Friday, April 5, 2013

Obomination: What They Are Saying About the Labor Secretary Nominee

Serious scrutiny must be given to President Obama’s selection to be Labor Secretary.  Thomas Perez has a very troubling history that led one conservative commentary to conclude “This Obama nominee may be his most outrageous yet”.  

Other examples of the selective enforcement of the law under the Perez Civil Rights Division at Justice have included clearly politicized interventions on voting rights matters -- even, in some cases, going against the recommendations of his department's own professionals; opposing voter identity and voter roll-integrity initiatives intended to mitigate the threat of fraud; and insisting on racial hiring preferences, even after the Supreme Court invalidated the practice.

Perez’s time at DOJ was also marked by discrimination in hiring, which is yet another troubling aspect of his nomination as Labor Secretary. One source of criticism is a recent inspector-general report about the Voting Section of Perez’s Civil Rights Division. The report for example was critical of their hiring practices:  . . . “the primary criterion used by the Voting Section hiring committee in assessing the qualifications of applicants, namely prior voting litigation experience, resulted in a pool of select candidates that was overwhelmingly Democratic/liberal in affiliation.”
What’s ironic about Perez’s dismissal of “disparate impact”concerns in this context is that he has gone to great lengths to protect this same theory regarding fair-housing laws. . . . Apparently though, their serious concerns about a practice’s unintended consequences for a marginalized group — a relevant enough concern in the Fair Housing Act context to merit historically high settlements— are irrelevant when the context shifts to potential bias against conservatives.
Perez dealing with fair housing is not just bias it is also anti-whistleblower.  As ranking Senate Judiciary member Charles Grassley points out, in a department where whistle blowing is especially important, Perez’s record should give all Senators pause.


One influential Senate Republican, Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, has raised questions about Perez’s decision-making in a separate civil rights case and has indicated it could cause problems if he is nominated to lead the Labor Department.
In that case, the Justice Department struck a deal with the city of St. Paul, Minn., in which the city withdrew from a Supreme Court lending discrimination case in exchange for the federal government agreeing not to join a pair of housing-related False Claims Act lawsuits against the city that were instigated by a whistle-blower. Republicans contend the suits had the potential to return more than $180 million in damages to the Treasury. 
“It’s hard to believe that the president would nominate somebody at the heart of a congressional investigation and so deeply involved in a controversial decision to make a shady deal with the city of St. Paul, Minnesota,” Grassley said in a statement Sunday. “Not to mention the fact that he’d be handed the keys to the whistle-blower kingdom at the Labor Department. I shudder to think how whistle-blowers will be treated in the Labor Department if this quid pro quo with St. Paul is any indication of Mr. Perez’s approach to this important area of law.”
For lawyers, the most troubling aspect of Perez may be how the courts have been very critical of his actions.  It is one thing to be liberal, it is another thing to regularly rebuked by nonpartisan courts.  Opposition to Perez is not based on his liberal politics but on his seeming disregard for the law.  

Some examples:
He also led the adminstrations scaremongering against voter ID lawssmacked down hard  by the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit, so that elections in South Carolina this week will go ahead with the law in effect. (This wasn’t a partisan decision: The unanimous three-judge panel included Clinton appointee Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.)
He has led the administration’s racial scaremongering against voter ID laws, but got smacked down hard by the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit, so that elections in South Carolina this week will go ahead with the law in effect. (This wasn’t a partisan decision: The unanimous three-judge panel included Clinton appointee Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.)
Indeed, Perez doesn't even seem to be a very good lawyer at all. His positions also have been rebuked by courts in Arkansas (about the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act), again in the D.C. District Court, in New York on an education case (U.S. v. Brennan), in a Florida abortion case where Perez’ team was abusively prosecuting peaceful protesters, and most particularly in a major Perez loss in Florida when trying to force the state not to remove non-citizens from its voter rolls.
Again, the words about Perez’ dishonesty came straight from federal judge Reggie Walton: The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decision-making.
The very troubling nomination of Thomas Perez to be Labor Secretary is this week’s Obomination. 

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