The New York Times

June 14, 2007



Another Sorry Ascension


It apparently wasnít enough for the Bush administration to pack the Department of Justice with political operatives. The White House has now nominated one of the most meddlesome of those partisans, Hans von Spakovsky, to a powerful post on the Federal Election Commission.


This is the agency charged with making sure elections are fair ó an especially ludicrous perch for Mr. Spakovsky. As a voting-rights appointee in the Justice Department, he promoted Republican initiatives to crimp the ballot power of minorities and the poor who typically favor Democrats.


In one of his party missions, Mr. Spakovsky overrode the recommendations of the departmentís staff professionals and approved a regressive law in Georgia that required voters to provide photo identification. The law, a voter suppression tool worthy of the Jim Crow era, was later blocked by the courts. A former G.O.P. county chairman in Georgia, Mr. Spakovsky failed to recuse himself from such an obvious conflict of interest. He also pushed for department approval of Tom DeLayís Texas gerrymandering plan ó the plan that the Supreme Court ruled violated the Voting Rights Act.


Feverish for the Republican edge, Mr. Spakovsky drove career lawyers from the Justice department and constantly parroted the (Karl) Rovian line that voter fraud is rampant, though studies have found otherwise.


Uncertain that even a Republican-controlled Senate would approve Mr. Spakovskyís nomination to the F.E.C., President Bush gave him a recess appointment to the commission last year. The new Democratic-controlled Senate now has the opportunity to strike a blow against electoral skullduggery with a blunt rejection of Mr. Spakovskyís nomination for a full six-year term.


The realpolitik problem with that is that the two-party machines traditionally stack the F.E.C. with loyal mediocrities and avoid confronting each otherís bad apples. Making it worse, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has nominated a hometown buddy and party ally to the commission and isnít eager to jeopardize his own choice. But thatís no reason to look the other way when it comes to Mr. Spakovskyís obvious unfitness for the job.


Democrats should make clear to the White House ó and to Mr. Reid ó that the F.E.C. is too important to be left in the hands of political hacks or to be sacrificed for the sake of a political deal.


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company