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Stop the Presses: Shutting Down the Civil Rights Commission’s Investigation of DOJ

President Obama and Harry Reid have used their appointment powers to stop the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' investigation into the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. (Don't miss James Poulos' PJTV interview with von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams from CPAC.)

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

February 15, 2011 - 12:01 am

For a while, at least, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was investigating the Justice Department’s race-based decision to dismiss the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case — a case DOJ had effectively won. But now President Obama and Harry Reid have used their appointment powers to stop the investigation.

Never mind the incontrovertible (and mounting) evidence that Eric Holder’s Justice Department applies a racial double standard to the enforcement of several civil rights laws. Holder has been trying to shut down the investigation for 18 months by unlawfully stonewalling all requests for relevant documents and emails and ordering Department employees not to appear for depositions and interviews when subpoenaed.

On Feb. 11, the Commission had its first business meeting with the replacements for several of the commissioners whose terms had expired in December. Former Commissioners Ashley Taylor and Gerald Reynolds had supported the investigation of both the DOJ’s dismissal of the voter-intimidation lawsuit and the far more damning testimony regarding the harassment and intimidation of anyone at DOJ who believes in the race-neutral enforcement of the civil rights laws.

Obama’s two new commissioners, Marty Castro and Roberta Achtenberg, and Harry Reid’s new appointee, Dina Titus (with the unfortunate help of Vice Chairman Abigail Thernstrom), voted to end the NBPP investigation. This despite the outstanding subpoenas the Justice Department has ignored and its total lack of cooperation. The new majority wouldn’t even agree to postpone the vote for one month until Commissioner Pete Kirsanow could be heard on the question (the new majority waited until Kirsanow had to leave the meeting to offer its motion).

So if a court orders the DOJ to turn over documents it is withholding from Judicial Watch, The Washington Times, PJ Media or other FOIA requesters, the Commission on Civil Rights, which has been pursuing the matter for 18 months, can’t consider it. The same goes if new House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith convinces the Department to cough up the documents it has wrongfully withheld from Congress. How this vote to kill future Commission work on the investigation affects its outstanding subpoenas to DOJ is unclear, but it doesn’t really matter because DOJ now knows the new majority couldn’t care less whether DOJ continues to ignore them.

The new majority also voted to “suspend” the printing of the Commission’s Interim Report by the Government Printing Office until Nancy Pelosi’s presumptive appointee Michael Yaki is reappointed and can write a new rebuttal to add to his already existing dissent in the report. Given the unbelievable dissent he already filed jointly with Harry Reid’s previous appointee, any future rebuttal is sure to be a major work of conspiracy fiction (and we’ll wait to see whether the new Democratic Commissars actually “unsuspend” the printing of the report).

I attended the Commission’s key hearings and read the transcript of many of its other proceedings on this matter. I couldn’t believe how the Commission’s Democratic appointees abandoned their duty as civil rights commissioners in order to defend the administration’s stonewalling. While he was still on the Commission, Yaki opposed every effort to probe how the Holder Justice Department handles its critical responsibility to enforce equal justice under the law. Instead, Yaki acted as the virtual defense counsel for the Obama administration, trying to stop the investigation and obscure and obfuscate the Commission’s findings.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to imply that the DOJ’s refusal to supply its emails and documents leaves us without solid evidence of wrongdoing at the Department. The DOJ emails and documents would almost certainly prove even more damning (why would DOJ unlawfully withhold documents that could help its case?), but the sworn whistleblower testimony and other incontrovertible evidence in the Commission’s Interim Report is damning enough. Indeed, I highly recommend reading the electronic version of the Commission’s Interim Report, which is on the Commission’s website (at least for now).

The Commission’s Interim Report details the infamous and lawless conduct not just of the New Black Panther Party, but of the Justice Department and its current officials. It includes excerpts of the whistleblowers’ shocking testimony, examples of instructions by DOJ officials not to enforce the civil rights laws on behalf of whites, and powerful concurring statements from commissioners who worked on the investigation for so long.

The new majoritarian Politburo on the Commission can shut down further investigation of DOJ wrongdoing all it wants and it can stop the presses on the Commission’s report. But what the Commission has already uncovered shows a damning and intolerable contempt for equal justice and the rule of law.

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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