WASHINGTON - 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.
In interviews, current and former federal officials and civil rights leaders told McClatchy Newspapers that von Spakovsky:
-Sped approval of tougher voter ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Native Americans and Latinos.
-Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter ID laws - research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda.
-Allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DiGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.
More at McClatchy's DoJ's voter fraud crusade.