Meet Hans von Spakovsky, the Face of the Right-Wing Defense of Citizens United

If you need proof of the relationship between voter suppression and big money in politics, look no further than today's Heritage Foundation panel starring Hans von Spakovsky.
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If you need proof of the relationship between voter suppression and big money in politics, look no further than today's Heritage Foundation panel starring Hans von Spakovsky.

The event that von Spakovsky is anchoring is aimed at opposing a constitutional amendment to reverse the damage caused by Citizens United, McCutcheon and related Supreme Court decisions that have opened the doors of our elections to unfettered spending by corporations and the wealthy. It is revealing that the man fronting the conservative movement's defense of big money in politics is the same one who made his name hyping the "voter fraud" myth and pushing for laws allowing bald-faced voter suppression.

Von Spakovsky's twin interests are hardly a coincidence. Instead, he represents the right-wing establishment's long-running effort to allow big corporations and wealthy individuals unfettered influence on elections, all while erecting barriers for individual Americans exercising their right to vote.

Von Spakovsky, now a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, is credited with being a primary architect of the faux "voter fraud" fever that has swept the conservative movement and provided cover for a wave of faulty voter roll purges and suppressive voter-ID laws.

This work started when von Spakovsky was a political appointee in the civil rights division of President George W. Bush's Justice Department, which was infamously hell-bent on documenting voter impersonation fraud, even though there was almost none to be found. There, according to a group of career civil rights attorneys who worked with him, von Spakovsky was instrumental in pushing the division's swerve away from its "historic mission to enforce the nation's civil rights laws without regard to politics, to pursuing an agenda which placed the highest priority on the partisan political goals of... political appointees."

Among von Spakovsky's projects at the Justice Department was pushing - over the objections of the department's professional civil rights lawyers - to approve a suppressive voter ID law in Georgia. It later came out that von Spakovsky had previously published a law review article touting voter ID laws under a pseudonym so as not to betray his political leanings.

What's more, he reportedly quashed an investigation into a possible civil rights violation in Minnesota, where many Native Americans were prevented from using their tribal IDs to vote.

Spakovsky has never been too concerned with the facts. While promoting the bogus and unsubstantiated myth that there is widespread, organized in-person voter fraud, he has dismissed the very real evidence that voter-ID laws suppress turnout among minority voters.

President Bush rewarded von Spakovsky with a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission. When it came time for the Senate to approve his nomination, civil rights groups raised concerns about his record of politicizing the electoral process, and he eventually withdrew his name and found a home at the Heritage Foundation.

Since joining Heritage, von Spakovsky has helped to shape the conservative defense of the Supreme Court's systematic dismantling of campaign finance regulations. Of the Citizens United decision, which opened up elections to unlimited spending by corporations, he said it "restored the rights of all Americans to engage in independent political speech." He celebrated the Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision, which struck down aggregate limits for big campaign donors, by claiming that laws limiting big money in elections had had a "damaging impact" on "our electoral process."

In the grassroots, getting money out of politics isn't a partisan issue - for instance, a recent poll found 80 percent of Americans disagreeing with the 2010 Citizens United decision, including 72 percent of Republicans.

But it appears that the right-wing establishment, with von Spakovsky as its public face, is trying its best to make it one. Who better than the man who helped concoct the "voter fraud" myth - now an established fact on the right - to try to popularize the case for getting more big money in politics?

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