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Is Privacy Act Violated as Voting War’s GOP Hit Man is Fed Leaks By Justice Department Mole?

Will the DOJ investigate leaks in attacks on Voting Section employees and major voting rights decisions?

A crusading GOP critic of the Obama Justice Department’s Voting Section, Hans von Spakovsky, has admitted to having Department sources that are leaking apparently confidential and highly personal information that he is using to viciously attack Voting Section staff and to smear the Department at large.

Leaking such information—including details from ongoing Inspector General inquiries into a previous media leak and detailing the behavior of a DOJ employee related to that internal investigation—would not only violate DOJ confidentiality rules, but also could violate the federal Privacy Act, which governs how agencies are to control records.

Von Spakovsky’s boasts of leaks are peppered throughout his latest article attacking the Voting Section as it is reaching key thresholds in congressional redistricting cases and concluding if numerous new state laws—toughening voter ID, regulating voter registration drives and curtailing early voting—violate the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comments on the latest Voting Section leaks. In previous instances of leaks surrounding high-profile DOJ activities, however, the department’s Inspector General office has launched investigations to identify the sources and determine what DOJ policies or laws might be violated.

Von Spakovsky currently is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Partisan, Hypocrite, Bully

Von Spakovsky’s controversial record and hyper-partisanship are well known in the civil rights community. He ran the Voting Section during the middle of George W. Bush’s presidency, steering it away from its traditional mission of defending voting rights of minority communities to policing all but non-existent voter fraud. During his tenure, more than half the career staff in the Voting Section left, saying he and other Bush appointees politicized the Section to an unprecedented degree.

After Bush appointed von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission, seven former career prosecutors with more than 90 years of combined federal service wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing his nomination and describing his abusive management style, including rewriting performance evaluations of staff that he perceived were Democrats—undermining if not ending the careers of numerous civil servants.

“We have never seen a political appointee exercise this level of control over the day-to-day operation of the Voting Section,” the former Voting Section attorneys said in their June 18, 2007 letter. They also noted how von Spakovsky published an anonymous article in favor of Georgia’s voter ID law at the same time the DOJ was reviewing it under the Voting Rights Act—but he did not recuse himself from that assessment, another conflict of interest and apparent violation of DOJ protocol.

The hallmarks of this zealotry are still in play, particularly making personal attacks based on anonymous sources and leaks that serve his partisan agenda. That von Spakovsky’s most recent missive relies on DOJ leaks to attack a Voting Section employee who he believes knew of another leak is plainly hypocritical, but the big picture here is that he is willing to damage careers to score political points.

His most recent article published on Dec. 21 was hardly the first of its kind to personally attack DOJ staffers using alleged information not available to the public. But his latest piece—picked up by numerous right-wing websites—boasts of sources and alleged accounts from Inspector General interviews to slam DOJ for not punishing an analyst who may have perjured herself about a document leak to the Washington Post in 2005—when he headed the Voting Section.

The apparent motive behind this seemingly obscure attack is to discredit the Voting Section in its current litigation over GOP-drawn congressional redistricting maps in Texas, because the analyst who he is now attacking worked on Texas redistricting in 2003 and again today.