The 2003 Texas redistricting plan, engineered by Tom DeLay and blessed by the U.S. Justice Department, was a boost for Republicans. The new district boundaries helped bolster their majority in Congress in the 2004 elections.
But here's the thing about Washington: Payback is hell.
Ask Hans von Spakovsky, President Bush's appointee to the Federal Election Commission. After serving a year and a half on the FEC -- apparently with little complaint from Republican or Democratic commissioners -- von Spakovsky's Senate confirmation to a six-year term is in jeopardy.
His critics allege that, while serving as a Bush administration voting rights lawyer at the Justice Department, von Spakovsky overruled a unanimous recommendation by eight career staff lawyers that the Texas redistricting map be considered a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act because it diluted minorities' voting power.
The rejection of the staff recommendation -- one of several seemingly partisan actions attributed to von Spakovsky and other Bush administration appointees by their former Justice Department colleagues -- paved the way for courts in Texas to approve the redistricting map, handing then-House Majority Leader DeLay, R-Sugar Land, a major victory and costing five Texas Democrats their jobs in the U.S. House.
Von Spakovsky, 48, who volunteered for the Bush campaign in Florida as votes were being recounted during the 2000 contested presidential election, also has come under fire for helping to craft, and then pushing through the Justice Department, his home state of Georgia's voter identification law. The law eventually was thrown out by a federal court that compared it to Jim Crow-era poll taxes discriminating against minority and poor voters who are less likely to have state-issued photo IDs.
Von Spakovsky insists that such calls were made by Justice Department employees above him. He says his former colleagues blame him simply because he was the messenger.
"I was not the decision-maker," he said during his Senate confirmation hearing last week. "My job as a career counselor was to provide legal advice and recommendations."
Perhaps most damaging to the nomination, though, is a letter by six voting rights lawyers who worked with the nominee at the Justice Department. They claim von Spakovsky was "the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights" and note that during von Spakovsky's tenure, more than half of the career lawyers in the voting section left in protest.
The attorneys accused von Spakovsky of approving Texas' faulty redistricting plan and Georgia's restrictive voter ID law along with blocking an investigation of a Minnesota Republican official who allegedly discriminated against Native American voters leading up to the 2004 election -- a case von Spakovsky told lawmakers he couldn't recall.