Okay, okay: “Toht” from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky — by the bye, a perfect name for a Bond villain — aren’t the same person. But I’m sure they’d be really good friends if they could meet.
What’s the Heritage Foundation?
The Heritage Foundation is a neoconservative “think tank” founded by brewery heir Joseph Coors, whose brother William once described him as being “a little bit to the right of Attila the Hun”.
Unlike many other conservative think tanks and organizations, who had prominent “never-Trumpers” in their ranks, the Heritage Foundation made it clear early in Trump’s presidential campaign that they were backing him. It’s probably less of a testament to their belief in his leadership skills, and more a belief that they could take advantage of his vanity and venality.
Their play paid off: As CNN observed in 2017, no other organization had “that kind of footprint in the transition”. At least 66 Heritage Foundation employees and alumni were given positions in the Trump administration, and a number of people in their database have become members of Trump’s cabinet, including the veritable rogue’s gallery of:
- Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator who didn’t believe in climate science, who had to resign amidst several scandals.
- Betsy DeVos, sister of the founder of the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater, wife of the former CEO of pyramid scheme company Amway, Secretary of Education who’s never gone to a public school, and member of “Vanilla ISIS”.
- Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s third chief of staff (until he was replaced in March), who put a hold on aid to Ukraine at Trump’s request and as a result got tied up in the impeachment. Don’t feel bad for him — he still has a job as the US’ special envoy for Northern Ireland.
- Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, and who was the Secretary of Energy until he resigned last December. He once call Trump “God’s chosen one” to lead the US. He was one of the “three amigos” whose job was to pressure Ukraine into providing dirt on political rivals.
- Jeff Sessions, or as I like to call him, the “Ku Klux Keebler Elf.” He thought the Ku Klux Klan were fine people until he found out that they smoked pot.
If you’re wondering why the current U.S. government is a basket case, a lot of the blame has to go to the Heritage Foundation, who’ve installed a clown car of chaos agents, whose primary qualification is that they passed their ideological sniff test.
What’s the truth about voter fraud?
The most telling thing about voter fraud is who says it’s real and who says it’s a myth:
|Says voter fraud happens a lot and that voting by mail opens the door to more fraud||Says voter fraud is quite rare and that the fearmongering about voting by mail isn’t justified|
That left column reads like the Legion of Doom, while the right column (with the notable exception of the Federalist, who are inconsistent as they are bonkers), comprises some reasonable, respectable sources of information.
You probably remember this tweet of Trump’s, which contains two untruths…
…but you might not remember the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a.k.a. the Voter Fraud Commission. Trump established it, Mike Pence served as the chair, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach served as vice chair and day-to-day administrator.
Here’s the short version of the story, as told in Netflix’s Whose Vote Counts, Explained documentary:
For all their bluster about the important job they were doing, the commission was disbanded after eight months and meeting only twice. The Trump administration, having received a court order to share its working documents with its Democratic members, decided that they would just take their ball and go home.
This is hardly surprising. Sharing those documents would likely poke holes in a lot of their arguments, given the Commission’s vice chair’s cavalier approach to quaint, old-fashioned notions like evidence and proof:
The Washington Post, with the help of the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), analyzed the data from three states who did mail-in voting. Out of 14.6 million votes cast by mail in 2016 and 2018 in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, officials were able to identify only 372 possible cases of someone voting twice or someone voting using a dead person’s identity. Even if all 372 cases turned out to be actual voter fraud, that would make just 1 in 40,000 votes illegitimate. To get a sense of how rare voter fraud was in that sample, think of it this way:
You’re more likely to find a four-leaf clover (the odds are 1 in 10,000) than a fraudulent mail-in ballot from two years of elections in those three states.
So who is this Hans von Spakovsky jamoke?
He’s the guy at the end of Raiders whose face melted off!
No — actually, he’s an attorney, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, the manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Law Reform Initiative, and the go-to guy for Republican alarmism about voter fraud.
Trump made von him a member of the Voter Fraud Commission, and von Spakovsky worked hard to dickishly tilt the scales with an email arguing against letting Democrats and what he called “mainstream Republicans” from being allowed into the group. Simply put, he was afraid of letting in people who might not be extremist enough for his tastes.
This is a pattern with von Spakovsky. During his time at the Justice Department, he…
- Led the approval of a Georgia voter ID law that was later partially overturned by a federal judge, who compared it to a “Jim Crow-era poll tax”
- Was such a partisan asshole that half the lawyers in his section left in protest
- Was said to have engineered the removal of the head of the Election Assistance Commission for not going along with his overly partisan agenda.
- Here’s a quote from Wikipedia: When President Bush appointed him to the Federal Election Commission in 2006, “A group of career Justice Department staff wrote a letter to the Senate arguing against von Spakovsky’s appointment, saying that he ‘played a major role in the implementation of practices which injected partisan political factors into decision-making on enforcement matters and into the hiring process, and included repeated efforts to intimidate career staff’.” He was so heavily opposed that he withdrew from the confirmation process and joined the Heritage Foundation, adding to its reputation as The Island of Conservative Misfit Toys.
Von Spakovsky is so wrong about voter fraud that he has an entire section on his Wikipedia page titled False claims about voter fraud.
It includes these gems:
- In an interview with the New Yorker, he cites two scholars who he says could prove voter fraud was a big problem. Both people disagreed; one said “I don’t think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem” and the other said voter impersonation as “relatively rare today”.
- Professor Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine, is quoted as saying “there are a number of people who have been active in promoting false and exaggerated claims of voter fraud and using that as a pretext to argue for stricter voting and registration rules. And von Spakovsky’s at the top of the list.”
- von Spakovsky gave testimony in the 2018 Kansas district court case of Fish v. Kobach (and yes, it’s the same Kobach as the one who vice-chaired the short-live Voter Fraud Commission), whic was about the legality of proof-of-citizenship requirements of Kansas’ Secure and Fair Elections Act of 2011. The judge found von Spakovsky’s arguments to be baseless and dismissed his testimony: “While [Mr. von Spakovsky’s] lack of academic background is not fatal to his credibility …., his clear agenda and misleading statements … render his opinions unpersuasive.”
A quick view of his career shows a man disliked by his coworkers and who’s also bad at his job. Von Spakovsky would very clearly fail both “Two Beers and a Puppy” tests.
What’s up with von Spakovsky’s secret Republicans-only meetings with state election officials?
What do you do when you’re a failed civil servant whose work has been discredited and actually written up in district court proceedings as as sloppy and wrong?
You go to the most most gullible, easily-scared chumps who’ve also somehow “failed up” into positions of power or influence. In the Trump era, that’s the Republicans.
Since the spring, von Spakovsky has been holding secret meetings about voter fraud with state election officials. But even though elections are a bipartisan issue, only Republicans are invited to von Spakovsky’s meetings.
The “goal” of the meetings, held remotely, is to “gather the chief state election officials together to strategize on advancing their shared goal of ensuring the integrity of the elections they administer in their home states,” an invitation to an early August event reads.
It appears that “ensuring the integrity of the elections” means spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the voting process, especially among higher-ranking people in government. This is straight out of the Dictator’s Playbook:
Von Spakovsky has hosted at least two of these remote meetings in recent months. In April, there was an hourlong “Election Administration Forum Conference Call” that covered, in part, the expansion of mail-in voting and “ways to message these concerns to your constituents,” according to the invitation. The event included the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees elections and five staffers, one of whom went on to work for the Trump campaign two months later. An August meeting, conducted through a secure, virtual video conferencing platform, was scheduled to last for two hours, according to an invitation.
What is really worrisome was the inclusion of Cameron Quinn from the Department of Homeland Security, who was going to be the group’s “liaison to the election community.”
The announcement of her role apparently came as a surprise to Washington officials, including the state’s director of elections, the emails show. The director, a member of a five-person committee that regularly interacts with DHS over election security matters, told her colleagues that there is a point of contact within the agency — and it’s not Quinn.
Find out more
Here’s some worthwhile reading and viewing on the topics of voter fraud and Hans von Spakovsky…
Here’s the The Right to Vote episode of Netflix’s Whose Vote Counts, Explained series:
Trump, Inc. is a podcast jointly produced by NPR radio station WNYC and ProPublica. One of their recent episodes is Block the Vote, which looks at voter disenfranchisement, and quite naturally, features von Spakovsky.
You can listen to it using the controller below:
And finally, here are some articles on von Spakovsky and his voter fraud fraud:
- ProPublica: No Democrats Allowed: A Conservative Lawyer Holds Secret Voter Fraud Meetings With State Election Officials
- Reuters: Special Report: How a small group of U.S. lawyers pushed voter fraud fears into the mainstream
- Esquire: You Would Think Hans von Spakovsky’s Portfolio as a Voting-Rights “Expert” Would be Rendered Confetti by Now.
- Raw Story: REVEALED: GOP election officials held secret voter fraud meetings with discredited right-wing lawyer
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Hans von Spakovsky Lies about Voter Fraud. Now He’s Testifying Before Congress
- Washington Post: Trump’s pick to investigate voter fraud is freaking out voting rights activists