The Washington Times is reporting that the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) at the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the dismissal of the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther party. Republican congressmen Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, who have been doggedly pursuing the Civil Rights Division trying to get answers as to why this case (which had already been won by default) was dismissed, have expressed their relief that Justice is finally beginning to take this issue seriously (or at least is pretending to do so in order to shut down any objective investigations by Congress and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission).
Given the nature of the personnel who populate OPR, there is good reason to doubt that a real investigation will occur. Many of the career lawyers at OPR are as liberal and partisan as the lawyers who work in the Civil Rights Division. The report they issued in conjunction with the inspector general on supposed “political” hiring in the division was chock full of bias, inaccuracies, gross exaggerations, and deliberate misrepresentations of both facts and the law. Not only was the OPR attorney assigned to that investigation a liberal former Civil Rights Division lawyer, but the (now former) head of OPR who orchestrated this agitprop, Marshall Jarrett, was rewarded by Eric Holder when he became attorney general: Jarrett was made head of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, a plum post that usually goes to a political appointee.
Keep in mind that the New Black Panther party endorsed Barack Obama for president, a fact that his campaign had on its website until there was criticism over highlighting the endorsement of a hate group. And one of the New Black Panthers who was dismissed from the suit is a Democratic-party official in his ward in Philadelphia and was credentialed as a Democratic-party poll watcher during the November election. So who has the new head of OPR assigned to “investigate” the Civil Rights Division’s improper dismissal of this case? According to the letter she sent over to Congressman Smith, it is a career lawyer named Mary Aubry. Despite her modest government salary, Aubry contributed $3,850 to Obama’s campaign and victory fund, not to mention the $2,500 she has given to the DNC or the $1,000 she gave to Hillary Clinton. So a woman who has given $7,350(!) to the current president and other Democrats is going to be the chief investigator tasked with determining whether the president’s political appointees at Justice (such as Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli) acted unprofessionally when they dismissed this case. Perhaps we will all be pleasantly surprised; but given that politics has driven almost every recent action by Justice, I doubt it.
The only way to objectively find out the truth of what happened is for the Justice Department to provide Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf, and the Civil Rights Commission with all of the documents and information that they have requested and that Justice has so far refused to provide. It is also very important that Smith et al. obtain the testimony of the trial team of career lawyers who investigated the case, something else that Justice has so far refused to divulge. When OPR was carrying out investigations of various Civil Rights Division personnel during the Bush years, Congress did not suspend its investigation; rather, it insisted on testimony from the targets of OPR’s investigations.
The Civil Rights Commission voted unanimously last week to make its investigation of the Black Panther case its principal project for the year. The commission should continue to press this case no matter what OPR does, as should Congressmen Smith and Wolf.