The right-wing media's smear that the Obama administration Department of Justice as engaged in race-based justice depends on the credibility of the witnesses that have come forth to make those allegations. That's why the conservative media has been so diligent in lauding them as career attorneys and "whistle-blowers."
In their interim report on the Justice Department's response to the New Black Panther Party case, the right-wing Republicans at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights likewise do their darndest to cover the tracks of their top witness, Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates. They claim that Coates has been victim of a vicious smear campaign to paint him as a right-wing hack, and cite his past credentials as an attorney for the ACLU as evidence that he is no such thing:
The troubling nature of these allegations of misconduct in the Division might explain why some anonymous sources within the Department have attempted to paint Coates as a disgruntled right-wing ideologue. A review of his career, however, speaks for itself and paints a picture at odds with his detractors' characterization.
Before beginning his work at the Department, Mr. Coates served with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta, Georgia. During his time there, he litigated cases on behalf of African-American clients, particularly those challenging at-large election procedures. In 1993 he argued a case before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of six African-American citizens in the local NAACP chapter in Bleckley County, Georgia. For his service with the ACLU he was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Decade Award by the Georgia Conference of the NAACP, as well as an award from the Georgia Environmental Association for his representation of African-American clients opposing the installation of landfill in their neighborhood.
Of course, the Commission has a bit of a problem: The primary evidence that Coates is a "right-wing ideologue" comes not from leaks from the DOJ, but from his own mouth.
Back in 2008, the Justice Department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that Douglas Schlozman, a senior Bush appointee in the department, had improperly considered ideology when making personnel decisions and cited numerous emails in which Schlozman discussed adding conservative members to "the team." In one of those emails, Schlozman recommended a DOJ attorney for a position as an Immigration Judge, writing: "[D]on't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team."
In September testimony before the USCCR, Coates admitted that he believed he was the person to whom Schlozman was referring. Moreover, he defended Schlozman's hiring practices, saying:
Mr. Schlozman found a Civil Rights Division that was almost totally left-liberal in the basis of the ideology of the people who were working in it, and that he made some concerted effort to diversify the division so that conservatives as well as liberals could find work there.
Kind of sounds like a right-wing ideologue, doesn't he?
As for J. Christian Adams, the Commission's other top witness, don't look through the report for the USCCR's attempt to wash away his years as a GOP activist before and after (and during?) his work on the New Black Panthers case. They don't even make an attempt, instead simply ignoring his past and referencing him as a "Voting Section attorney" and the like.
From the January 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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On January 27, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission released a report on the Department of Justice's investigation into the New Black Panther Party case. USCCR's report largely adopts the right-wing media's bogus allegations that President Obama's Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption in the case. This is unsurprising; the USCCR is dominated by conservative activists, and the witnesses they rely upon are J. Christian Adams, a longtime GOP activist deeply tied to the Bush-era politicization of the DOJ, and Christopher Coates, who reportedly became "a true member of the team" during that administration.
From the January 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Yesterday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released its report on its year-long investigation into the right-wing media's ridiculous claim that the Department of Justice's handling of alleged voter intimidation by members of the New Black Panther Party indicates racially-charged corruption on the DOJ's part. Unsurprisingly, given the commission's conservative activist composition and its previous flawed draft report, the report largely adopts the right-wing media's storyline as its own.
The three commissioners who opposed the release of the report are not happy with the investigation's direction or the report's conclusions, and are making their feelings known.
Republican Vice-Chair Abigail Thernstrom - who has called the case "very small potatoes" and said that the USCCR majority's investigation "doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration" - wrote in her dissent:
This investigation lacked political and intellectual integrity from the outset, and has been consistently undermined by the imbalance between the gravity of the allegations and the strength of the evidence available to support such charges. Some commissioners offered serious, principled critiques of the process, and questioned the evidentiary record. Their views were contemptuously ignored by the commission's majority.
Likewise, Democratic commissioners Arlan Melendez and Michael Yaki slam the investigation as "a tremendous waste of scarce government resources" that "squandered" the commission's reputation. They also criticize the USCCR majority and the pseudoscandal's chief promoter, Fox News, for having "given the NBPP more media attention than it ever could have garnered or purchased on its own." From the dissent:
The Commission's investigation into, and this Report concerning, the New Black Panther Party ("NBPP") have been a tremendous waste of scarce government resources. They have wasted our own resources at the Commission but those of the Department of Justice as well. In addition to squandering time, money and attention, the majority has further squandered the reputation of the United States Commission on Civil Rights as it spent more than a year on an Ahab-like quest to hobble the Obama Administration and to attempt to rehabilitate the disgraced record of the previous Administration's Department of Justice.
Our dissent does not attempt to make definitive claims about the motives or actions of the United States Department of Justice ("Department") past or present. We have no special insight into the hearts or minds of the people working at the Department. Where we differ from our colleagues is that we did not enter into this investigation having already made up our minds that there was wrong-doing by the Department. Therefore, we did not interpret all evidence in light of any foregone conclusions or ignore any evidence that flatly contradicted any conclusions.
Our dissent should also not be read as a defense of the NBPP. The NBPP is a hate group whose views are as ugly as they are outlandish. We would not even bother to include this disclaimer were it not for the fact that a good deal of this Report relies on sources who maintain absurd beliefs in the out-sized significance and influence of what is in reality a tiny fringe group. Among the many ironies surrounding this NBPP hullabaloo is the fact that the NBPP's exaggerated sense of its own importance (or menace) and its conspiracy theory mentality is matched (or even exceeded) by the Commission's majority and its ideological allies in the news media and in government. A further irony is the fact that, but for the constant promotion of this partisan investigation by FOX News and the USCCR, the NBPP might well have vanished into even further obscurity these last two years. We must posit that the USCCR majority has given the NBPP more media attention than it ever could have garnered or purchased on its own.
From the January 28 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Glenn Beck Program:
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From the January 25 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the January 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 24 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace rang in the New Year by hosting Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to attack Attorney General Eric Holder for supposedly not "do[ing] anything about ACORN," or "anything effectively about the New Black Panthers." In fact, both issues are phony scandals pushed by Fox News.
On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol attacked President Obama's decision to give a recess appointment to Justice Department nominee James Cole. Kristol claimed: "The recess appointment there is odd. I mean, it's one thing to recess appoint some foreign service officers who were held up for various reasons for their ambassadorships. To recess appoint the deputy attorney general of the United States when the Senate -- the Democratic Senate seemed unwilling to bring to the floor to have a debate and to have a vote is, I think, unusual."
In fact, President George W. Bush used his recess appointment power again and again to install high-ranking members of his administration.
Furthermore, Cole has received bipartisan support, including from former Republican Sen. John C. Danforth (MO) and Michael Toner, former general counsel for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign. And according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the reason Cole's nomination was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote was that "Despite repeated requests, for more than five months, Senate Republicans refused to debate the nomination of Jim Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General."
On December 29, Obama gave a recess appointment to Cole, naming him deputy attorney general - the number two position at the Justice Department.
But such an appointment is hardly new. Indeed, according to a Congressional Research Service report issued shortly before the end of the Bush administration, Bush made 171 recess appointments. Six of these people were recess appointed to the second-highest position in their respective agencies:
On today's edition of Fox News' Your World, guest host Brian Sullivan had on Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell to discuss the FCC vote to implement a form of net neutrality. Sullivan pointed out that it was" a partisan vote, right along party lines," and that McDowell was "one of the two commissioners who voted against the move, fearing what it might bring next."
The two teamed up to misinform about one aspect of the new rules. Sullivan asked, "Building out these networks is massively expensive. So what's wrong with those service providers charging heavier users more? I mean, UPS and FedEx charge you more if you want a package overnight or three days or if it's bigger. What's wrong with doing the Internet and its costs the same way we do package delivery?" McDowell responding by invoking "pricing freedom": "If an Internet service provider wants to cater to a specific market segment that might have certain quality of service demands or speed demands or the size of the pipe, how much data you want delivered over the pipe – those kinds of demands – they should be able to have pricing freedom in order to compensate them for the capital costs that they have to expend in order to deliver those services to consumers. So what this does is it actually calls into question whether or not there will be pricing freedom in order for this to happen."
In fact, net neutrality does not prohibit ISPs from charging customers more for a bigger "pipe," or purchasing more and/or faster bandwidth. What it does is suggest that ISPs will likely be prohibited for charging content providers a premium for making their traffic faster or from slowing down the traffic of other content providers who don't pay a premium. As the FCC explains it:
The Washington Times published an op-ed by former Corporation for National and Community Service Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which Walpin claimed that President Obama fired him "for doing my job of uncovering fraud, waste and abuse." In fact, at the time he was fired, Walpin was accused of acting improperly and not fulfilling his job requirements.
Walpin was writing an op-ed about a bill to grant Inspectors General the power to issue subpoenas compelling witnesses to testify. (IGs currently have the power to issue subpoenas for documents, but not for live testimony.) Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY) has introduced a version of the proposal in the current Congress, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has co-sponsored the bill.
Whatever you think of that legislation, the right-wing media clearly has an agenda in pushing Walpin's dubious claims about why he was fired.
As we've noted, The Washington Times and Fox News have repeatedly alleged that there is something nefarious about Walpin's firing, and Issa -- the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee -- has strongly suggested that he will investigate Walpin's firing.
But here are a few facts that put Walpin's firing in a different light and that the right-wing media never tell you: In an April 29, 2009, letter Lawrence Brown, who was then the acting US. attorney for the Eastern District of California detailed an investigation into Walpin's handling of allegations that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the organization he formerly headed, St. HOPE Academy, allegedly misused AmeriCorps grants. The letter alleged that Walpin and his staff failed to include or disclose relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after having been advised that "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
A lesson for discredited conservative activist Andrew Breitbart: If you're going to cheat, don't show your cards. Even better yet: don't cheat.
Last week Breitbart released a 29-page report calling for a congressional investigation into what he claims is "widespread corruption" surrounding the 1999 USDA settlement in Pigford v. Glickman. The lawsuit was filed by black farmers who were denied loans and whose discrimination complaints were ignored by the USDA between 1981 and 1996. Breitbart asserts that most of the claims for payment under the settlement were filed by undeserving people and that then-Senator Obama pushed to extend the payments for those who missed the filing deadline in order to buy the rural black vote in 2007. (No explanation provided for why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was such a willing accomplice.)
The allegations of massive fraud made in the report rely heavily on anecdotes apparently provided to Breitbart by what appear to be numerous unnamed USDA employees. But it turns out that Breitbart took portions of an interview with one person and presented them as though they came from several different people. How do we know that? Because after publishing his report, Breitbart posted interviews with his sources on BigGovernment.com in what I assume was an effort to draw more attention to his "Pigford investigation" (I guess the bright red headlines weren't working.)
In the following excerpt from Breitbart's report, each of the USDA sources referenced in bold is actually the same person, according to the interview posted on BigGovernment.com, but are presented in the report as several different people:
Some of the claims of discrimination didn't make sense. One employee reports that there were numerous claims of racial discrimination against the USDA offices in Jefferson County, Arkansas, for example, but the supervisors in that office were all black.
Another employee from Arkansas reports that there were literally hundreds of claims from black women stating they had been the victims of USDA discrimination but in his 15 years in Arkansas, he had only ever seen one black female applicant for a loan.
Still another USDA employee reports that he personally witnessed an example where eight Pigford applicants came from one single family, and they were accepted and granted by USDA. "Pigford was basically legalized extortion," reports this USDA employee, "it reached the point where they were just handing money to people."
We've already taken apart Andrew Breitbart's 1,800-word screed from earlier this week patting himself on the back for his awesome and entirely in-context reporting in July about how Shirley Sherrod is a racist. But I think it's worth examining his wholly fabricated tale that Sherrod was really fired not due to Breitbart's blog post using out of context video snippets to call her a racist, but because of her role in the Pigford class-action lawsuit.
In his blog post, Breitbart writes:
Despite the firestorm, there was still an unanswered question -- why on God's green earth was Shirley Sherrod fired?
My 1400-word piece said Sherrod helped the white farmer. The controversial video clip featured the basis for her defense, The President and Tom Vilsack were doubly informed of the whole story by both me and Sherrod herself.
After highlighting a handful of individuals who mentioned Sherrod's Pigford connection in discussing her firing, Breitbart pointed to former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's July 25 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he wrote:
As an old pro, though, I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place.
This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN.
I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place.
You see? It wasn't really Breitbart's fault that Sherrod got fired! He provided all the context needed to show that she wasn't racist (pay no attention to his headline calling her "racist"), but the Agriculture Department wanted her gone because of Pigford! Like he told the Daily Caller, this is his "vindication"!
In July, Brown was speculating absent anything resembling evidence. Now, Breitbart is using that speculation to justify his ludicrous smear of Sherrod and pretend it didn't force her firing. But in between, reporting emerged that pretty much demolishes this wild conspiracy theory.