A Democratic member of the White House’s controversial voting commission says he’s being shut out. And, in a development that underscores the level of tension plaguing the effort, he’s using open records laws to try to pry loose information about the activities of the panel he serves on.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (pictured) sent a letter Tuesday to Andrew Kossack, the executive director of the voting commission, citing the Federal Advisory Committee Act and requesting all correspondence between commission members or staff since the panel’s creation in May.
The letter came days after the commission was shaken by news that a staffer was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography — a development Dunlap said he learned about only through news reports.
Dunlap’s office provided a copy of the letter to The Daily Democracy. It was first obtained by Pro Publica.
Dunlap wrote that since the last commission meeting last month, he has received “utterly no information” about commission activities, or even about whether chair Kris Kobach “has plans on convening another meeting.”
Dunlap suggested to Pro Publica that power on the commission is being tightly held by its most controversial and conservative members.
“It seems like you have the core of the commission — J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spakovsky and [Kris] Kobach — and then you have the rest of us, who are kind of like mannequins,” Dunlap said.
All three men have been leaders of the decade-plus-long effort to generate concern over illegal voting and to impose laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.
Von Spakovsky argued against including Democrats on the commission at all, an email released last month shows. And recent court filings show Kobach sought input from both von Spakovsky and Adams on the controverial letter sent by the commission to all 50 states requesting a wide range of voter data.
In the letter sent Tuesday to Kossack, Dunlap added that he learned of the recent arrest of a commission staffer, Ronald Williams II, on charges of possession of child pornography, via a text from a journalist.
“[I]t beggars the imagination that my understanding of any activity would come by way of media inquiries,” he wrote.
Both Dunlap and the commission’s only other legitimate Democrat, Alabama probate judge Alan King, told Pro Publica they didn’t even know of Williams’s role on the commission until reading news of his arrest.
Williams, who no longer works for the commission, was an intern at the George W. Bush Justice Department, where he worked with Adams, then a DoJ lawyer, Pro Publica reported.
A third Democrat on the commission, Arkansas lawmaker David Dunn, died this week due to complications with surgery. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is nominally a Democrat but he’s elected by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, not by voters.