The Washington Times has published more follow-up stories today and yesterday about the Justice Department’s dismissal of a voter intimidation lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party (a racist hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) – despite the fact that the defendants defaulted and failed to answer the complaint. The new revelation is that Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli approved the dismissal. He is the No. 3 official at Justice and is a political appointee who raised $500,000 for President Obama’s campaign.
There is no doubt that this was one of the worst cases of voter intimidation the Department has seen in decades, but it was against militant black defendants, not white defendants. This is exactly the kind of situation that upsets the traditional civil rights community, which does not believe that federal voting rights laws should be used to protect white voters. The Department’s weak and belated explanation for the dismissal of this suit is frankly absurd.
The Department’s spokeswoman says that “the facts and the law did not support pursuing the claims.” Really? Then why is the Department refusing to allow the trial team who actually investigated the “facts and the law” or the chief of the Voting Section who supervised the investigation to brief members of Congress? We all know why – because those lawyers would dispute the spurious claim being made by their political superiors.
Justice even sent a letter to Cong. Lamar Smith claiming that one of the defendants was dismissed because he was a resident of the building in which the polling place was located, a “fact” that is completely false. The Department’s own pleadings publicly filed in court in Philadelphia, as well as a poll watcher certificate issued to the defendant by the Democratic Party, show that that this defendant did not live at the polling place (a senior living center). This basic factual error shows just how unimportant the real facts were to those dismissing the case. And that defendant, whose MySpace page lists one of his general interests as “Killing Crakkkas,” was dismissed just in time to be reappointed as a poll watcher for the May 19 primary in Philadelphia!
To try to bolster this political decision, the acting head of the Civil Rights Division even ordered the Appellate Section in the Division to review the Voting Section’s work, something totally unprecedented. She must have been sorely disappointed when, in direct conflict to what the Department is now claiming, the Appellate Section provided an opinion that the case was completely justified. The acting head, by the way, although a career lawyer, is in a political position under the Vacancy Reform Act and was appointed by President Obama. I worked with her for four years when I was in the Civil Rights Division. She talked about resigning when I was there to run as a Democratic candidate in Maryland and is as political as any political appointee at Justice.
The message from the Justice Department with this dismissal is that if you are a member of a black hate group, you can intimidate, threaten, and hurl racial epithets at white voters and poll watchers, and the Justice Department will give you a pass. We all know that if it had been the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Brotherhood at the polls in Philadelphia acting in this manner towards black voters, Associate Attorney General Perelli and Attorney General Holder would never have even considered dismissing the case. They would be bragging in the press about their pursuit of a civil injunction against all of these defendants, and would be pressing the Criminal Division at Justice to indict them on criminal charges.