The Pence-Kobach Commission just conducted its first public hearing, and its leadership may have hoped to use the occasion to recover a degree of credibility or measure of respectability for its operations. If that was the plan, it did not work out well. The Vice Chair Kobach started the day in retreat from claims, published the Friday before, about illegal voting in the last New Hampshire Senate election. This is the latest example of his utter disregard of the facts and appetite for sweeping, false claims that have been enough to disqualify him as a serious participant in the national discussion of voting rights.It certainly makes a mockery of his leadership of a presidential Commission supposedly conducting an impartial inquiry into the risks of illegal voting.

Then the Campaign Legal Center released an informative email that it obtained by FOIA request to the Department of Justice for materials relating allegations of voting fraud in the 2016 election. An employee of the Heritage Foundation, whose identity was redacted, complained to DOJ about the inclusion in the Commission of any Democrats or “mainstream” Republicans. The author protested that Democrats would only obstruct a productive inquiry, and that “mainstream” Republicans and “academics” would be useless. The author admonishes the Administration to think twice about its embrace of bipartisanship and to consult with the Heritage experts who know something.

The email was sent in February of this year. In June, President Trump appointed one of these Heritage experts, Hans Von Spakovsky, to the Commission. It turns out that Von Spakovsky also wrote the email, a fact now confirmed by Heritage but originally denied by Von Spakovsky in response to an inquiry from ProPublica.

So the Administration chose to appoint to the Commission an individual who strongly objected to a bipartisan inquiry but also to a formal role for social scientists trained in data collection and dispassionate analysis. The story should not end there.

Von Spakovsky may now appreciate that his position on the Commission has become untenable and that he should resign. He has made clear that he’s open only to Commission “fact-finding” that supports his well-known beliefs about fraud. If he had imagined he could persuade anyone to the contrary, he must know that the email puts an end to any such hope. Remarkably, while praising Von Spakovsky’s expertise, Heritage’s statement confirming his authorship of the email takes pains to distance itself from the communication. Heritage emphasizes that “[T]he views expressed in the email are his [Von Spakovsky’s] own.”

It seems clear that someone so inflexibly committed to his position on voting fraud, and so contemptuous of opposing views, is a poor choice for membership on a fact-finding commission–even this one. Also, having misled the press about his authorship, Von Spakovsky has compounded the damage done to his viability as a Commissioner. His departure cannot salvage the Commission’s reputation or engender confidence in its mission– it is too late for that– but as a matter of form, it is inconceivable that he would stay in his current position.

But the Administration should also answer questions about the train of events from the Spakovsky email to his appointment to the Commission. Some obvious ones:

–Why did Von Spakovsky send this email to the Attorney General, and not to the White House?

–What role did the Attorney General or the Department of Justice play in the recommendation of appointment, or the appointment of Von Spakovsky?

–What response to the email did the Administration provide to Von Spakovsky, then or at the time of his appointment?

As for that last question: Von Spakovsky aggressively promoted to DOJ his view of how the Commission should operate. Did he join the Commission because he had reason to believe that even with a few of Democrats, the Commission would reliably function as he wished, toward the conclusion that he reached long ago?

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