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Posted at 11:44 AM ET, 01/28/2011

What the right won't tell you about the Black Panther case

By Adam Serwer

Yesterday the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released the final version of its interim report on the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, complete with the dissents from the Democratic commissioners.

Some on the right, such as Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, are very excited about this report, insisting that it vindicates their claim that this is a real live scandal. But it doesn't do anything of the kind. Quite the opposite.

The dissents reveal a number of salient details about the case and the investigation that have been ignored, but that shed light on the mindset of the attorneys who filed the case and the original case itself. Even the original, infamous video of the two NBPP members standing outside the Philadelphia polling place was edited down, omitting a cryptic conversation between Republican poll watchers concerned about "[expletive] up the story."

As I've written before, former voting section attorney J. Christian Adams has found celebrity as a "whistleblower" among conservatives for testifying that the voting section dismissed a "slam dunk" voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. In reality, in the weeks before the original complaint was filed, Adams was deeply worried that he didn't have enough evidence to go forward. "Under the statute, a black poll watcher for you being abused or insulted is critical, and thus far, I don't have one," Adams wrote in an e-mail, apparently to Republican political consultant Mike Roman.

The dissent notes that Adams apparently settled on an "account" given to them by Roman, who operates Election Journal, the website that initially posted the infamous video of the two NBPP members standing outside the polling place.

On December 11, 2008 -- eleven days before the J Memo was issued -- Mr. Roman offered to provide Mr. Adams with a "definitive chronology" and informed Mr. Adams that he planned to "make contact with each [Republican voter in the precinct] to determine if they felt any intimidation at the polling location." Mr. Adams described Mr. Roman's offer to interview witnesses for him as "fantastic."

It's beyond strange that Adams, who is accusing the Justice Department of politicization, would rely on a Republican political consultant to do his job for him. Although, as the report notes, Adams doesn't seem to have been able to cut it on his own. Fortunately, now  Roman and Adams are colleagues of sorts, both contributors to Andrew Breitbart's website Big Government, where Adams weaves his grand tales of black racist conspiracies concocted by the Obama administration.

Having been unable to find any actual voters who were intimidated, Adams and his colleagues settle on the witness accounts of Republican poll watchers.

The J memo (or justification memo) arguing that the case should be brought forward states that two Republican poll watchers, Larry and Angela Counts, were so intimidated by the two NBPP that they were afraid to go outside, that they had their lunch brought to them as a result, and that Angela Counts had expressed the fear that someone might "bomb" the polling place.

When they were deposed by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, neither recalled ever actually seeing the NBPP members at all. Larry Counts expressed surprise that the NBPP even existed, mentioning that they were "dead," presumably referring to the actual Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 70s.

It's unclear why discrepancies between the depositions of the poll watchers and the J memo exist, as Adams and another attorney personally conducted those interviews. They appear to have mistakenly assumed that the Countses were Republicans -- in fact they were Democrats who were looking to make a little extra cash working as poll watchers. Perhaps the belief was that as Republicans, they'd go along with the narrative being constructed. 

The report identifies other errors in the original J memo, including the proposition that both NBPP members were "armed" (only one possessed a baton) and refers to the NBPP as a "well organized group" that had planned to deploy 300 members at polling stations around the country. Which, as the report notes, because there were no other reports of NBPP members anywhere else in the country, that means that the party's plan for deployment "had a 99% failure rate."

The two conservative "whistleblowers" deposed by the commission have used the fact that the attorneys who evaluated the case recommended going forward as proof the case had merit. In fact, as one of the attorneys mentioned in an e-mail, "The most difficult case to make at this stage is against the national party and [NBPP leader] Malik Shabazz." But the recommendation was premised on the obviously inflated evidence in the J memo, with its "narrative" framed with help from an outside political consultant, and with only Republican poll watchers as witnesses.

Of course, when the case was reviewed by the Obama administration, the weakness of the case the case against the national party became apparent, so they pursued an injunction against the one NBPP member with a baton, a decision that has been the basis of the unparalleled waste of time and resources that is this investigation, not to mention elaborate conspiracy theories about the anti-white racism of the president and attorney general.

Again, this story has really been about two things -- attorneys associated with the politicized leadership of the Bush Justice Department taking revenge for having been exposed by the internal investigations conducted by the Justice Department, and discrediting the work of the Civil Rights Division itself. The next time a Republican President takes office, Republicans will use this single, trumped up incident to allege that "politicization" of arguably the most important function of government, upholding the rule of law, is mere business as usual.

Jennifer Rubin, (who, apparently lacking confidence in the credibility of her argument, refers to Heritage Foundation's Todd Gaziano as a "political independent") refers to the report as "a blistering rebuttal of the statements of Democratic commissioners," but the report is notable for its precise lack of such a rebuttal. There are twenty-two pages of dissent from Democratic Commissioners Michael Yaki and Arlan Melendez included in the report. The conservative commissioners do not refer to them at all. Instead they train their fire on the apostasy of Republican Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom, who first identified the investigation as an effort to "topple" the Obama administration and offered a brief, one-page dissent the conservative commissioners dismiss as lacking "specifics."

I suppose if one pretends the specifics don't exist, then they don't exist. After all, you don't want to "[expletive] up the story" with facts.

By Adam Serwer  | January 28, 2011; 11:44 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Next: Charles Krauthammer gets it


Hopefully, this is indeed the last time that Adam "whallops" Jennifer.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 28, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I hope this is the last time the Wapo uses this, lets-stage-an-internal- feud tactic for increasing clicks.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

shrink -- no "tactic" of any kind. In virtually all cases Adam chooses his own topics.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 28, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

That's what happens when you hire idiot Conservatives. No one in Philly takes the New Black Panther Party seriously. The two were just trolling for attention and got it via stupid Conservatives/Republicans. Rubin deserves every smackdown she gets.

Posted by: PhilPerspective | January 28, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"shrink -- no "tactic" of any kind. In virtually all cases Adam chooses his own topics."

Pity they are so tendentious. I'd actually be interested in his take on Obama's continuation of the Bush in War on Terror policies.

I.e. does he agree with Glenn Greenwald that this amounts to a vindication of Dick Cheney? What does he think of the lack of any mention by Obama about Guantanamo or the War on Terror generally in the State of the Union?

Yes, this is a transparent attempt to hijack a thread.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 28, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Rubin deserves every smackdown she gets, yes and her column is a failure if the crickets chirping in her comments section are any indication.

Pardon me Greg, the insinuation was a mean way of asking whether Adam's mirrored perseveration on this "issue" here was a way to get people who follow the PL to go read her once in awhile. For what it is worth, I believe you when you say no.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Even the original Black Panther movement did not amount to a hill of beans. They were small in number, and all talk.

Today they would be viewed as rap performers.

Eldridge Cleaver ended up really putting "his soul on ice" by becoming A Conservative. I bet that Jennifer, Black Panthers Under My Bed, Rubins, did not even know that historical fact.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

AND if you agree that FALSE CHARGES OF RACISM are only directed at white people,

Then you are not a racist.



Posted by: RainForestRising | January 28, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

BREAKING: "Obama Regime will track ALL your web surfing"

"This proposal echoes the sentiments of the Bush administration..."


Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 28, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Did you know that:

Rand Paul is a Self-Certified Octo Momologist.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse


The result of the Black Panther case is this:

Because all rules apply equally to everyone,

It is OK for a right-wing group to arm themselves with clubs, and say racial slurs in front of a polling place - one which is utilized in a minority district,



Posted by: RainForestRising | January 28, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse


What kind of scandal just happened at the Illinois Supreme Court ???

People are going to be looking into this one - closely.

A guy who was on the BOARD AT FREDDIE MAC - who was accused of misleading investors in the sub-prime mortgage scandal - just got this decision from the court ????


This is going to be scandal - OBAMA IS GOING TO BE INVESTIGATED.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 28, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Did you know that:

Rand Paul is a Self-Certified Ortho Weedologist.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I ♥♥ Rand Paul, he throws lots of tires on the Republican Party pyre.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse



if these are the new rules - we will start getting our people together now -

and do the same thing as they did - if the LIBERALS SAY IT IS OK, THEN IT IS OK.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 28, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Forrest, do you scream in your mind when you're typing?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 28, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Did you know that:

Rand Paul Self Certified his own Senate election results, and then swore himself in?

Aqua Budda has confirmed that rumor, and also confirmed that wee Rand is a Self Certified Ortho Weedologist.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know why Rand Paul says he voted against secret holds?

Would not the libertarian position be to unveil secrecy?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 28, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse


Did he vote to continue the practice of secret holds?

The way you phrased it, makes it sound like he voted to abolish them.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Y'all should know that when it comes to the New Black Panther case, Mr. Serwer has a terrible record of accurate reporting. See:

Quite funny, really.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Only an addled right winger like SBJ would call a record of accurate reporting: "terrible". I wonder if he says it like Charles Barkley does?

Adam, your record of accurate reporting is just turrible.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Liam - right. I meant to write "voted against abolishing secret holds".

But why?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 28, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This just in:

Clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, Jennifer Rubins today announced that she has now become A Black Panther, and will be immediately moving to Philadelphia to join in the battle to over throw all Honky Tonks.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Liam - right. I meant to write "voted against abolishing secret holds".

But why?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 28, 2011 12:44 PM


I can only speculate on why, but it could be because he sees himself as a libertarian defending the right of each individual to do what ever they wish to do.

He may view the greater social good, as a collective philosophy trampling on his own individual rights to do what ever he pleases in the Senate, on his own.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

All, quick response to Krauthammer's column:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 28, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Just a couple of points on this:

Can Mr Serwer provide a direct link to the document that supports his "deeply worried" contention? the link is to another of his blog posts which carries a link to a HuffPo piece, which, as near as I could tell, has no link at all.

does the document Mr Serwer mentions exist? I ask because Mr Serwer has a tendency to use "seems to" and "if this is accurate" as a way of skipping past the lack of support and going right to the smear.

Next, I'm enjoying this immensely. The right has ripped a page from the liberal play book. What we must do know is repeat the accusation endlessly while forcing Obama's loyal minions to consume vast amounts of time, energy and money defending themselves. This is exactly what the left did when Bush was in office. And it worked.

If this approach worked for the opponents of Bush, it will work for the opponents of Obama. if that's the game we're playing now, it simply makes sense to play to win.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 28, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

The NBPP was not there to intimidate voters in the overwhelmingly black precinct--they were there to protect those voters from intimidation by Republicans in suits (lawyers) acting as pollwatchers and challenging black voters? Just a thought.

Posted by: xpatriate | January 28, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Well if you can't get conservatives riled up about young scary black men, what can you get them riled up about?

Posted by: willows1 | January 28, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Yep. The Right Wing Bedwetters are afraid of everything.

I hear that when John Boehner stands in the shadows, most of his own caucus start screaming; watch out, there is a Black Panther lurking over there.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

of course what xpatriate doesn't know, because he didn't read the reports from the commission, is that black voters were concerned as well.

But why let mere facts get in the way of a hyperpartisan smear, right pallie?

Tell you what I'm not afraid of liam-still: YOU.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 28, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

xpat, as comedian Ron White says in one of his gags:

"Next time you have a thought, let it go."

Posted by: actuator | January 28, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse


There isn't much dirt beneath you before you hit bedrock. You should stop digging real soon. You are just making a fool of yourself at this point.

Give it up already. Your scrambly defense doesn't pass the laugh test.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 28, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"Next, I'm enjoying this immensely. The right has ripped a page from the liberal play book. What we must do know is repeat the accusation endlessly while forcing Obama's loyal minions to consume vast amounts of time, energy and money defending themselves. This is exactly what the left did when Bush was in office. And it worked."

Because partisan hassling of the President did not exist prior to George Bush?

Are right wingers really that stupid or is it just an act?

Posted by: thetruth2011 | January 28, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

@truth....the posters on this blog are just that ignorant. lol The R pols split...certainly Palin/Bachmann/Gohmert/Tancredo/King are just that ignorant.

Boner, McConnell and the Newt simply have no conscience and have crafted their act pretty well.

Posted by: rukidding7 | January 28, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post has been reduced to shilling the Obama administration and the incompetent (and worse) Eric Holder.

They have no problems with the fact the JUSTICE Department wouldn't cooperate in the probe.

They have no problem with racial intimidation and racial harrassment inside of the Justice Department.

20 years ago or more this Paper spoke Truth to Power, now they are feeble shrills for a corrupt administration.

How the Mighty have fallen.


Posted by: newspapersaccount | January 29, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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