- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

An inspector general has concluded the Bush administration didn’t meddle with the Election Assistance Commission’s report on voter fraud and cleared Hans von Spakovsky of at least one of the charges that has blocked his appointment to the Federal Election Commission.

The investigation report, released this week, found Mr. von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, was zealous in his advocacy to the commission, but investigators said he did not unduly influence the EAC, nor was the commission forced to tack to the Bush administration’s views.

“We found no evidence to support allegations that the changes were made to the report due to improper reasons or political motivations,” the investigators said.

The investigators added Mr. von Spakovsky did try to influence that commission, but commissioners said he “had no undue or improper influence” over the report. Still, Paul Degregorio, the chairman at the time, told investigators Mr. von Spakovsky’s “decisions are clouded by his partisan thinking.”

That’s damning in the eyes of J. Gerald Hebert, executive director at the Campaign Legal Center, who has been among those calling for Mr. von Spakovsky’s rejection as an FEC nominee.

“The one thing that becomes pretty clear from the report is that, even from the Republican commissioner on the agency, Mr. von Spakovsky initiated himself into the process and did so in a way to advance a partisan agenda,” Mr. Hebert said.

But a Senate Republican aide who has followed Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination fight said the investigation clearly absolves him, and said the inspector general also bolsters Mr. von Spakovsky’s initial argument that the commission chose the wrong person for the work.

He said opponents of the nomination won’t let go of their opposition. “It’s kind of like they’re wearing earmuffs, and they can’t handle the truth,” the aide said.

The Senate fight over Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination has nearly brought all political nominations to a halt. Republicans demand he be confirmed or denied in tandem with a Democratic FEC nominee, while Democrats are holding up other nominations until Mr. von Spakovsky gets an individual vote.

In the meantime, the FEC cannot muster a quorum to conduct business, and other senior posts in the administration are going unfilled.

Democrats and outside interest groups say Mr. von Spakovsky, who was a top voting rights official at the Justice Department, is overzealous in pushing for his political aims. They also argue he erred in supporting new laws requiring voters to show identification before voting, and pointed to his involvement in the EAC’s elections fraud report as another example.

At issue was a report the EAC commissioned from two consultants: Democrats’ choice, Tova Wang, and Republicans’ choice, Job Serebrov. Their draft concluded voter fraud wasn’t a problem, but by the time the EAC released its final version last year that conclusion had changed.

News articles said it was altered due to political motives. Congress, citing those articles, demanded an investigation.

Instead of political influence, the inspector general found the problem was a poor job done by the consultants, who went beyond the scope of their mandate and who filed a badly written and often unsubstantiated product. One of the EAC members told the inspector general their work was so flawed the commissioner “wouldn’t even call it research.”

But Mr. Hebert said the inspector general report does not answer whether the White House called to demand a delay in releasing the EAC report last year. He said Congress must put those questions to commissioners under oath.

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