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Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder’s Voting Section

All sixteen new hires to the Voting Section have far-left resumes — which were only released following a PJM lawsuit. (This is the first in a series of articles about the Civil Rights Division’s hiring practices since President Obama took office.)

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

August 8, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Michelle McLeod: Ms. McLeod has overcome substantial adversity in her personal life, and her story is an admirable one in many respects. But her liberal bona fides are equally genuine, and likely represent the primary reason why she was hired into the Voting Section under Eric Holder’s regime. Ms. McLeod came straight to the Justice Department after her graduation from law school at the University of Maryland, where she worked as a research assistant to Professor Sherrilyn Ifill, a radical academic whose writings and media appearances on voting rights and race issues take her well out of the mainstream.

Ms. McLeod also worked in the law school’s Post-Conviction Appellate Advocacy Clinic, assisting convicted felons with their direct appeals and habeas corpus challenges. As an undergraduate at East Carolina University, she interned for the SEIU Local’s New York Civic Participation Project, where she wrote articles favorable to labor unions. She also interned for the National Employment Law Project, drafting pro-union articles and other publications relating to workers’ rights. She is now one of the Voting Section’s points of contact for redistricting in Mississippi.

Catherine Meza. Ms. Meza, who contributed $450 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign before getting hired by the Voting Section, has a rich history of liberal advocacy. During law school at Berkeley, she interned for (i) the NAACP LDF, where she worked on voting rights and “economic justice” issues, (ii) Bay Area Legal Aid, (iii) the ACLU of Northern California, (iv) the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), (v) Centro Legal de la Raza, and (vi) the East Bay Community Law Center Workers’ Rights Clinic. She also worked as a legislative intern for Democratic Rep. (now Sen.) Robert Menendez of New Jersey as part of a fellowship with the liberal National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. On her resume, Meza proudly proclaims her membership in the American Constitution Society and her role as an Advisory Board Member of the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice. Talk about filling the whole bingo card! Meanwhile, while working a brief stint at the Fried Frank law firm after law graduation, she assisted on a pro bono case seeking to preserve the confidentiality of ID cards issued to illegal aliens by the city of New Haven, Connecticut, an effort to help illegal aliens avoid being prosecuted for violating federal law. She also helped draft a report for the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in which she suggested that the U.S. “government’s programs and policies continue to perpetuate segregation and concentrate poverty in communities of color.”

Kelli Reynolds: Ms. Reynolds arrived in the Voting Section having worked for several years as the Senior Redistricting Counsel and Assistant General Counsel at the NAACP. While there, she managed the organization’s National Redistricting Project, no doubt working closely with many of her now-colleagues in the Voting Section. She also boasts on her resume of her membership in the American Trial Lawyers Association (or, as that plaintiffs’ lawyers group now likes to euphemistically refer to itself, the “American Association for Justice”).

Elise Shore. Ms. Shore came to the Voting Section by way of the “Southern Coalition for Social Justice,” where she worked as a legal consultant focusing on “voting rights, immigrant rights, and other civil rights and social justice issues.” The far left-wing positions of this group are nicely summarized on its website. Ms. Shore also made a $1,000 contribution to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Before joining the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, she worked for more than two years as a Regional Counsel for MALDEF. There, she was an outspoken critic of Georgia’s voter ID law and well as its proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration (which, incidentally, have been found to be non-discriminatory by a federal court) and described how heartened she was that the Civil Rights Division had objected to the registration law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. But her joy must have been fleeting: the Division later capitulated and withdrew its objection after Georgia filed a federal declaratory judgment action. It will be interesting to see if Shore can put her politics to the side in her role as the Voting Section’s point of contact for all redistricting submissions in the state of Florida.

Jaye Sitton: Ms. Sitton first joined the Civil Rights Division during the Clinton administration, but left immediately before President Bush took office in order to become an international human rights lawyer. (This desire not to serve in a Republican administration seems to be a recurring theme among many of the individuals hired into the career ranks of the Division during the Clinton years.) Before recently returning to work as an attorney the Voting Section, she volunteered to work in North Carolina for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Sitton is a member of the “Intersex Society of North America,” an organization “devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.” She also taught a course on “sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, and the law” at the College of William and Mary Law School, and wrote a law review article titled “(De)Constructing Sex: Transgenderism, Intersexuality, Gender Identity and the Law” for the William and Mary Law Journal.

Sharyn Tejani: Ms. Tejani is another activist who has come to the Voting Section to masquerade as a career civil servant. She also first joined the Civil Rights Division during the Clinton administration but left within two months of President Bush taking office. Her resume boasts of her work defending affirmative-action programs, i.e., racial quotas, during that earlier stint of employment. She recently returned, however, after having worked as a Senior Policy Counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a left-wing organization that advocates greater abortion rights and is deeply involved in judicial nomination battles in favor of liberal candidates and in opposition to conservative candidates. Prior to that, Tejani served for more than three years as an advisor to one of the Democratic commissioners on the EEOC, and for three additional years as the Legal Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. In her writings, she has advocated for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require equal pay for men and women even when there are legitimate work- and experience-related reasons for those pay disparities. She also wrote an article for Ms. Magazine sharply criticizing any efforts by the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics to modify Title IX regulations to stop the discrimination that has occurred against men’s sport programs.

Justin Weinstein-Tull: Mr. Weinstein-Tull, a $250 contributor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign, was hired into the Voting Section following a clerkship for Judge Sidney Thomas, one of the most liberal judges on the Ninth Circuit. One can see why Judge Thomas was eager to have him in chambers. Indeed, Mr. Weinstein-Tull interned with the ACLU of Southern California, worked as a research associate at the liberal Urban Institute, and served as a fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center.

He also wrote a law review article for the University of Virginia Law Review in which he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart – affirming the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 — as a setback to a woman’s right to choose abortion. Mr. Weinstein-Tull will now be one of the Voting Section’s points of contact for redistricting submissions from the state of North Carolina.

Elizabeth Westfall: Last, but certainly not least, is Ms. Westfall. According to the Federal Election Commission website, she contributed nearly $7,000 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, contributed another $4,400 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, contributed $2,000 to Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign in 2004, contributed $3,000 to John Kerry’s presidential campaign and compliance fund in 2004, contributed $500 to former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s PAC in 2004, and contributed $2,000 to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2000.

In addition to this incredible funding of Democratic candidates, Westfall worked for six years at the far-left Advancement Project, directing its Voter Protection Program and managing its litigation and advocacy activities. She also previously served as a staff attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in its Fair Housing Group, and worked on the Hill as a legislative assistant to then-Congressman Bill Richardson (D-NM).

On Westfall’s self-drafted Harvard alumni biography, she notes that she has testified before the U.S. Congress about supposed “barriers” to voter registration, “unwarranted” purging of the voter rolls, and voter caging. While those subjects may sound benign, in fact, the Advancement Project and the Lawyers Committee claim that common-sense reforms like voter ID or requiring proof of citizenship are “barriers” to voting and registration and that removing voters who have moved or otherwise become ineligible to vote is “unwarranted purging.”

“Vote caging,” an imaginary crime the Left dreamed up several years ago, faults any efforts by private parties to challenge the eligibility of voters when first-class mail sent to their registration addresses is returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable because they no longer live there. This despite the fact that federal law specifically authorizes election officials to use the USPS for that very purpose. Just the kind of neutral, detached attorney a state wants reviewing its redistricting submissions and applying the heavy hand of the federal government in voting rights enforcement actions. California’s redistricting submission will be in the hands of Ms. Westfall.

These 16 new attorneys, liberal partisans one and all, now join the career civil service ranks of an already heavily politicized Voting Section in the Civil Rights Division. Supervision, meanwhile, comes from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes, whose public pronouncements about her refusal to apply the voting rights laws in an even-handed and race-neutral format are now infamous. The likelihood of the federal voting-rights laws being enforced in a fair and neutral fashion by this group of radicals is incredibly slim. Eric Holder clearly recognizes, as Ronald Reagan astutely observed, that “personnel is policy,” and Holder and his staff are doing everything in their power to ensure that the policies and legal positions advanced by the Civil Rights Division bureaucracy are in line with those of the Obama administration.

The real scandal, however, is the utter disregard by the so-called “mainstream media” and DOJ Inspector General’s Office of the blatant politicization of the hiring process in the Obama Civil Rights Division. I previously wrote about the absurdity of the attacks on Bush civil rights officials who were unfairly pilloried for supposedly hiring on the basis of political affiliation. I pointed out how the IG’s Office and the former Civil Rights Division attorney who spearheaded the Office of Professional Responsibility’s joint review glibly ignored all evidence that did not fit their biased narrative. A blind eye was turned towards the numerous liberal attorneys who were hired and promoted in the Voting Section during the Bush years.

Now, though, with the Obama Civil Rights Division virtually devoid of conservative hires, the press has gone silent and DOJ’s internal watchdogs have expressed nothing but indifference. This is particularly ironic given that almost all of these hires previously worked at organizations labeled as “liberal” by the joint OIG/OPR report attacking the Bush administration. So by the OIG/OPR’s own prior standards, the Obama administration has hired individuals exclusively from only one side of the political aisle. Once again, the one-way ratchet.

No apology will be forthcoming to the Bush Justice Department officials who were subjected to outrageous and unwarranted attacks, of course. But at least the public record is being fleshed out. Perhaps the Inspector General’s Office will redeem itself as a credible organization in its new probe of the Voting Section’s activities over the last 20 years. Whatever happens inside DOJ, though, at least the public is now aware that the almost daily rhetoric about neutrality that emanate from Eric Holder and his civil rights chief, Thomas Perez, is belied by their hiring decisions.

From the racially motivated dismissal of the New Black Panther Party lawsuit, to the partisan Section 5 objection to the change to nonpartisan elections in Kinston, N.C., on the offensive and patronizing grounds that blacks are not smart enough to know who to vote for without a party label next to the candidate’s name, to the baseless objection to Georgia’s citizenship verification requirements (later withdrawn by the Voting Section in the face of a federal lawsuit), to the dilatory and inept efforts to protect the voting rights of active military personnel, to the complete and total paucity of enforcement of Section 8 of the NVRA (requiring that voting rolls be purged of dead and ineligible voters), Eric Holder’s tenure has been distinguished by weighty evidence of partisan and ideological decision-making.

It seems that enforcement activity is governed predominantly by political, not legal, factors. And with the new radical ideologues in the Voting Section, it is difficult to imagine the situation improving any time soon. Americans deserve much better from their Department of Justice.

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Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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