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Rewarding Misbehavior with Presidential Nominations

How does Obama treat a political appointee who may have helped suborn perjury and obstruct an investigation? By nominating him to a higher office.

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

December 21, 2010 - 12:00 am
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How is Rodriguez implicated in Perez’s perjury? A source tells me that Rodriguez was present in the meeting that Perez had with the lawyers working on the New Black Panther Party case — Robert Popper, Christian Adams and Chris Coates — just two days prior to the testimony Perez gave before the Commission on May 14. In that meeting, Coates specifically laid out the details and particulars about the hostility by the Division’s new political leadership towards race-neutral enforcement of the voting rights laws.

Coates described how employees were unwilling to enforce the law against black defendants in voting cases and how political appointee Julie Fernandes had told the Voting Section staff that there would be no cases filed against minority defendants. Yet when Perez testified under oath before the Commission, he said that he had never heard about any such complaints. My source tells me that Rodriguez was taking notes during the briefing session.

In that case, Rodriguez was not only involved in the Division’s refusal to comply with the Commission’s investigation, he was aware that his boss misled and possibly perjured himself before a tribunal. Yet he has not taken “reasonable remedial measures” to correct the record or to notify the tribunal about the false statements made to the Commission.

Yes, Rodriguez is not the one who testified falsely. But any lawyer knows that if he is aware that a co-counsel on a case has perjured himself before a tribunal or misled a judge, he has an absolute obligation to correct the record and make the court aware of the problem. He is also obligated to notify the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department of Perez’s false statements, something that hasn’t occurred as far as I am aware. (Not that one can expect much out of the very partisan OPR these days.)

None of this comes as a surprise to lawyers who worked with Rodriguez in western Pennsylvania. A source told me that Rodriguez was very difficult to work with and extremely political. When Clinton’s political appointee, Harry Litman, came in, Litman made Rodriguez his first assistant, despite Rodriguez’s relatively short tenure and lack of expertise compared to most of the other career prosecutors in the office. Rodriguez basically operated as Litman’s chief of staff, the same role he has fulfilled for Perez.

“Rodriguez was Litman’s hatchet man — he inserted himself into everything and took detailed notes in meetings,” the source told me. Sound familiar? “Whatever Litman wanted done that he did not want his fingerprints on, Rodriguez took care of for him,” said the source.

Career lawyers also became very frustrated with Rodriguez over a particular issue: “They [Rodriguez and Litman] apparently viewed possession of child pornography as simply voyeurism, and they had no interest in prosecuting such matters. Cases would be investigated and recommended for prosecution in child exploitation cases, and they were routinely rejected by Litman and Rodriguez,” the source told me.

What is very clear is that the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee — where Rodriguez’s nomination will be reviewed — must examine  the role Rodriguez played in the Civil Rights Division’s mishandling of the New Black Panther Party case and his participation in misleading a tribunal and obstructing their investigation in violation of federal law. His rejection of child-exploitation cases while an Assistant U.S. Attorney is also an important area of inquiry, as is his lack of experience with federal labor laws.

Quite frankly, for the Senate to confirm a lawyer who has engaged in unprofessional conduct would be a great disservice to the rule of law. It is not the behavior we should expect (and demand) from public officials who take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Rodriguez’s nomination is also a sad reflection on the views and opinions of the Obama administration, which is displaying no concern over one of the worst and most outrageous scandals to arise in its Justice Department — the conscious and deliberate implementation of a policy in which ideology and race drive law-enforcement decisions, and obstructing an investigation is considered acceptable behavior.

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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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