A key player on President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission criticized the idea of Democrats and “mainstream Republicans” being included on the commission, saying their presence could “guarantee its failure,” according to a February email released this week.
Gizmodo reported late Tuesday that commission member Hans von Spakovsky of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation was the author of the email.
The Heritage Foundation confirmed separately to The Star that von Spakovsky was the author.
A spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helps lead the commission, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
In the redacted email, dated Feb. 22, von Spakovsky wrote “there isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making claims that it is engaged in voter suppression.”
“If they are picking mainstream Republican officials and/or academics to man this commission it will be an abject failure because there aren’t any that know anything about this or who have paid any attention to this issue over the years,” the email says.
The panel does include several Democrats, including the secretaries of state of New Hampshire and Maine.
The email was released by the U.S. Department of Justice in response to an open records request from the Campaign Legal Center. The center then posted the email online.
“These emails add to the mounting evidence that the commission has no interest in true bipartisanship or an open discussion of how to solve the real problems in our elections,” the Campaign Legal Center said in a statement.
Von Spakovsky’s message appears to eventually have been forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Heritage spokeswoman Sarah Mills released a brief statement on the email after it became public.
“The Heritage Foundation is scrupulously nonpartisan,” Mills said. “Hans von Spakovsky is a former member of the Federal Election Commission. ... He brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the discussion of voter fraud, and holds strong views on the topic. The views expressed in the email are his own.”
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, von Spakovsky denied sending an email to the attorney general.
“I have never had any discussions by email or otherwise with General Sessions about the election integrity commission,” he said. “I did send a private email in February to private individuals who were not in the administration to express my personal concerns about the efficacy of the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity months before it was organized or any of its members were selected.”
Later in the statement, von Spakovsky said he was “confident that all the members of the Commission are committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity and the other issues present in our election system and developing recommendations to safeguard and improve the voting process.”
Trump’s election integrity commission has been controversial since it was announced in May.
Both Trump and Kobach have claimed widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2016 election. They have not been able to publicly provide any definitive proof that such widespread fraud occurred.