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Posted at 1:46 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Lamar Smith issues first DOJ oversight letter

By Jennifer Rubin

Right Turn has obtained the first oversight letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued to the Justice Department. While he was in the minority, Smith labored, largely unsuccessfully, on the committee to convince the Democratic chairman to investigate a range of issues, including detainee policy and New Black Panther Party case. He now has the authority to schedule hearings, call witnesses and subpoena documents.

In a five-page letter, Smith notes that there has been "little oversight" as to how the civil rights division has used its budget increases ($22 million in FYI 2010 and $17 million requested in FYI 2011) and why the need for some 164 new positions.

He then gets to the heart of the matter. As I and other outlets have reported, he notes that in the New Black Panther Party case investigation, it came to light that a political appointee, Julie Fernandes, directed Justice Department attorneys "not to bring cases against black defendants for the benefit of white victims."

Smith then details allegations by former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams that the department declined to enforce the National Voter Registration Act and its provisions relating to "voter integrity."

After reciting the evidence concerning Fernandes's statements and her expressed hostility toward enforcing the NVRA, Smith concludes, "Allegations that the Civil Rights Division has engaged in a practice of race-biased enforcement of voting rights law must be investigated by the Committee." He then gives Holder until January 21 to respond to a list of questions, including whether Fernandes did, in fact, "explicitly or implicitly direct Voting Section staff not to enforce any section of any federal rights statute" or "not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act." He demands all documents that relate to the department's enforcement practices under the Voting Rights Act.

The letter is noteworthy on a number of levels. First, administration flacks and liberal bloggers have insisted that the New Black Panther Party case is much to do about nothing. But as Smith has correctly discerned, the issue of enforcement or non-enforcement of civil rights laws based on a non-colorblind view of those laws is serious and a potentially explosive issue for this administration. Second, Holder's strategy of stonewalling during the first two years of Obama's term may have backfired. Had he been forthcoming while Democrats were in the majority, he might have been able to soften the blows; Smith is not about to pull his punches. And finally, Smith is demonstrating the sort of restraint and big-picture focus that is essential for the Republicans if they are to remain credible and demonstrate their capacity for governance.

UPDATE: 3:50 p.m. Clarification was added above that the budget increases relate to the civil rights divison only and the $17M was requested but not allocated in FYI 2011.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 6, 2011; 1:46 PM ET
Categories:  House GOP  
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Next: Raising the debt ceiling


Holder will resign before Summer is here.....

The post-racial administration has, however, dispelled the urban myth that "Blacks cannot be racist"

The hearings will be very revealing.

Posted by: georgedixon1 | January 6, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Finally, grownups are in charge and can look into this seemingly corrupt cover up.

Thanks Jennifer Rubin for making the Post infinitely more readable!

Posted by: MoveOn2011 | January 6, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that New Black Panther Party sure is a menace to society...if you're a frightened little racist punk.

Posted by: danw1 | January 6, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Heres hoping that Julie Fernandes, a political appointee and probably unqualified for very much, did make the call to end all enforcement against minority perps. If it was a career attorney in Justice, we are far worse off than anyone realizes. At least a political hack can be excused as an idiot who "misspoke" at best, and was indeed an idiot at worst. But if that is the careerist mindest there, we are indeed being ill-served by the current AG.

Posted by: stvcar | January 6, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Eric Holder has been in charge of the most corrupt Justice Department in the history of the United States.

Let's hope some of these people are deposed and their lies under oath to Congress get them jail time.

Posted by: crypticguise | January 6, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Of course Leftards don't see this case of voter intimidation as a problem (see danw1). They don't want white people to vote, so see, no problem.

Posted by: Diggerdownunder | January 6, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

How dare Lamar Smith question this administration! He needs to go back to Texas where he belongs.

Posted by: jy151310 | January 6, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Danw1 said: "Yeah, that New Black Panther Party sure is a menace to society...if you're a frightened little racist punk."

How about we just talk and not call each other names, aye?

It is not the Party that is a menace to society, but the paranoid assumptions that cause any group to act in an intimidating manner -- with weapons even -- at a polling place. That is a threat to free elections across the land and must be corrected.

A similar deluded bullying certainly expressed itself in the earlier part of the last century by some groups of whites.

But, Surprise! The descendants of that white ancestry embrace Martin Luther King as their American hero. A majority of descendants of that ancestry couldn't wait to elect America's first African-American President. In the 21st Century, us Whiteys want you guys to succeed, Man! Chill.

Thanks to the civil rights movement of the last half of the 20th Century, we can all enjoy an expanded expression of inclusivity and acceptance. But many Powermongers keep their fiefdoms by conjuring up racial evils long past, and profit by ripping the scab off to see us all bleed. It wounds us all.

What is especially tragic is that on the very Day of Triumph -- Nov. 2, 2008 -- these NBP fellows believed and acted on the Powermongers' cruelest lie: that in secret, whites despise them for their color. If you listen to the panthers, you hear their paranoid expectation that white vigilantes were going to descend on polling places and stop the Obama voters! Really! Ironic that they probably imagined themselves heroes and defenders, much like the KKK guys did in another age, long ago.

Whatever color or creed, the United States Department of Justice must enforce a free and peaceful vote, and enforce it uniformly.

May God guide us all.

Posted by: Carol19 | January 6, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Lamar Smith need not back off because the Americans are with us and have his back right now. We need smart fast learners in positions of power--no fumblers

Posted by: Rita2 | January 6, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Holder is SOOOO hosed. And if there's e-mail or written evidence of such a policy, well, all bets are off.

Posted by: fmcdermott1 | January 6, 2011 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Once upon a time, all voters were expected to be members of their local militia. Normally the militia captain would use the assembly to vote to inspect the militia member's weapons. Of course the idea that anyone carrying their militia weapon could be intimidated is laughable. Perhaps we could go back to that good old custom?

Posted by: DonM2 | January 6, 2011 10:00 PM | Report abuse

If there was nothing to this, why would Holder have stonewalled for two years? Nothing to worry about, right? You Dems need to face it, Holder (and Obama) screwed up royally on this thing. Getting caught up in the excitement of Jan 2009, thinking they had a blank check to do pretty much anything (remember that stupid Gitmo closing ceremony). This is what happens when you put talentless inexperience hacks (meaning Holder and Barry 0) in charge.

Posted by: WarEagle1 | January 6, 2011 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the Obama administration is about to get caught in another lie since I believe they testified under oath that no political folks were involved in the decision to drop the case against the New Black Panther hate group.

On May 29, 2009, the Department of Justice ordered the suit dropped against the advice of prosecutors who had worked on the case and shortly after the New Black Panther leaders name, Malik Zulu Shabazz, appeared in the White House visitors log.

The hate group watchdog center SPLC describes the New Black Panthers as:

Ideology: Black Separatist

The New Black Panther Party is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers. Founded in Dallas, the group today is especially active on the East Coast, from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla. The group portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a "black racist hate group" and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol.

Posted by: fury60 | January 7, 2011 3:33 AM | Report abuse

They have not been able to find anyone who was intimidated. These were primarily Black Democratic districts. How can you claim intimidation when no one has come forward to complain other than whites afraid of the Muslim menace ? If this shows the Republican capacity to govern it is just another example of the Repubs running the car into the ditch.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | January 7, 2011 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Yes people were observed turning away from the polls upon seeing the clubs and hearing the abusive yelling. There is testamony to that effect. Why don't you read the case instead fo making stuff up.

Posted by: recklessprocess | January 7, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Falmouth, I encourage you to read more about this case. Many under the same impression you are with your comment "They have not been able to find anyone who was intimidated. These were primarily Black Democratic districts."

The law prohibits the attempt to intimidate. It also protects poll watchers, who have testified under oath that they were called racist names and threatened by the folks on the video.

This issue is a problem and I don't understand why Holder would protect this very misguided New Black Panther Party group. They say terrible things about many ethnic groups and are listed as a hate group by some very reputable (and liberal) civil right organizations.

I hope the Judiciary Committee can get to the bottom of this so we can move on. The more it drags out the more it hurts the administration.

Posted by: MoveOn2011 | January 7, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure that Ms. Fernandes will simply deny making any such comment -- in which she'll be calling not only Christian Adams (who is a conservative activist) but also Christopher Coates (who is not) liars.

They shouldn't have reduced the disposition. There was no sense whatsoever to it. The NBPP guys shouldn't have done what they did, it was captured on video, and the DoJ should've just let sleeping dogs lie.

It really wasn't that big of a deal. But Holder & Co. have made it one by their clumsiness.

Posted by: ContrarianLibertarian | January 7, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The elephant in the room is the US Civil Right Commission.
Viewed for a long time as “not a friend of conservatives,” it has, over the last two years, been neutered by the Obama Administration by their claims that the law governing the DOJ is more recent and therefore overrides the law setting up the USCRC.
Perhaps it and the original charter of Civil Rights Division of DOJ have outlived their usefulness.

Posted by: warnerme | January 7, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The NBBP ranks somewhere between leprachauns and snipes in the list of threats to the country. If you were familiar with any of the buffoons pushing this at the CRC, as I unfortunately am, you would realize that. Good to see the WP is continuing to slowly swirl the bowl by hiring a blogger who thinks the issue is important.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | January 7, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

There is a reason we have the slogan, "Don't Mess With Texas". I am happy that Representative Smith is moving forward with this issue.

Posted by: CassidyValentineSitter | January 7, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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