Voter suppression, voter ID laws, exaggerating the problem of voter fraud, attempts to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act on its renewal; Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican volunteer in the Florida recount, was Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights division where he signed off on Tom Delay’s 2003 Texas redistricting plan and a 2005 Georgia voter ID law overruling staff recommendations that they were discriminatory. Both were struck down in the courts. In the Georgia case, a federal appeals judge compared the ID system to Jim Crow poll taxes. In April 2005, on his own and without consulting voting rights attorneys, Spakovsky incorrectly advised the Arizona Secretary of State that provisional ballots should not be given to voters who lacked proper ID. Spakovsky went on to be a Commissioner at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in a January 6, 2006 recess appointment. In October 2007, Spakovsky’s nomination to a regular appointment was bundled with that of other FEC nominees but instead of ensuring his confirmation it caused all the nominations to languish. On December 18, 2007, a federal district judge in Florida Stephan Mickle granted a preliminary injunction against a Spakovsky backed plan that would have rejected voter applications if information on them differed from that on their driver’s license or Social Security records. The judge stated that such requirements made it harder to vote and so undermined the intent of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). On December 31, 2007, Spakovsky announced in an email that day was his last at the FEC. On May 6, 2008, Bush agreed to a separate vote for von Spakovsky (which ensures his defeat) but he also withdrew the nomination of the Republican FEC David Mason. Mason had questioned if the Republican Presidential nominee could opt out of public financing after having used it to get his name on the ballot in some states and as collateral for an “if needed” loan from a bank.
The head of the Civil Rights Division during the period of the Texas and Georgia cases was Bradley Schlozman. Schlozman was highly political. He wanted to know if prospective hires were Republicans and forced out employees who committed the sin of not agreeing with him. Although having no prosecutorial experience, Schlozman was named US attorney for Western Missouri on March 23, 2006. In a blatant attempt at voter suppression and in contravention of DOJ guidelines, he filed voter fraud cases days before the November elections. His was one of the first of the "interim" appointments made under the revised provisions snuck into the Patriot Act and there have been suggestions that his predecessor Todd Graves was forced out to make way for him. He left in April 2007 to work at the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA). Schlozman testified about his activities before the Senate on June 5, 2007. Like most recent DOJ witnesses, he suffered from extreme memory loss. He testified that Craig Donsanto OK’ed the pre-election Missouri cases although Donsanto is the one who wrote the DOJ guidelines. A May 2007 update to these guidelines weakens or eliminates the prohibition on bringing politically sensitive cases near to an election. Schlozman quietly left the DOJ sometime mid-August 2007.
John Tanner has been head of the Voting Rights Section since 2005. He precleared the Georgia ID program going against the recommendation of 4 out of 5 of the section’s career attorneys. The one dissenting attorney was new and was apparently one of the political hires to a career position made by Schlozman. Tanner also changed guidelines so that staff could not recommend an objection to a state voting law. In June 2005, he wrote a preemptive letter to election officials in Franklin County, Ohio assuring them that the lack of sufficient voting machines in minority areas during the 2004 election did not amount to discrimination. Finally, in October 2007, Tanner was still defending the Georgia ID law asserting that its negative effects fell primarily on the elderly and so by extension on whites because "minorities don’t become elderly the way white people do: They die first."
In addition, although Tanner’s productivity has been minimal his travel at taxpayer’s expense has been maximal. In 2003-2004, he racked up 206 days of travel during 46 trips. From May 2005 (after becoming head of the section) to the end of 2006, he took 36 trips accounting for 97 travel days. This is widely at variance with his predecessors. It also included 3 trips to Hawaii one each year although the section had no lawsuits ongoing or in preparation. One of these was taken with his deputy Susana Lorenzo-Giguere who is herself being investigated for filing motions so that she could charge per diem expenses while on summer vacation with her family in Cape Cod.
On January 11, 2008, Tanner’s replacement Christopher Coates demoted Lorenzo-Giguere and another Tanner deputy Yvette Rivera. Rivera had been accused of discriminating against African American employees.
John Tanner announced his resignation on December 14, 2007 to be effective immediately. He is not, however, gone. He transferred to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices. From there, it appears that Tanner, despite his racial insensitivity, was detailed by the DOJ to Alabama to help draw voting districts.
Wan J. Kim who headed the Civil Rights Division after Bradley Schlozman’s departure is an Orrin Hatch protege. Kim announced his resignation effective August 31, 2007.