Lipson's call for independent prosecutor to investigate ACORN rests on baseless claims

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

In a September 20 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson called for an independent prosecutor to investigate ACORN by baselessly arguing that Attorney General Eric Holder was incapable of conducting a "fair-minded, independent" investigation into the organization, and that Holder "compounded these concerns" because cases against Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and the New Black Panther Party were dropped. But Lipson cited no evidence to support the claim that Holder influenced either decision.

Lipson attacked Holder's partiality with baseless claims about Richardson and New Black Panther Party cases

From Lipson's September 20 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune:

ACORN's close ties to the progressive movement and Democratic Party mean that there will be little public confidence if Holder decides not to pursue an ambitious investigation and ultimately prosecute.

Ironically, ACORN's chief executive officer, Bertha Lewis, strengthens the case for an independent prosecutor with her robust defense of the organization. FOX News, she says, is pursuing her group solely for political reasons. They oppose ACORN, she says, because it is associated with progressive politics, labor organizing and the Obama administration's health-care initiative. Unfortunately for ACORN, Lewis' charges also mean that if the Obama administration decides not to prosecute or to indict only low-level employees, the public will wonder if they are seeing a political defense by ACORN's friends, a coverup rather than a fair-minded, independent decision by the Justice Department.

Holder has compounded these concerns with two recent decisions. In New Mexico, federal attorneys apparently recommended high-level prosecutions in the pay-for-play scandal swirling around Gov. Bill Richardson. Holder's office overrode them and dropped the case. Holder also decided to drop the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, where thugs were caught on tape brandishing clubs outside a voting precinct. In both cases, Holder has refused to explain his actions.

After these decisions and Holder's silence about them, there is simply no reason to hand him another high-profile case with political ramifications.

DOJ reportedly refuted claim that Holder made either decision

AP: Justice Department official claimed "Holder was not involved in the decision to end" Richardson case. In an August 29 article, the Associated Press reported: "New Mexico's top federal prosecutor confirmed Friday that no charges will be brought against Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson and his former top aides after a probe of an alleged pay-to-play scheme prompted him to withdraw his nomination as U.S. commerce secretary." The AP further reported that the "decision not to seek indictments was made by Justice Department officials in Washington, according to two people familiar with the case who spoke to The Associated Press before defense lawyers received [U.S. attorney Greg] Fouratt's letter late Thursday. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly about the case." The AP added: "However, Attorney General Eric Holder was not involved in the decision to end the case, according to a Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the decision." [Associated Press, 8/29/09]

Department of Justice: A "career attorney in the Civil Rights Division made the final decision to dismiss charges" against New Black Panthers. In a May 29, 2009, post on the Main Justice blog, editor Mary Jacoby wrote: "The Department of Justice is disputing a Washington Times report claiming that Obama administration political appointees overruled career Civil Rights Division attorneys in dismissing a voter-intimidation lawsuit against members of the militant Black Panthers. In an editorial, the Times expressed dismay the story hadn't been 'front-page news.' " Jacoby quoted Civil Rights Division spokesman Alejandro Miyar stating, "Contrary to the report in the Washington Times, a career attorney in the Civil Rights Division made the final decision to dismiss charges against three of the defendants in this case following a thorough review that determined the facts and the law did not support pursuing the claims in this case." [Main Justice blog post, 5/29/09]

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