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.