American Spectator, and Powerlineblog.  In fact, both Quin Hillyer and Paul Mirengoff have moving remembrances about Ray at the Spectator and Powerline.

Ray and I even had a shared connection that was one of those odd coincidences that sometimes happen in Washington.  He recently went into semi-retirement and moved back to his hometown, Jacksonville, Ala. My father taught at Jacksonville State College a very long time ago, and I spent the first six years of my life living in Jacksonville.  In fact, one of Ray’s cousins went to high school with my sister.

Ray was consistent in his willingness to take on controversial issues he felt were at the root of the ability of our military forces to accomplish the various missions for which they were deployed.  One particularly insightful example was this column about the rules of engagement implemented in Afghanistan by the Obama administration.  Artfully using an array of examples to make his point, he argued that these rules actually put our forces at severe risk while simultaneously making it more difficult to accomplish their already dangerous mission.

Ray’s last column (unfortunately for all of us) was this one: “A Christmas Eve Message to the Troops.” It was published on Dec. 24, 2013, and told the story of his father, who was the commander of Company H of the 143rdInfantry Regiment, during a battle at Christmas 1943 around the small Italian village of San Pietro.  His father had been awarded a Silver Star for his bravery at the Salerno landing three months earlier.  His father was severely wounded in the battle for San Pietro and his regiment suffered 80 percent casualties.

Ray ended the column with the Christmas message sent to the officers and men of his father’s regiment by its commanding officer, Col. William Martin.  The final paragraph of that message read as follows:

“At this Christmas time, I thank you for your response to the call of duty and wish for you the richest blessings of Almighty God. With His help you are making it possible during all time to come for our loved ones and our posterity to have and enjoy Peace on Earth-Good Will Toward Men.”

We all thank Ray for the call to duty that he felt in his writing, and we regret his passing so soon. We will miss his insight, his thoughtfulness, and his determination to make a difference.

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SCOTUS Takes Up Mt. Holly Case

Monday, June 17th, 2013 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The Supreme Court has just granted certiorari in Mt. Holly, NJ v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens, so it will hear arguments on the case in the fall.  This is the case I previously wrote about that involves the questionable  “disparate impact” legal theory that has gotten Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights (and Obama Labor Secretary nominee) Thomas Perez into so much trouble.  The Court granted review despite a brief from the Solicitor General telling the Supremes that they should not take the case.  No doubt, civil rights groups will now do everything they can (perhaps with the help of the administration) to convince the town of Mt. Holly to dismiss its case before their pet legal theory gets tossed out by the Supreme Court.

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Getting the Last Laugh

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Readers of PJ Media know that I was recently denied reappointment to a local electoral board in Virginia after my initial three-year term had ended.   That was apparently due in part to local Democrats being upset about my “various positions on voter identification.”  They lobbied local county judges to not renew my appointment.

Well, Virginia Governor Bob McDonald recently signed into law a new voter identification law that tightened up Virginia’s existing ID requirements.  Voters will now have to show a government-issued photo ID when they vote and will receive a free photo ID if they don’t already have one.  This is the exact legislative recommendation I have made in countless papers, commentaries, speeches, and the book I coauthored with John Fund, Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk (Encounter Books 2012).

Virginia joins states like Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi that take seriously the issue of protecting the security and integrity of the election process.  But I have to admit that I laughed when I heard the news that Virginia now has exactly the type of voter ID requirement that so upset local Democrats that they apparently got me booted from working as a local election official in Virginia.  It may be a little more difficult for the Democratic Party to try to get rid of all of the members of the Virginia Electoral Board Association from counties across the state who will be enforcing the new photo ID law.

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Chris Matthews Uses Classic Movie Shooting to Make Obama a Gun Control Hero…And Gets the Movie Wrong!

Friday, March 29th, 2013 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

When Chris Matthews compared President Obama to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca on his Thursday show after the President’s latest gun speech, he couldn’t even get his analogy straight.  Matthews said this:

“Let me start tonight with this: You know that scene in Casablanca when the French police captain shoots the Nazi, Major Strasser, and Humphrey Bogart does the right thing by Ingrid Bergman, and the anti-Nazi hero Victor Lazlo says “Welcome back to the fight, Rick.” Well, I felt that way today watching President Obama get back to the front in the historic battle for gun safety.”

The French police captain (played by Claude Raines) isn’t the one who shoots Major Strasser.  It is Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine, who Matthews is comparing the president to, who shoots the evil Nazi, Major Strasser.  Not a very good analogy to use for gun control.

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Seven Secretaries of State Criticize Michelle Obama for Claiming GOP Voter Suppression Occurred in the 2012 Election

Friday, December 14th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Seven Secretaries of State have released a statement criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama for her false claim that Republicans engaged in voter suppression in the November election:

“Unfortunately the First Lady’s comments continue the baseless attacks that have been made upon those leaders who are simply taking reasonable steps to protect the security and integrity of elections. This past election speaks for itself.

In Arizona, a state that has a photo ID requirement, Hispanic voter turnout was the highest in the state’s history.  In Georgia, African American turnout has remained high in each election after the state adopted its photo ID requirement in 2006.  In Kansas, another state with a photo ID requirement, a minuscule .07 percent of voters neglected to bring their IDs to the polls and all were given provisional ballots and opportunity to provide photo identification later.

These examples reflect what is happening in every state that is taking steps to protect the integrity of elections.  No voter is impeded from voting.  And more voters become engaged in their elections because they have greater confidence their votes will be counted accurately and not cancelled out by illegal votes.

That is why Americans overwhelmingly favor photo ID and other election security measures.”

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State
Ken Bennett, Arizona
Brian Kemp, Georgia
Scott Gessler, Colorado
Jason Gant, South Dakota
Mark Martin, Arkansas
Tom Schedler, Louisiana

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The NAACP Makes Sure Every Dog in Virginia Votes

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

I’ve never understood why the NAACP is so set against voters having to show a photo ID when they vote, but a recent incident suggests one possibility.  An election official I know in Virginia recently received a pre-completed voter registration form in the mail from the Virginia NAACP headquarters in Richmond.  The form was addressed to the election official’s dog, Crease, but with the election official’s last name.  As you can see from the form itself, the voter registration form already had Crease’s name and address printed on it and the NAACP says that its “records show that you are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election.”  The NAACP asked Crease to “please fill in” the rest of the form because “registering to vote is easy” – even for dogs.

Having to show a photo ID might make it a little difficult for Crease to vote.  Of course, given the very weak Virginia ID law that was just approved by the Justice Department, a law that Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell tried to make even weaker with some very ill-advised amendments, it would still be pretty easy for someone to vote in Crease’s place once he got registered.  Virginia allows you to use all kinds of documents that are not really IDs to vote like the voter registration card that is issued to every registered voter.  That card has no photograph and is mailed to any person (or dog) who sends in a registration form with no authentication of their identity, citizenship or eligibility.

Despite this, I hereby pledge that none of the non-humans in my household (like my daughter’s extensive stuffed animal collection) will be voting this November.  Can we be sure that is the case for all other Virginia households?

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The Unfounded Case Against Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Like many states concerned over election integrity, Pennsylvania passed a common-sense election reform: voter ID. As a result, it has been targeted in a lawsuit by the ACLU and threatened with litigation by the politically driven Eric Holder Justice Department.

The ACLU lawsuit is unfounded, and the DOJ actions are an abuse of its legal authority as outlined in a previous post by PJ Media Legal Editor Christian Adams.

The Pennsylvania law is not even as restrictive as Indiana’s voter ID, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. It has several exemptions that make it impossible for anyone, including the ACLU, to rationally claim that it will prevent any eligible voter from voting (although that may not prevent a liberal judge from striking it down).

As a summary issued by Gov. Tom Corbett and Secretary of State Carol Aichele outlines, starting with the November 2012 election, the new law requires individuals voting in person to present a photo ID issued:

  • By the federal government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, such as driver’s licenses, non-driver’s license IDs, passports, military IDs, and employee IDs;
  • By an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning; and
  • By a state care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, and personal care home.

Pennsylvania has combined the ID requirement for in-person voting with a similar requirement for absentee ballots, which many have called the “tool of choice” for vote thieves. Absentee voters must provide either a photocopy of one of the acceptable IDs listed for in-person voting, or their driver’s license number on the absentee ballot application form. Or they can provide the last four digits of their Social Security number if they don’t have a driver’s license.

A Pennsylvania voter who has a religious objection to being photographed can use the “without-photo” ID issued by the state. Anyone who does not have a photo ID can receive one free from the state. If they have an expired Pennsylvania driver’s license or nondriver’s license ID, they can obtain a free photo ID for voting without any supporting documentation.

When voters show up at the polling place without an ID, they will be able to vote with a provisional ballot. That ballot will be counted if the voter provides the county board of election with a copy of acceptable ID within six days of the election by mail, fax, or e-mail.

Despite all this, the ACLU and others (including Attorney General Holder) are falsely claiming that the costs associated with obtaining the supporting documents needed for a photo ID such as a birth certificate make this requirement a poll tax. According to them, those costs will prevent eligible voters from going to the polls. The courts dismissed that argument when it was raised over voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Indiana, and have held that such indirect costs are not a poll tax. But the claim about incidental costs cannot be creditably raised in Pennsylvania. The law specifically provides that the provisional ballot of an individual without a photo ID will be counted if he files an affirmation stating that he is indigent and is unable to obtain the ID without paying a fee such as for a birth certificate. There is simply no barrier to anyone obtaining the ID required to vote.

News reports have published claims being made by the ACLU that up to 1.6 million registered voters do not have an ID. The state did a comparison of its list of 8.2 million registered voters with its driver’s license list of 8.7 million licenses issued to those 18-years of age and older. It found 758,000 registered voters without a DMV ID.

But the state did not do any comparison of the registered voter list with any other databases that contain information on acceptable IDs under the Pennsylvania law, such as the U.S. State Department (passports) and the Department of Defense (military IDs), or all of the other agencies and departments that issue IDs acceptable under Pennsylvania law such as student IDs, government employee IDs, or ID issued by long-term care and assisted living facilities.

There was also no comparison with alien records at the Department of Homeland Security to determine how many noncitizens may be illegally registered to vote, an all-too-common problem in many states.

In fact, the experiences of other states with voter ID laws (Georgia, Indiana), as well as other surveys done of registered voters by reputable sources such as American University, suggest that the number of individuals without a photo ID is extremely small. American University’s study of three states found that number to be under one half of 1 percent.

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Federal Court: DOJ Official May Have Lied About the New Black Panther Case

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

In a little noted decision on July 23, a federal district court judge concluded that internal DOJ documents about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case “contradict Assistant Attorney General [Thomas] Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in” the decision to dismiss the case.

In other words, the sworn testimony of Perez, the Obama political appointee who heads the Civil Rights Division, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was apparently false.

The decision in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice by Judge Reggie Walton was in a case filed by Judicial Watch after the Civil Rights Division refused to turn over documents about the NBPP case requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Walton is the same federal judge who presided over the prosecution of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

As Judge Walton outlined, Judicial Watch’s FOIA request “sought documents relating to the DOJ’s decision to dismiss civil claims in the New Black Panther Party case.” Walton awarded Judicial Watch a small amount of attorneys’ fees and costs, having concluded that the Judicial Watch lawsuit “was the catalyst for the DOJ’s release of records.”

According to the court, the DOJ documents, including emails from former Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli (who was the number-two official at DOJ) and former Democratic election lawyer and Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch, “revealed that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims.”

This included emails from Perrelli to lower-level DOJ attorneys on May 14 and 15, 2009, the day before and the very day the case was dismissed against three of the defendants on May 15. As Judge Walton concluded in discussing the importance of the Judicial Watch lawsuit, “[s]urely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decisionmaking.”

Neither Perrelli nor Hirsch has ever answered any questions about why top officials in the Justice Department were so interested in one of the many cases handled by the Civil Rights Division or what actions or instructions they communicated. And they have never said who else they discussed the case with above them, either in the Office of the Attorney General or in the White House. We don’t know the actual content of many of these emails because the court upheld the exemption from disclosure claimed by DOJ for many of these documents under a FOIA rule that protects certain legally privileged documents.

But the court also said that DOJ had failed “to show that its withholding of some documents from Judicial Watch prior to the filing of this lawsuit was legally correct or had a reasonable basis in law.” That is no surprise. Far too many of the actions of this Justice Department, particularly the Civil Rights Division, have not been legally correct or had a reasonable basis in law. And in this case, DOJ tried to avoid releasing documents as mandated by FOIA that it found politically embarrassing since there was no justifiable legal reason for dismissing an open-and-shut case of voter intimidation that had already been won by default.

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The Texas Voter ID Trial

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Christian Adams has reported on the ridiculous 18-year old witness presented on Wednesday by DOJ in the Texas voter ID trial who said her parents were too busy to take her to get an ID – but she had plenty of time to travel to the airport in San Antonio and then fly to Washington at taxpayer expense to testify in the trial. Rodriquez also said that she did not have a driver’s license because of the cost of auto insurance, apparently unaware that she can get a free, nondriver’s license photo ID from the Texas DMV.

But DOJ was also embarrassed on Wednesday when Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis was put up as a witness by the Justice Department to rail against the voter ID law. When he was cross-examined by Texas, he had to admit that both his wife and daughter, who were listed by DOJ’s “experts” as supposedly not having driver’s licenses, in fact, do have Texas driver’s licenses. And in a comment on how inaccurate DOJ’s racial data is, Ellis sounded offended that DOJ’s experts listed his wife and daughter as white. Ellis and his family are black Texans.

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Making Sure Noncitizens Vote in November

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

No one who has watched President Obama’s descent into an imperial presidency should be surprised by his latest executive fiat that will provide amnesty and work permits for almost one million illegal aliens, an utter reversal of federal immigration law.

After all, this complements his Justice Department’s actions in Florida, where Eric Holder has filed suit to prevent the state from removing noncitizens from the voter registration rolls. That followed his administration’s failure to provide Florida with citizenship verification information—again in complete defiance of federal immigration law that requires the administration to provide such information upon request.

For those inclined to connect dots, it certainly appears as though President Obama is making sure illegal immigrants can remain in the country while his Attorney General makes sure they can vote in November.

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Rep. John Lewis Displays His Ignorance

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

A sharp reader of PJ Media sent in a copy of a letter he received from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) about voter ID laws.  Lewis was responding to a letter from the reader, in which he had pointed out that—as a naturalized U.S. citizen—he had to provide a lot of biometric ID information to the government.  He, the reader, therefore considered it an insult not to require an ID to exercise a right as important as voting.

Lewis’s response reiterates the standard left-wing talking points against voter ID, of course.  But it also shows a remarkable ignorance of the details and effect of Georgia’s voter ID law.  That law has been upheld in both state and federal court against claims that it was discriminatory and has now been in effect for more than five years.

Lewis claims, for example, that all of the photo ID laws “ban the use of student IDs – even from state universities.”  That is absolutely false.  Lewis seems unaware that, as I pointed out recently in a Heritage Foundation study, under Georgia’s law, a student ID issued by the Georgia state college system is an acceptable ID for voting.

Lewis also claims that providing such IDs will cost states an enormous amount of money because “millions of American citizens” don’t have an ID.  He does not say how much money he thinks is too much to spend for fair and secure elections, but Georgia’s law has certainly not strained the state treasury.  Since 2006, the state has issued a grand total of 26,000 free photo IDs  to voters who otherwise didn’t already have an acceptable ID.  That’s a tiny fraction of the states nearly 6 million registered voters.  In 2010, amid some of the most competitive and contested mid-term elections in decades, only 0.046 percent of Georgia’s registered voters applied for a free voter ID!

The Lewis letter also repeats the spurious claim that voter ID laws keep minorities from voting.  That certainly didn’t happen in his home state.  According to official turnout numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State, in the first election held with the photo ID law in place (2008), turnout of Hispanic and black voters went up 140 percent and 42 percent, respectively, compared to turnout in the previous presidential election.  In 2010, Hispanic and black turnout was 66.5 percent and 44.2 percent higher than in the previous (2006) midterm election.  And lest you think that the increase was solely because of new, energized electorate first registered by Obama’s campaign, the fact is voter increases were higher in states with voter ID laws than in comparable states in the same elections without them.

In summary, John Lewis has no idea what he is talking about.  Rather, he has simply followed the well-worn track taken reflexively by so many liberals, such as former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis.

Several months ago, Davis came to the realization that he had been wrong about voter ID.  Writing in the Montgomery Advertiser, he admitted:

“When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician. Without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.”

Perhaps one day, John Lewis will experience the same epiphany that opened the eyes of Artur Davis.  Meanwhile, let’s hope his constituents see through his baseless claim that voter ID is an attempt to suppress the vote.  After all, the experience of his own state—indeed, his own district—completely explodes that myth.

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Exclusive: ‘Disgusting and Shameful’ Behavior Rewarded in the DOJ Voting Rights Section

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

A while back, Christian Adams, PJ’s Legal Editor and former Justice Department lawyer, highlighted the Facebook page of a Justice Department senior civil rights analyst, Stephanie Celandine Gyamfi, who labeled Mississippi as “disgusting and shameful.”  This was the same employee who admitted committing perjury and leaking confidential legal opinions and documents during the Bush administration.  When this caught the attention of the Mississippi Secretary of State, who is trying to decide whether to submit the state’s new voter ID law to the Department for review or go straight to court, the Justice Department defended Gyamfi saying she “is a respected employee.”  Apparently, she is more respected by the current bosses at DOJ than previously known.

A source inside the Justice Department sent me an internal posting showing the “Administrative Review Teams” in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division for Section 5 submissions under the Voting Rights Act.  Section 5 is the tool that Justice used to object to the voter ID laws of Texas and South Carolina.  Turns out that Gyamfi is the “Team Leader” for the group reviewing Section 5 submissions from both Texas and South Carolina.  So the Attorneys General of those states should not be surprised by the biased (i.e., “disgusting and shameful”) review conducted by the Voting Section.

Another email sent by the Voting Section Chief Chris Herren to all of the attorneys and staff in the Section relates that the Section’s historian, Peyton McCrary, was chosen by the head of the Civil Rights Division, Thomas Perez, to receive the Maceo Hubbard Award.  The Division gives this award annually to an employee  “who has furthered the cause of civil rights through a significant, innovative accomplishment.”  Herren said in his email that McCrary “is very deserving of this recognition” and that it is terrific that he was chosen for the award.

Why is that significant?  Because according to sworn whistleblower testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2010, McCrary adamantly refused to work on the Civil Rights Division’s pathbreaking lawsuit against the infamous Ike Brown in the Southern District of Mississippi.  This was the lawsuit that the Division filed against a black felon and other local black officials in Noxubee County, Mississippi, during the Bush administration.  Following a trial chock-full of extraordinary evidence, a federal judge found that Brown had engaged in blatant racial discrimination and ballot fraud to prevent whites from voting.  McCrary, in an act of insubordination that revealed his opposition to race-neutral enforcement of federal voting rights laws, would not work on the case because he did not believe the Justice Department should protect white voters, no matter what kind of discriminatory conduct was engaged in by local black officials.

According to Christian Adams’ book,  Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice department, McCrary also tried to sabotage the Justice Department’s case against the New Black Panther Party for intimidating voters and poll watchers in Philadelphia in 2008.  According to Adams, McCrary’s “obstructionism damaged the case.”  The whistleblower testimony and the revelations of Adam’s book are well known to Perez.

One can only imagine that Perez believes that McCrary’s defiance, racial bias, and unprofessionalism was a “significant, innovative accomplishment” that “furthered the cause of civil rights” – at least as civil rights is defined by the radical Left. This is the Holder Justice Department at its worst – and this is the Voting Section that will supposedly be guarding the voting rights of Americans in the November election.

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Irony is Apparently Lost on the Commissioners of Lincoln County, West Virginia

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The county has experienced more than its share of election scandal.  Its auditor was convicted for voter fraud in 2005. Its sheriff and county clerk recently pleaded guilty to voter fraud in the May 2010 Democratic primary.

Christian Adams has reported on the Lincoln County Commission’s vote to clean up its voter registration rolls, after receiving a warning letter from Adams and Judicial Watch for not complying with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.  Note the two photographs hanging on the hearing room wall.

The commissioners cast their votes under the gaze of two former presidents:  Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy.   In “Deliver the Vote,” a history of voter fraud, Tracy Campbell outlines how Johnson first won his senate seat in Texas, stealing the election with manufactured votes in infamous Ballot Box 13.

As for Kennedy, his 1960 campaign featured the delivery of briefcases of cash to West Virginia kingpins. (In “The Making of the President, 1960,” Theodore White said West Virginia politics were “the most squalid, corrupt and despicable” in America, involving “money – hot money, under-the-table money, open money.”)

Local officials in Lincoln County might want to consider redecorating the commission’s hearing room at the same time they clean up the voter rolls.

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A Florida Tragedy

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

What happened in Sanford, Fla., between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?  No one knows exactly what went down… yet.

All we know for sure is that this is an utter tragedy for the family of Trayvon Martin.  They have our heartfelt sympathy for their terrible loss.  Hopefully, state law enforcement officials will get to the bottom of what happened.  There should, however, be no rush to judgment until we get an in-depth investigation of what actually happened rather than just media reports and claims by advocacy organizations.

Unfortunately, a chorus of politicians and local activists has succeeded in bringing the federal Department of Justice into the case.  DOJ announced late Monday that its Civil Rights Division would investigate the shooting.

While it would be unfair for anyone to prejudge this case until the facts are known, one can — unfortunately — predict that DOJ’s investigation will be anything but objective or credible.

Over the last three years, DOJ, including the Civil Rights Division, has been systematically politicalized.  In the process, it’s been un-professionalized.

The result has been a series of embarrassments and outright scandals.  Foremost, of course, is Operation Fast & Furious, the “felony stupid” gun running operation that Holder’s Justice Department set in motion to justify more restrictive gun laws.  That program led directly to the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.  DOJ has spent the better part of a year stonewalling a congressional investigation into what went wrong.  It has repeatedly refused to answer questions about who approved the operation or to turn over documentation that would shed light on the agency’s actions.  And these are the stand-up investigators who will doggedly pursue truth in Forida?

The most recent black eye for the Department is the 500-page report by special counsel Henry F. Schuelke.  It documents the intentional misbehavior of DOJ criminal prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case.  Schuelke reports that they concealed “significant exculpatory evidence that would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness.”  The DOJ’s case was dismissed by Judge Emmet Sullivan, who said that he had never seen such misconduct in his 25 years on the bench.

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The Ethical Hole in the California Gay Marriage Decision

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Considering all the Leftist angst over Justice Thomas’ “failure” to recuse himself from the Obamacare litigation because his wife (gasp) publicly criticized the legislation, it’s odd none of the liberals celebrating the Ninth Circuit’s decision on California’s Proposition 8 has mentioned the actual and real ethical issues that case presented Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Reinhardt, author of the majority panel opinion, refused to remove himself from this case despite the fact that his wife, Ramona Ripston, was the longtime head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.  As the supporters of Proposition 8 laid out in their recusal motion, not only did the attorneys for the plaintiffs who originally challenged the Proposition consult with Ripston before filing suit, but the ACLU/SC represented amici and proposed intervenors in the case.

The ACLU/SC proclaimed its “lead role” in combating Proposition 8, and Ripston publicly “rejoice[d]” over the district court decision her organization had participated in.   She retired effective Feb. 15, 2011, but not before the ACLU/SC had taken all of these actions.  Her husband and a second federal judge did exactly what the ACLU/SC’s brief urged the courts to do – uphold the district court’s opinion throwing out Proposition 8.

None of this is any surprise.  I was at a dinner recently with a group of lawyers involved in appellate work.  The question arose as to who is the most radical, left-wing activist in the federal courts.  Out of the almost 900 judges in the federal court system, Reinhardt’s name immediately floated to the top of the list.  This is, after all, the same federal judge whose decisions, when they actually get to the Supreme Court, are almost always overturned.

But as Reinhardt himself has said, the Supreme Court “can’t catch ‘em all.”  So he can all too often ignore the rule of law and get away with his activism and mutilation of the Constitution to impose his extra-legal agenda through the power of the courts.  The California case needs to get to the Supreme Court, so the highest court in the land can strike down a case in which out-of-control judges have said that the people of California cannot change – even through constitutional amendment – a  judicially-created right that has no historical or legal basis whatsoever.

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Paul’s Privilege Against Detention

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Politico is reporting that Sen. Rand Paul was detained today by the TSA at the airport in Nashville, Tennessee, after refusing a full body pat-down. He missed his flight and then was rebooked on another flight according to TSA officials. They denied that Paul had been detained but said he had not been given access to a secure area because he would not comply with their security protocols.

If Paul was actually detained, some might argue that officials at TSA were violating the Constitution since Article I, Section 6 specifically states that members of Congress “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Would Paul’s travel fall within the protections of Section 6? Would interference with his ability to travel or even “detention” amount to an “arrest” that falls within the intent of this provision to prevent government authorities interfering with members of Congress when they are in session?

Those are unanswered questions. But this is certainly another example of just how stupid so many of the TSA’s security rules are. Does anyone really think a United States Senator is a security danger to a flight headed to Washington? DHS and TSA are so paranoid about being accused of “profiling” if they actually target suspicious individuals who meet terrorist profiles, that they waste enormous amounts of time and resources applying their absurd security rules to absolutely everyone, including “dangerous” members of Congress, ten-year olds, and grandmothers in wheelchairs.

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Virginia Ballot Access by GOP Candidates

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

A big development in the lawsuit filed in Virginia by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and joined by Gingrich, Santorum, and Huntsman contesting the state’s ballot access requirements. The federal judge has just filed an order saying that there is a “strong likelihood that the Court will find the residency requirement for petition circulators to be unconstitutional” at the hearing scheduled for Friday. So it is very likely that there will be additional candidates on the Virginia GOP ballot besides Romney and Paul.

Here is a copy of Judge Gibney’s court order.

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The White House Is Wrong — The Senate Conducted Business During Its ‘Recess’

Thursday, January 5th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

In the uproar over President Obama’s unconstitutional “recess” appointments (Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three new members of the National Labor Relations Board), one fact has gotten too little attention.

Attempting to justify the president’s violation of the Constitution and 90 years of legal precedent, presidential spokesman Dan Pfeiffer claimed that the president can exercise recess appointment powers because the Senate’s pro forma sessions—conducted since mid-December—are merely “a gimmick” during which “no Senate business is conducted and instead one of two Senators simply gavel in and out of session in a matter of seconds.”

However, a simple review of the Congressional Record (“CR”) shows that claim to be categorically false.

Most senators left D.C. on Dec. 17 after scheduling pro forma sessions for December and January.  The CR for Dec. 17 shows that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) received unanimous consent to schedule Dec. 23 as a pro forma session.

The CR for Dec. 23 shows that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid specifically asked for unanimous consent for H.R. 3765 so “that if the House passes and sends to the Senate a bill which is identical to the text extension of the reduced payroll tax, unemployment insurance, TANF, and the Medicare payment fix, the bill be considered read three times and passed.”

In that pro forma session, Reid received unanimous consent and the two-month extension of the payroll tax break that had caused such a political commotion in Washington was considered read and passed in the Senate after the House acted. That’s not a “gimmick.” That’s legislating.

That same CR for the Dec. 23 pro forma session records a series of other business actions taken by the Senate.  The president pro tempore signed several enrolled bills.  Other senators were designated as members of a conference committee to negotiate with the House over disagreements to H.R. 3630.   The minority leader even made appointments  to the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, pursuant to 22 U.S.C. § 7002.

Contrary to White House assertions, the Senate unquestionably conducted actual business during at least one of its supposedly pro forma sessions.  This simple fact makes President Obama’s actions even more indefensible.

The president’s ends don’t justify his means.  Politics should not trump the principle that we – and particularly the president – operate under the rule of law and the bounds of the Constitution.  When a president disregards the facts and shows such contempt for this principle, it is more than disappointing, it threatens the foundations of our republic.  Leaders who believe they need not abide by the rules and the law have led more than one republic down the road to tyranny.

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For Shame

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

On Dec. 7, the Tatler reported that the Obama administration was faced with a crucial decision: whether to release a Hezbollah terrorist who masterminded the torture and murder of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007 or bring him to Guantanamo Bay to face justice for his brutal war crimes.  Ali Musa Daqduq was being held by American forces, and the transfer to Gitmo had to occur before American forces left Iraq.  To his everlasting shame, President Obama turned Daqduq over to the Iraqi government last Friday as our forces left the country.  FOX News is already reporting that the Iraqi government only plans to charge Daqduq with illegal entry with a forged passport.  So there is no longer any doubt that he will be released (after a minor legal tussle) like the dozens of other terrorists who attacked U.S. forces that the Iraqi government has set free.

In the midst of Obama’s self-congratulatory exit from Iraq, he has committed a disgraceful and dishonorable act that will help define his presidency – he allowed a vicious murderer who targeted Americans to go free.  As David Lucas, the brother of one of the slain soldiers, told The New York Times, turning Daqduq over to the Iraqis is “as good as letting him go free.”  Lucas added: “It’s just a matter of time before the guy is walking the streets there.  It feels like my brother’s death was in vain. It doesn’t matter, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Your opinion does not matter to what they want to do in geopolitics.”

What “they” wanted to do was not upset their political base by bringing a new prisoner to Guantanamo Bay.  President Obama just showed us that he is willing to sacrifice the safety of the American military and the most basic interests of justice to ensure liberal support of his reelection.  He thus gave truth to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s conclusion that “in politics there is no honor.”

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PJ Recommends: Don’t Forget a Little Injustice in Your Christmas List

Monday, December 19th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Ed Driscoll recommended some political books for his Christmas and Chanukah shopping list.  At the top of his list was Mark Steyn’s new book on the end of America.  You can’t go wrong with Mark Steyn, but we also have to put our fellow writer, Christian Adams, at the top of the shopping list.  His book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department, tells the inside story of the insidious racial polemics and rank politicization that drives law enforcement inside the Civil Rights Division.

I used to work in the Civil Rights Division, including during part of the period that Christian writes about.   I can assure you that he accurately describes the radical nature of the lawyers who work there and the way they abuse their power and positions of authority.  He really shines a light on the hostility to race-neutral enforcement of our federal discrimination laws that pervades the Division, as well as the extreme ideology that drives both the career civil service lawyers and the Obama political appointees.

This is the best whistleblower book written in a very long time.  It lifts the lid on the chief law enforcement agency of the federal government, and its revelations are frightening to anyone who believes in the rule of law.  Given the influence this Division has on our election process, and the misfeasance it can easily (in fact, already has) committed, anyone who is concerned about the integrity and fairness of next year’s pivotal presidential election should read this book.

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Holder Misleads Congress on Hires

Friday, December 9th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

At his hearing yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked whether the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division engaged in “political hiring in violation of the law.”  The questioner was Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat.

Holder answered by claiming that he was not hiring “people on the basis of political or ideological affiliations.”  That answer is untrue, something that the Washington Times pointed out after his testimony.

Kerry Picket, who writes the WT’s Water Cooler blog, pointed to PJ Media’s “Every Single One” series.  That series shows that Holder’s Civil Rights Division hires “have only been explicitly from the activist ideological Left.”  As Picket concludes, for “Mr. Holder to say that this DOJ he leads does not use a political litmus test for their hires is laughable to say the least if not completely false.”

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DOJ Refuses to Fight Clear Racial Discrimination

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Yesterday I posted at National Review a story about the racially discriminatory plebiscite election in Guam that excludes all whites from participation. Christian Adams also covered the same event at his Rule of Law blog at PJ Media. I reported that the Obama Justice Department declined to stop this patently illegal election procedure.

Any election practice which has the intent or result of racial discrimination is illegal. A law which limits participation in an election to “Native Inhabitants” on Guam has more than the statistical result of excluding people based on race, which alone is enough to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Christian Adams and the Center for Individual Rights sued Guam this week to stop the practice.

Amazingly, the advocates for the racial discrimination, particularly Guam Sen. Ben Pangelinan, the local version of George Wallace, actually thinks because Eric Holder didn’t do anything to help the white victims on Guam, it helps defeat the lawsuit. He equates inaction by DOJ with the discrimination claims having no merit and has actually called on the U.S. Attorney to defend against the lawsuit.

Of course anyone who reads PJ Media knows exactly why Holder didn’t act. It has nothing to do with the merits of the lawsuit. I reported it yesterday: the Voting Section refuses to protect white victims of racial discrimination in voting. Justice Department sources have told me that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Loretta King refused to act in this otherwise valid case because the victims were white.

If Sen. Pangelian wants to turn over these rocks, he’s going to find a surprise, a racially rotted surprise the Holder Justice Department doesn’t want exposed.

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NAACP Doesn’t Just Want Felons to Vote – They Want Them to Be Lawyers, Too

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

My fellow PJ Media contributor Christian Adams was recently at Tulane University’s School of Law in New Orleans. He was debating a Tulane law professor about the failure of the Obama Justice Department to enforce the National Voter Registration Act’s requirement that states maintain the accuracy of their voter registration rolls by periodically removing the names of voters who have moved or died. During the question-and-answer period , Christian was confronted by a student who was upset that there had been no meaningful discussion of what he claimed was the biggest group of disenfranchised voters – felons.

It turns out that the upset student, Bruce Reilly, a first-year at Tulane, had a very personal reason for asking the question: he had pled guilty to second-degree murder and robbery and served 12 years in prison. When he was 20 years old, Reilly beat and stabbed to death a 58-year old English professor at Community College of Rhode island, capping off his crime by stealing the professor’s car, wallet, and credit cards. In short, he is a felon (the term ex-felon should be reserved for those with a full pardon, not those who have merely served the prison portion of their sentences).

The fact that Reilly is an admitted student in Tulane’s law school should be at least curious and potentially worrisome to the students, alumni and supporters of that school. The Louisiana Bar, like all other states, requires proof of good moral character and fitness to be admitted to the bar, a requirement that almost always excludes felons – particularly those who have been convicted of a violent crime as heinous as Reilly’s. (The fact that he is out of prison after only 12 years when he murdered and robbed an older college professor doesn’t say a lot for Rhode Island’s criminal justice system, either.) It is next to impossible for him to become a licensed attorney even if he graduates, as Tulane University officials must surely know.

As at least one student complained to The Times-Picayune, Reilly is taking up “another’s space in the law school even though he may never be able to practice as a lawyer because of his conviction.” But it gets worse.

Reilly is attending Tulane on an NAACP scholarship and a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. The NAACP has made it very clear in its public statements and its litigation that it believes that the constitutional right of states under the Fourteenth Amendment to take away the right of felons to vote is “discriminatory” and “undermines the most fundamental aspect of American citizenship” (which the NAACP apparently thinks means being able to murder and vote at the same time).

Now, we know that the NAACP (and apparently the dean of Tulane) thinks it is appropriate to give a scholarship to a convicted killer who was quoted by The Times-Picayune as saying that he thought his biggest problem when he came to Tulane would “be the heat in New Orleans.” Supporters of the NAACP and Tulane University might want to give them some heat over their decisions in this particular case.

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Voter ID in Mississippi

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Looks like the vote fraud deniers and those opposed to common sense voter ID are headed for a big loss in the state election being held in Mississippi today. Initiative 27 would amend the Mississippi constitution to require a person to submit government-issued photo identification in order to vote. On November 6, Public Policy Polling (a Democratic polling company) released a poll of 796 likely voters that shows that 64% were in favor of the amendment; only 29% are opposed and 7% are undecided. So unless something very unexpected happens today, Mississippi will have a photo ID law in place in the 2012 election approved by an overwhelmingly majority of Mississippians – unless the Holder Justice Department sues to stop it.

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(UPDATED) Taxpayer-Financed Romance at DOJ

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

UPDATE (10:00 a.m.): So who was the lax supervisor that didn’t fire him or make him pay back the money?

Why, it was Steven Rosenbaum — the same lawyer who (along with Loretta King) told Christian Adams and Chris Coates to dismiss the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case.

Readers of PJ Media may recall that Rosenbaum admitted to Coates that he hadn’t even read their legal memoranda about the case when he ordered them to dismiss it.

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Every time you think the stories of unprofessionalism, radical ideology, and partisanship out of the Holder Justice Department and particularly the Civil Rights can’t get any worse, they do. See this Washington Times story today about a Voting Section employee who used taxpayer travel funds to finance his romance with a woman who is the president of an unidentified organization. His punishment? A 7-day suspension! They didn’t even take away his government credit card.

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Carl Levin and The New York Times are Proven Wrong Again

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The Washington Times had an article on Saturday that must have annoyed The New York Times. It reported that the Department of Defense Inspector General has cleared Bush administration Defense Department officials of allegations (made by the NYT and congressional Democrats) that they broke federal law by briefing retired military officers who spoke publicly about the Iraq and Afghanistan war effort and supposedly received financial benefits from  the Pentagon.

The NYT actually won a Pulitzer for its unwarranted attacks in its front-page story “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.” Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., publicly claimed that the DOD officials had committed crimes for what they did. The NYT implied that the analysts received contracting favors, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., alleged that that they received financial gain for engaging in a secret propaganda campaign. Many of the officials being probed were forced to hire criminal defense attorneys to protect themselves from this irresponsible attack and the unjustified investigations to which they were subjected.

In 2009, the IG cleared the Bush officials after concluding that there was no financial benefit and the briefings were conducted in accordance with DOD policies and regulations and were “open and transparent.” But this complete exoneration was not good enough for Sen. Levin. Instead, according to the WT, Levin extracted a promise out of the new IG, Gordon Heddell, at his confirmation hearing to reopen the investigation of the cleared officials, to reconsider the earlier findings, and thereby prolong the public harassment and financial burdens incurred by these individuals.

Heddell restarted the probe even though the GAO released a separate report in July 2009 also concluding that the briefings of retired military officers did not violate federal law, and that there was no “evidence that DoD contracted with or paid [the analysts] for positive commentary.” In fact, the claims of wrongdoing by the NYT, Dingell, and Levin were groundless from the very start, since, as the Pentagon rightly pointed out at the time, the briefings were no different than the briefings given to think-tank scholars and reporters and columnists from newspapers such as the NYT.

Dingell even demanded that the FCC open an investigation. It did just that and subsequently sent letters to these retired military officers telling them (incorrectly) that they may have broken the law. (The FCC never issued a report.)

So now we have had two IG investigations and one GAO investigation, all of which have found no wrongdoing of any kind and no violations of any federal law or federal regulations.

To quote former Reagan official Ray Donovan, where do the retired military officials such as Thomas McInerney, Kenneth Allard and Bo Scales, whose photos were splashed across the NYT’s story, go to get their reputations back? Will the NYT, Dingell and Levin do the decent thing and apologize for their unwarranted hounding and public damnation of DOD officials and these analysts? Or offer to pay the cost of their legal fees? Will the Pulitzer Committee withdraw the prize they awarded to the NYT under false circumstances for a bogus story that turned out to be much ado about nothing? Don’t count on it.

This Les Misérables, Inspector Javert-like persecution by Levin and others was outrageous. But it offers an all-too-typical example of how certain politicians and liberal media organs abuse their power.

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Obamacare has Arrived at Supremes

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The National Federation of Independent Business filed a cert. petition with the U.S. Supreme Court this morning – the 11th Circuit’s Obamacare case is now before the court for possible review – see here for more..

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A Partisan at Justice Resigns

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Sources inside the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department tell me that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, the controversial career lawyer who ordered the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, has announced that she is resigning. King is infamous within the Division for her opposition to race-neutral enforcement of discrimination laws. She made it very clear to her subordinates that she did not want any lawsuits filed against minority defendants no matter what violations of federal voting rights laws they committed. This was the lawyer chosen by President Obama to be the acting head of the Civil Rights Division when he took office.

As the highest ranking career lawyer in the Division, King once hauled former Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates into her office and angrily ordered him to stop asking job applicants whether they would enforce the Voting Rights Act against all violators regardless of their race. She is the official who rejected a change from partisan to nonpartisan elections in Kinston, N.C., that had been approved by black voters because she did not believe they would know which candidates to vote for without a party label. She cost the American taxpayer almost $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs after she lost a frivolous redistricting case filed against the state of Georgia in which the court said it was “disturbed” by the “considerable influence of ACLU advocacy” on the decisions made by the DOJ lawyers. King was promptly promoted after that decision. There will be considerably more revelations about her dubious and questionable behavior as a government lawyer in Christian Adams’s upcoming book, “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department” when it is released on October 4.

It is hard to imagine that King’s resignation after all of these years at the Justice Department is not related to the exposure of her misdeeds and unprofessionalism in PJ Media and other conservative news sites. For all those who believe in the fundamental American constitutional principle of equal treatment under the law, the Justice Department’s loss is America’s gain.

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Voter ID – Not Jim Crow

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

For those of you interested in seeing the latest fireworks in the debate about new state voter ID laws, tune in this afternoon at 2:00 at http://judiciary.senate.gov. Senator Durbin is holding a hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?” Yours truly will be a witness arguing in favor of such common-sense election reform.

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The Special Litigation Section Strikes Out

Friday, August 19th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Last week PJ Media reported on the liberal ideologues hired in the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  This week provided a good example of how they can force local and state authorities to waste lots of taxpayer dollars and land the Department in a lot of trouble.

The example features Alyssa Lareau, one of the lawyers highlighted in the Pajamas article.  She came to Justice from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.  She had also volunteered for the ABA’s Detention Standards Implementation Initiative, which attacked the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for not providing sufficiently luxurious detention facilities for illegal aliens.

Flash forward to today.  Lareau is one of the Division attorneys who filed a complaint against Erie County, New York, making numerous claims that prisoners in the local county jail were being deprived of constitutional rights.

Erie County decided to fight DOJ rather than just roll over, which is what too many local jurisdictions do even when they have not done anything wrong.

A person involved in the case told me that the SLS lawyers used a ruse to get access to inmates.  They had U.S. Marshalls falsely claim that federal inmates being held at the Erie County jail were required to appear in court.  In fact, they took the inmates to meet with SLS attorneys to interview them about the conditions at the jail.

All of these inmates have counselors of record, yet none was present at the SLS interviews.  Indeed, none of the inmates knew the real reason why the Marshalls had removed them from jail until they arrived at the meeting with the SLS lawyers.  Speaking to an individual who is represented by counsel without that counsel being present is a per se violation of the professional codes of conduct governing lawyers.  That didn’t dissuade the SLS lawyers, however.

Now the Buffalo News reports that Justice has agreed to settle the case and dismiss the lawsuit.

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Fast and Furious Hearing: Breuer Knew, Mexican Officials Incensed

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

As David Steinberg points out, the latest hearings on Operation Fast & Furious are now ongoing at the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.  Chairman Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released a second report this morning that includes several new findings:

• There was little to no information-sharing from the Phoenix Field Division, ATF Headquarters and the Justice Department to their colleagues in Mexico City. Every time Mexico City officials asked about the mysterious investigation, their U.S.-based ATF counterparts in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., continued to say they were “working on it” and “everything was under control.”

• Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, was clearly aware of Operation Fast and Furious and touted the case during a visit to Mexico.

• ATF officials in Mexico City were incredulous that their agency would knowingly allow guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and they were incensed when they finally began to learn the full scope of Operation Fast and Furious and the investigative techniques used.

The fact that ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is usually a big defender of the administration, expressed his concern over this ATF operation in his opening statement and that he would work with Chairman Issa to go where the evidence leads them, is a sure indication that the administration is in big trouble — as is the fact that there are only ATF representatives testifying today. The administration is obviously offering up the ATF as the sacrificial lambs, rather than any of the political appointees from the Justice Department who approved this operation (such as Lanny Breuer) who have been complicit in trying to cover up their involvement.

One of the most startling facts was given by witness Carlos Canino, the ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico, whose testimony reflected his obvious fury about this “felony stupid” operation.  The 2,000-plus guns that this out-of-control operation allowed to be trafficked into Mexico means that the “Sinaloa cartel may have received almost as many guns that are needed to arm the entire [US Army’s 75th Ranger] regiment.  Out of these 2,000 weapons, 34 were .50 caliber sniper rifles.  That is approximately the number of sniper rifles a Marine infantry regiment takes into battle.”

Canino said that “what happened here was inexcusable – and we in Mexico had NO part in it.”  Canino said “that ‘walking guns’ is not a recognized investigative technique.  These guns went to ruthless criminals.  U.S. Law Enforcement and our Mexican partners will be recovering THESE guns for a long time to come as they continue to turn up at crime scenes in Mexico AND the United States.  It INFURIATES me, that people – including my law enforcement, diplomatic and military colleagues – may be killed or injured with these weapons.”  Canino mentioned that even his mother called him and said “Please tell me you weren’t involved in this.”  Canino made a very salient point – that his mother may not know much about law enforcement, but “she knows right from wrong.  Even at a great distance, she could see that walking guns was a terrible risk.”

Too bad none of the Obama political appointees in the top leadership positions of the Justice Department recognized that risk.

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Archiving the Space Program

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Watching the last shuttle, Atlantis, land this morning and reading fellow PJ Media contributor Christian Adams’ article about the end of the shuttle program is very depressing. I grew up in Rocket City, USA, (aka, Huntsville, Ala.), the home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. It was a sleepy little Southern town when Werner von Braun and other German rocket scientists and engineers arrived there in 1950 to lay the basis for the American space program at Redstone Arsenal. They led the U.S. Army’s rocket development team, building the Redstone rocket and the Jupiter-C, which put our first satellite in orbit.

The Marshall Space Flight Center was involved in every major space project, from the Apollo program to the shuttle. I lived in a neighborhood where everyone worked either for NASA or the Army at Redstone Arsenal (where they are still working on our missile defense program, another program Obama wants to end). One neighbor was in charge of astronaut training in the 1.3 million-gallon water tank at Marshall that simulated weightlessness. Many famous astronauts came over to his house for dinner when they were in Huntsville, which was always a good reason to be over there playing with his two sons.

The windows in my house would rattle when they tested rocket engines on the flight center’s test stands, even though we were many miles away. These were some of the most powerful engines ever designed by man. Back in those pre-terrorism, pre-paranoid security days, my friends’ parents took us on private tours of almost every major facility on the flight center. Much of the equipment I saw then today sits in Huntsville’s museum, the Space & Rocket Center.

My parents socialized with many of the Germans who settled in Huntsville and were part of the space program. The last time I was in Huntsville, I took my children to the space museum with my mother. We saw an old picture there of all of the German scientists, taken when they first got to Huntsville. My mother went through the list of names on the photograph, pointing out all those she knew. The museum guide standing next to us was amazed. One of my brothers worked for NASA during the Apollo program and my other brother is today working on our ABM system.

Growing up in Huntsville allowed me to witness the development of an epic project that testified to the can-do spirit of America, our innovative talent and technological prowess, and our reach into the future. As Christian very aptly says, it is nations at the vanguard of exploration that determine the course of human history. Our endeavors to conquer the final frontier were not just symbolic of America’s push to advance; it was a key part of our rise as a world power. Now it seems like our formerly active space program, like the shuttle Atlantis, will end up in a museum.

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The Real Truth About Voter ID

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Former President Bill Clinton’s claim that common sense election reforms like voter ID are an attempt to bring back Jim Crow is historically preposterous and an outrageous libel. An overwhelming majority of Americans support voter ID and that support runs across all racial and ethnic lines.

Such vitriolic racial rhetoric is a real sign of desperation by opponents like Clinton as voter ID keeps getting passed by state legislatures. Rhode Island is the latest state to implement such a voter ID law, and Democrats control the legislature there 4 to 1. Indeed, the bill was sponsored by a black Democrat who was concerned about voter fraud. He made it quite clear that he would not have supported any bill that “would present obstacles” to voting. The Providence Journal reported that liberal opponents “were stunned” by the passage of the law in “the country’s most Democratic and liberal state.”

Contrary to the claims of opponents, numerous studies have shown that voter ID requirements do not decrease the turnout of voters, including minority, poor, or elderly voters. Georgia and Indiana, the two states with the strictest voter ID laws in the country, have had several elections since their voter ID laws went into effect – turnout actually increased in those states.

The lawsuits filed by the usual liberal suspects like the ACLU against the Georgia and Indiana laws were thrown out by the courts because the plaintiffs failed to produce any individuals who would be unable to vote because of voter ID requirements. This despite constant, apocalyptic (and untrue) claims about mass disfranchisement.

For anyone interested in getting more details on this issue, the Heritage Foundation has just published a new study written by yours truly on voter ID and the specious arguments made against it by opponents. “Voter Photo Identification: Protecting the Security of Elections” is available here.

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The Court Fight Against Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

Friday, July 8th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

A three-judge panel of the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today unanimously reinstated a challenge by residents of Kinston, N.C., claiming that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. They sued after the Justice Department objected to a referendum that changed its city council and mayoral elections from partisan to nonpartisan. In 2008, Kinston voters approved the referendum by a two to one margin, including a majority of the town’s black voters, who constitute 65% of the registered electorate.

DOJ claimed the referendum was racially discriminatory and violated Section 5, which requires a small number of states to get all election changes approved by the Justice Department or a District of Columbia federal court. Passed as a temporary, five-year measure in 1965, Section 5 has been subsequently renewed by Congress, most recently in 2006 for another 25 years.

DOJ’s bizarre objection was that Kinston’s black voters would not know who to vote for without party labels on the ballot. Somehow, that made the referendum racially discriminatory, never mind that a majority of black voters approved the change.

The district court had dismissed the lawsuit, claiming that neither voters nor any candidates had standing to challenge DOJ’s objection. But the Court of Appeals held that they did have standing and sent the case back to the district court. This was a loss for the Justice Department, which was hoping to avoid having to argue the substantive merits of the constitutionality of the renewal of Section 5 by Congress at a time when the systematic, widespread discrimination that led to its passage in 1965 has long disappeared.

A second case–one filed by Shelby County, Ala.–pending in the federal district court raises the same constitutional question. Both cases are bound to end up in the Supreme Court, perhaps as soon as the next term.

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Comedy Central at the FEC

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

It was standing room only at this morning’s Federal Election Commission hearing. The reason for the big box office: the query from Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert about setting up a “superPAC.”

Colbert’s lawyers had requested an advisory opinion from the FEC on whether Colbert’s proposal was legal under applicable federal campaign finance laws. For months the comedian has used this request to lampoon and belittle the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. In that decision, the court threw out the federal ban on political speech by corporations and unions.

Colbert is a comedian paid by a media corporation. Both he and Comedy Central are making a lot of money because of the First Amendment. It protects his right to satirize politicians and others. Yet apparently Colbert thinks First Amendment protections should not extend to other entities, like non-media corporations.

In other words, Colbert thinks the government should have the authority to censor political speech and decide who can speak. Of course, he doesn’t admit that but it is the logical result of his satiric criticism.

I spent two years as an FEC commissioner. Most of its hearings attract just a handful of attendees. Few receive any media coverage at all. But today the line to get in stretched for half a block beyond the doors of the FEC headquarters building, and inside the hearing room the cameras nearly outnumbered the audience.

While Colbert may have been joking about his superPAC, the FEC treated it as a real request for legal advice. In a five to one vote, the FEC approved his request, giving him the go-ahead to form a political action committee that can take unlimited contributions from the general public for the purpose of making independent expenditures. The FEC also said that, while coverage of the PAC by Comedy Central and its parent VIACOM would fall within the press exemption (and thus not be reportable political activity), if VIACOM produced advertisements for the PAC, the cost of those ads would have to be reported to the FEC as in-kind contributions.

Colbert was at the hearing but did not say much. His attorney, Trevor Potter, did the talking for him. Colbert’s reticence in a room full of cameras was perhaps the biggest surprise of the proceedings.

Colbert’s proposal was designed to make fun of the Supreme Court, but in the end, the joke was really on him. Through the FEC review process, he found out just how complicated the federal campaign finance laws are and just how expensive, confusing, and burdesome it is for anyone trying to navigate the Byzantine morass of laws and regulations governing campaigns for federal office.

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