Posts Tagged ‘Dianne Feinstein’
Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Democratic chairs of the Senate Judiciary and intelligence committees told President Barack Obama today they support Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of terrorism suspects.

Patrick Leahy (Getty Images)

Dianne Feinstein (gov)

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary panel chairman, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they disagree with the barrage of recent criticism of the Attorney General and the Obama administration over decisions on terrorism cases.

“We should not let partisan distractions lead us to cast aside such valuable tools as the experienced terrorism interrogators of the FBI or forego convicting terrorists in our Federal courts,” the senators wrote in a joint letter to the president.

For months, Republicans have condemned Holder’s decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged coconspirators in a New York City federal court, arguing a military tribunal is a better forum. Democrats last month joined the criticism after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) raised concerns about the costs and disruptions to Lower Manhattan of a lengthy trial requiring high security.

Republicans have also been upset over the decision to treat alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a civilian and allow the FBI to read him the Nigerian national his Miranda rights after a brief interrogation. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin have suggested Holder resign over the issue.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced legislation earlier this month that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to prosecute KSM and his alleged accomplices in federal court. The bill has 27 co-sponsors, including Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jim Webb of Virginia, all of whom represent conservative-leaning states. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with the Democrats, also is a co-sponsor.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House earlier this month. The bill has 49 co-sponsors, including Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Bobby Bright of Alabama.

“Congress should not tie the hands of our national security and law enforcement agencies, but should instead ensure they have the flexibility to use every means available,” Leahy and Feinstein said in their letter. “Congress should be working with you in a shared mission to most effectively protect our national security and to ensure that just convictions, once obtained, will be sustained and upheld.”

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, told his colleagues today that he will formally ask the Justice Department to identify who decided that the alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber should be treated as a civilian and not as an enemy combatant.

Jeff Sessions (Getty Images

The FBI — not the military — took Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab into custody on Dec. 25 on U.S. soil after he allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified yesterday on Capitol Hill that his office was not consulted about the use of FBI agents and that special terrorism investigators should have handled Abdulmutallab, according to The Washington Post.

It is unclear who made the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a civilian. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified yesterday before the committee that the events were “fast-moving” and authorities had “no time” to get other investigators in place. But Mueller said decisions were made “appropriately,” including the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights.

Sessions said yesterday that it seemed the decision was made “on the fly.” He added that the FBI’s handling of Abdulmutallab could have precluded the U.S. government from obtaining valuable intelligence.

“I think this is a matter of serious import,” Sessions said yesterday. “I don’t think we have clarity of rules. We need to get it straight.”

Democrats voiced support for the decisions made in the aftermath of the alleged attempted bombing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that the FBI’s actions were “totally appropriate.” Senators were unable to point to an example of authorities putting an alleged terrorist apprehended on American soil immediately into military custody.

Here’s the letter Sessions and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) sent today to Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter:

We are writing to ask who within the Department of Justice made the decision on Christmas day to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect, entitled to Miranda warnings and the right to counsel, rather than as a unprivileged enemy belligerent subject to military detention and a full opportunity to gain intelligence. We would also like to know the basis for this decision, including whether the administration has a protocol or policy in place for handling al Qaeda terrorists captured in the United States.

At yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller described how Joint Terrorism Task Force agents initially interrogated Mr. Abdulmutallab without Miranda warnings for the purpose of obtaining intelligence information.  He stated that this short initial interrogation occurred before the terror suspect was taken into surgery and that the decision to provide Miranda warnings and pursue criminal charges was made shortly thereafter “in consultation with the Department of Justice and others in the administration prior to the agents going back in later that evening to interview him.” Director Mueller declined to name the person within the Department who made the decision, stating that he would first have to get approval from the Department. Nonetheless, he made clear the decision was not made “at the local level.”

The Department of Justice’s decision to afford this terrorist Miranda warnings and a civilian prosecution appears to have been made without soliciting input from the Department’s administration partners in the war on terrorism. According to testimony before both the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Department officials who made this decision failed to consult key officials who also have a major role in counterterrorism and intelligence gathering. Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, testified that he was not consulted.  Similar testimony was provided by Director Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter. Furthermore, Director Mueller testified he did not know whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates was consulted on this decision, which is remarkable given that Mr. Abdulmutallab appears to fit cleanly within the Military Commissions Act definition of an “unprivileged enemy belligerent.”

We believe the Department’s hasty decision to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Abdulmutallab deprived our intelligence agencies of a critical opportunity to interrogate an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who was fresh from training in Yemen. Had Mr. Abdulmutallab been transferred to military custody as an unlawful enemy belligerent, our government would have had more time to gain an understanding of the terrorist training and recruiting network on the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the activities of al Qaeda in Nigeria. More importantly, a thorough and unrushed interrogation might have revealed information to detect and disrupt the next terrorist attack. However, because Mr. Abdulmutallab was given Miranda rights and ceased cooperating, that information is now lost.

It is important that Congress fully understand the basis for the decision in this case and the process by which it was reached so that we can be assured that an appropriate process is in place to address the next terrorist who is captured and detained. To that end, please let us know who within the Department made the decision on Christmas day, as well as the basis and rationale behind the decision. Additionally, please let us know whether a protocol or policy is in place to guide the administration’s action in the next terrorism case.

This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Monday, January 18th, 2010

A former senior U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas plans to ask for a new trial to overturn his conviction on charges that he shot a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks, The Houston Chronicle reported today.

Ignacio Ramos and his former partner, Jose Compean, were sentenced in October 2006 to more than 10 years in prison after convictions on charges stemming from the shooting, which prosecutors said the agents tried to cover up. President George W. Bush commuted their sentences on his last full day in office amid mounting pressure from conservative commentators and even many Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

The successful prosecution led by then-Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton had become a cause célèbre in many conservative circles, with supporters of the two agents arguing they were simply doing their jobs. Prosecutors maintained, however, that Ramos and Compean shot a man and tried to cover it up.

“I know I’m rolling the dice,” Ramos told The Chronicle, noting that prosecutors could bring new charges.

Bush commuted the sentences, rather than pardoning the two agents, and so they remain convicted felons. Ramos told the Houston newspaper, “We don’t go into it blind. We talk about it, and we both know the risks. And it’s hard knowing what the possibility is. But it is important for me to be cleared.”

Sutton defended the prosecution and said it was “about the rule of law,” according to the newspaper.

The former U.S. Attorney said at his farewell news conference in April 2009 that the harsh criticism leveled at him by conservatives for his prosecution of the border agents has made him more aware of the need to get out in front of a story.

“The … case was an amazing tidal wave of misinformation. … I want to be a conservative voice of reason in the media,” Sutton said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He added that he thought the two agents’ sentences of more than 10 years were “harsh.”

We reported in July that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Ramos and Compean Justice Act, which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for law enforcement officials who use their guns in a crime while on duty. They received their sentences because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) is the bill’s sponsor.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed legislation today that would reauthorize certain juvenile delinquency program funds.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2009 would renew the program funding provisions in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 until fiscal year 2014. The 1974 legislation was due for reauthorization three years ago. The program authorizes funding to states with special practices for handling youth in their justice systems.

The panel voted 12-7 on the 2009 bill this morning at its markup. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, agreeing with Republican concerns over the projected $4 billion price tag for the legislation.

Feinstein, who also sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the bill calls for a “huge authorization” that would be hard to justify with the $1.7 trillion federal deficit.

“I would be very hard pressed to appropriate these sums of money for this purpose at this particular point in time,” Feinstein said at the panel markup.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is a sponsor of the bill, cited a New York Times editorial from yesterday that called on the Senate to move on the bill. He first introduced the reauthorization legislation in 2008.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee reported this important bipartisan legislation last year,” Leahy said in a statement. “We should ensure that it passes into law in this Congress.”

Several new provisions were added.

The committee voted 10-9 to adopt an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would require the U.S. Comptroller General to audit the performance of the Justice Department Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, which handles the juvenile justice grants. He said the language was necessary because there were concerns about the effectiveness of some of the programs funded by the office.

Leahy, who voted against the amendment, said the comptroller provision was unnecessary since the bill already called for the  Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office administrator to submit a report to Congress on its activities.

“I think you’re crazy for not taking this amendment,” Grassley told Leahy during debate on the amendment.

The other amendments approved by unanimous consent added provisions that would allow youth and family serving organizations to apply for juvenile justice grants, help state and local law enforcement agencies implement new strategies to combat crime and would clarify some of the language in the original version of the 2009 bill.

The panel rejected an amendment by its ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), by a 6-13 vote. The amendment would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults if accused of murder, rape or other serious offenses.

The House does not have a companion bill.

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Andre Birotte Jr. (gov)

Andre Birotte Jr. (gov)

There is “growing consensus” that the Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general, Andre Birotte Jr., will be nominated as U.S. Attorney for California’s Central District, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Neither the White House nor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who’s in charge of recommending Los Angeles’s next top federal prosecutor, would comment, the newspaper said. However, colleagues of Birotte have been interviewed by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, the LAT said. Such background checks are a sign that a candidate is well along the way toward nomination.

LAPD Chief William J. Bratton told The LAT he met with an FBI agent on numerous occasions regarding Birotte. An unidentified person interviewed by the FBI told the LAT, “The inference I drew is that they’re doing the final vetting for him.”

Birotte, whose parents immigrated from Haiti, would be the first black man to serve as U.S. Attorney in the Central District, the LAT said.

Thomas P. O'Brien (Paul Hastings)

Thomas P. O'Brien (Paul Hastings)

Feinstein interviewed three candidates in August, including Birotte, the newspaper said. The two other candidates were Brian J. Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at Irell and Manella; and Michael Raphael, chief of the criminal appeals section in the U.S. Attorney’s office in LA.

Hennigan and Raphael have been notified that Feinstein won’t be recommending them to the White House for the job, the paper said.

The last Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney in the district was Thomas P. O’Brien, who resigned last month to join the white-collar criminal defense practice at the Paul Hastings law firm in LA.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney

Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney

Democrats have opened a new front on the health care reform battle: antitrust exemptions for insurance companies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on a measure to repeal the 1946 McCarran-Ferguson Act, which put regulation of  the health insurance industry in the hands of individual states.

Democrats complain that lax oversight has allowed the insurers to concentrate their market power. They argue that more competition in the health-insurance market would lower prices for consumers.

The Department of Justice says it supports reform, though it stopped short of endorsing any legislation. Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Christine Varney said the Department of Justice “is generally opposed to exemptions from the antitrust laws, whether they be industry-specific or general, in the absence of a strong showing of a compelling need.”

Quoting President Obama, Varney said health insurance reform would benefit both the American people and the American economy, said the Department of Justice looked forward to “working with you and your colleagues in achieving our common objectives.”

Varney at the hearing called the McCarran-Ferguson act a product of a different age in American business. The 1945 legislation reversed a 1944 Supreme Court decision that said health insurance should be regulated on the federal level.

McCarran-Ferguson created a broad antitrust exemption for insurance companies regulated by state law, rendering them immune from challenge as long as they’re not engaged in an activity deemed “boycott, coercion, or intimidation,” Varney said.

The justifications that led to McCarran-Ferguson’s passage “are no longer valid today,” she said. “It’s no longer necessary.”

She added: “The antitrust laws reflect our society’s belief that competition enhances consumer welfare and promotes our economic and political freedoms,” Varney said.

“Nobody’s above the law,” Leahy said. “I don’t know anyone who can say with a straight face that they shouldn’t be subject to the same antitrust laws.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) argued against making insurance agencies subject to antitrust laws, saying he saw “little evidence to justify a complete repeal.”

Democrats, by contrast, saw much evidence to repeal McCarran-Ferguson.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, Monday’s threats by insurance companies that if health reform passed, insurance rates would go up, was evidence that health insurance companies could do just that. “When insurance agencies said on Monday night ‘we’re raising rates, they’re going up,” Durbin said, “they could get together, and fix prices; they wouldn’t be able to do that if they were subject to prosecution, would they?”

“They would not,” Varney responded.

“The health insurance agencies have thrown down the gauntlet,” Durbin replied.

Democrats say the the health insurance markets are generally dominated by one or two providers, sometimes with a single insurance provider controlling up to 90 percent of the market. With these kinds of monopolies or duopolies, the Democrats said, the insurance companies have been free to charge whatever they could.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said: “Healthcare and medical insurance should be nonprofits.” She said insurers’ profits rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007, while “premiums have escalated dramatically.”She called Leahy’s bill “one small step to a very loud signal” to the insurance companies.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) painted a picture of the kind of market domination insurance agencies have. Whitehouse noted that in 39 states, two health insurers cover 50 percent of the market, and in nine states, only one company covers 75 percent of the market.

In Maine, Franken noted, an insurance company took the unprecedented move of suing a state to guarantee they make enough money. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield sued the state, in what Franken called a “brazen” move, to guarantee a 3 percent profit margin that would raise insurance costs on subscribers 18.5 percent.

Hatch was not the only one to argue for keeping McCarran-Ferguson in place. Panelist Lawrence Powell, who represented the Physician Insurers of Association of America, said repealing the law would make little difference, leading to at best, the “status quo.”

“Market concentration is not always indicative of competition,” Powell said. “Another company controls 10 percent.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that the Justice Department has not taken a position on the legislation to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act.

Monday, September 28th, 2009

The search for the Southern District of California’s next top federal prosecutor is close to wrapping up, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported today.

The screening panel established by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) stopped accepting applications earlier this summer, according to the newspaper. Boxer will advise President Obama on who he should nominate, but it is unknown if she has made recommendations yet, the Union-Tribune reported.

Here are the finalists for the post, lawyers familiar with the screening committee told the newspaper:

Jerry Coughlan (Coughlan, Semmer & Lipman)

Jerry Coughlan (Coughlan, Semmer & Lipman)

-Timothy Coughlin (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)

-Laura Duffy (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)

-Kevin Kelly (First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)

-Jerry Coughlan (Partner at San Diego law firm Coughlan, Semmer & Lipman)

Acting U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt currently leads the Southern District office. She was appointed by the district’s judges after Carol Lam was fired during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.

Boxer must also make U.S. Attorney recommendations for the Northern District of California. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is in charge of recommending candidates for the Central and Eastern districts.

Obama nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner to be the top federal prosecutor in the Eastern District. Read about possible candidates for the California posts in our U.S. Attorney’s chart.

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball at Newsweek offer an interesting analysis of Sen. Kit Bond’s (R-Mo.) announcement last week that he was pulling the entire GOP staff off a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Central Intelligence Agency interrogation practices.

They write:

The move appears to be part of a broader campaign by congressional Republicans and the U.S. intelligence community to pressure [Attorney General Eric] Holder to rescind his recent appointment of a special counsel to investigate allegations of torture during the Bush administration.


The flare-up is significant because, whatever the results of Holder’s criminal probe, the Senate panel’s investigation offered perhaps the only opportunity for a full public accounting of the U.S. intelligence community’s conduct in the aftermath of September 11 attacks.

The result, Isikoff and Hosenball write, is the interrogations inquiry has become “hopelessly politicized.”

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.)

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.)

Bond, the ranking Republican on the intelligence panel, said he objects to Holder’s decision to empower a special prosecutor, John Durham, to examine whether criminal laws were broken during interrogations. Among the methods the CIA used against terrorism suspects is waterboarding, a method both Holder and President Obama have described as torture.

According to the  Washington Times:

“Had Mr. Holder honored the pledge made by the president to look forward, not backwards, we would still be active participants in the committee’s review,” said Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, the panel’s vice chairman. “Instead, DOJ sent a loud and clear message that previous decisions to decline prosecution mean nothing and old criminal charges can be brought anytime against anyone — against these odds, what current or former CIA employee would be willing to gamble his freedom by answering the committee’s questions?”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she regretted Bond’s decision to boycott the investigation.

Bond’s move came after seven former CIA directors wrote Obama, urging him to overturn Holder’s decision. The Sept. 18 letter reads:

Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused.

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan urged members of the House Judiciary crime, terrorism and homeland security subcommittee this morning to retain mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes.

Michael J. Sullivan (Ashcroft Sullivan)

Michael J. Sullivan (Ashcroft Sullivan)

The panel is considering four bills that seek to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes including crack cocaine offenses and law enforcement officials who use their guns in a crime while on duty.

The bills under consideration are:

-H.R. 834: Ramos and Compean Justice Act of 2009

-H.R. 2934: Common Sense in Sentencing Act of 2009

-H.R. 1466: Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009

-H.R. 1459: Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009

Sullivan said that the risk of a long mandatory sentence entices drug offenders to cooperate during investigations.

“Without the mandatory minimum, a lot of the regional and national drug investigations would be stalled,” said Sullivan, a partner at Boston law firm Ashcroft Sullivan, which was founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said at the hearing today that prosecutors in white collar cases and other complex cases are still able to get cooperation without imposing mandatory minimum sentences.

“There are ways to bring conviction without mandatory minimum sentences,” said Stewart, the wife of Office of Legislative Affairs head Ron Weich. The Assistant Attorney General has said he will recuse himself from all matters involving mandatory sentencing policies because of his wife’s advocacy work.

Subcommittee Democrats said mandatory sentencing laws unfairly target blacks and do not fit the crime.

The panel held a hearing in May about the legislation that will revise the 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine penalties put in place by Congress in the 1980s. The decades old law gives the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the sale of five grams of crack cocaine as it does for the sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has stood in support  of Congress’s efforts to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.

“We know the mandatory minimum sentences do not work,” said subcommittee Chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.)

Panel Republicans said some of the laws could be tweaked, but mandatory minimum sentences should not be eliminated completely.

“When the thermostat is swung from one extreme temperature to another, people get sick,” said subcommittee Ranking Member Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Sullivan agreed with the Republicans. He said there are very few examples of mandatory minimum sentences that were unwarranted.

“The vast majority received sentences that are appropriate under the current sentencing scheme,” Sullivan said.

The panelists at the hearing also discussed the Ramos and Compean Justice Act, which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for law enforcement officials who use their guns in a crime while on duty.

The bill is named for former Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who shot a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks and tried to cover the incident up. Former Bush aide Johnny Sutton, the former U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, led the 2005 prosecution that outraged conservative commentators and even many Democrats, most prominently Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

Ramos was sentenced to 11 years. Compean received a 12 year sentence. They received the sentences because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), sponsor of the Ramos and Compean Justice Act, successfully lobbied President Bush to commute their sentences in January, which set them free.

National Border Patrol Council President T. J. Bonner, whose organization represents border law enforcement officials, said at the hearing that mandatory minimum sentencing laws affect the morale of agents trying to do their job.

“This is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Bonner said.

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is scheduled to vote this morning on the nomination of former voting section lawyer Hans Von Spakovsky to the State Advisory Committee for Virginia, reports TPMMuckraker.

The advisory committee is tasked with, as its name implies, advising the commission, which among other things, investigates complaints alleging that citizens are being deprived of their right to vote.

Todd Gaziano

Todd Gaziano

Spakovsky was actually hired by the commission last August as a consultant and temporary full-time employee at the behest of Commissioner Todd Gaziano.  Gaziano told TPMMuckraker that he was also one of the people who recommended Spakovsky for the volunteer position with the advisory committee.  Gaziano is the Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and has served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Spakovsky, you may recall, was a sidekick to the controversial former head of the Civil Rights Division, Bradley Schlozman, who caused an uproar with his partisan hiring practices. President Bush gave Spakovsky a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission, but once the recess appointment expired, the Senate refused to confirm him.  As a matter of fact, it was then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that put a hold on his Senate confirmation proceeding, prompting Gaziano to call Obama’s opposition “nothing more than fear-mongering with potential liberal voters.”

Han Von Spakovsky (courtesy Heritage Foundation)

Hans Von Spakovsky

Career Voting Section lawyers led by Joseph Rich, section chief from 1999 to 2005, wrote to Senate Rules Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) alleging that Spakovsky “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.”  You can find the letter here.