President Obama has nominated Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
MYTH: Perez's Civil Rights Division Impermissibly Discriminates Against Whites
Fox News' Megyn Kelly And Sekulow: Under Perez, The Civil Rights Division (CRD) Has Enforced The Voting Rights Act (VRA) In A Manner That Is "Not Consistent With The Legislation Or The Legislative History." Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent guest Jay Sekulow used a recent Inspector General report to accuse Perez of leading a CRD that does not protect white voters under the VRA, because of "racial hostility." From Fox's America Live:
SEKULOW: [The Office of the Inspector General is] concerned about the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act that's not consistent with the legislation or the legislative history. That there's been systemic problems within the department. When you look at the New Black Panther Party case, the idea that you didn't enforce a violation for voter intimidation and voter harassment because the people that were harassed were white is ridiculous, but that's the position that [Perez] has taken.
KELLY: [I]n recent years, a debate has arisen about whether voting rights laws that were enacted in response to discrimination against blacks and other minorities also should be used to challenge allegedly improper voting practices that harm white voters. Disputes were ignited when leadership decided to pursue particular cases on behalf of white victims and more recently when division leadership stated that it would focus on "traditional" civil rights cases on behalf of racial or ethnic minorities. What do you take from that?
SEKULOW: Here is the problem and this is a significant problem, the law is not being applied in a colorblind manner, which is what it's supposed to be. So you've got this institutional incompatibility as if the institution is incapable of doing this alone or applying this law in a neutral manner and it really goes beyond Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal. The law is the law and it needs to be applied as such and that's really the problem and I think that's what the Inspector General concludes. [Fox News, America Live, 3/15/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: The CRD Under Perez Has Followed Congressional Intent And Text Of Voting Rights Act
Office Of The Inspector General (OIG): Perez Was Referencing Long-Time Precedent When He Noted Certain Parts Of The VRA Are Specifically Designed To Protect Communities Of Color. The Department of Justice (DoJ) has enforced the VRA against defendants of color (including in the New Black Panther Party case), but the Supreme Court in Beer v. United States has confirmed that Section 5 of the VRA protects demographics who have historically been the victims of voter suppression. From the DoJ OIG report:
In both public filings and statements to the OIG, the Division has stated that it interprets the non-retrogression principle of Section 5 to be "race-conscious," in that it does not cover White citizens when they are in the numerical minority in a covered jurisdiction. See e.g.,LaRoque v. Holder, Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (stating: "the non-retrogression principle of Section 5 has always been race-conscious in that it denies preclearance only to voting changes that 'would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise,'" quoting Beer).
Perez stated that interpreting Section 5's retrogressive-effect standard to not cover White citizens was consistent with the Division's longstanding practice, as well as case law interpreting the provision and the intent behind its enactment. Perez also told the OIG that he believed interpreting the retrogressive-effect prong of the analysis to cover White citizens would be inconsistent with the history of and intent behind Section 5, which he stated was enacted to remedy the specific problem of discrimination against racial minorities. Perez's letter stated that the precise question of whether the retrogressive-effect prong of Section 5 protects White citizens has arisen "exceedingly rarely," but asserted that a series of Supreme Court opinions "has consistently recognized that Section 5 was enacted to deal with a particular historical problem of racial discrimination against minorities." [Department of Justice Office Of the Inspector General, March 2013, citations omitted]
MYTH: Perez Colluded With The City Of St. Paul To Improperly Withdraw A Supreme Court Case
Wall Street Journal: A "Quid Pro Quota" At The CRD "Shows How Ideology Trumped The Rule Of Law." The WSJ has pushed the unsubstantiated accusation that Perez acted improperly by joining other civil rights experts and former Vice President Walter Mondale in advising the City of St. Paul that its Supreme Court case risked giving conservative justices an opening to striking down "disparate impact" litigation. From the WSJ:
We reported earlier this year that Justice Department civil rights chief Thomas Perez had pressured the city of St. Paul, Minnesota to withdraw a lending discrimination case from the Supreme Court so he could use a dubious legal theory to browbeat banks into settlements. Now a House investigation has revealed more details about his intervention, which shows how ideology trumped the rule of law.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Monday, three House committee Chairmen and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley reveal that Mr. Perez struck a quid pro quo with St. Paul to withdraw its lending discrimination case, Magner v. Gallagher, from the Supreme Court in exchange for the feds abandoning a separate False Claims Act lawsuit against the city.
Mr. Perez isn't talking, but a Justice spokesman said the "resolution reached in these cases was in the best interests of the United States and consistent with the Department's practice in reaching global settlements."
We sure hope that latter point isn't true. The House evidence suggests the deal was a corrupt political bargain in which Mr. Newell's legal interests were undermined to serve Mr. Perez's political agenda. [The Wall Street Journal, 9/25/12]
FACT: There Is No Evidence That Perez Was Involved In A "Corrupt" Conspiracy
St. Paul Pioneer Press: Legal Expert Says There Was Nothing "Improper With The City Discussing The Case With HUD Or The Justice Department." Although Congressional Republican staffers are leaking they have undisclosed evidence that "certain federal officials and other individuals improperly influenced" the City of St. Paul, Myron Orfield, executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law, said there was nothing scandalous in Perez's confirmed intervention. From the Pioneer Press:
Leading members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are pressuring St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to say whether the Obama administration had a role in the city's decision to withdraw a housing case scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 29.
Myron Orfield, executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School, said he wasn't familiar with the committee's letters, but he saw nothing improper with the city discussing the case with HUD or the Justice Department.
"It feels like St. Paul can decide whether it wants to bring an appeal. I'm not aware of anything that would be wrong about that," Orfield said.
Some suspect that an additional goal of the House committee is to throw a negative light on the Obama administration. Coleman, second vice president of the National League of Cities, has been a frequent visitor to the White House in recent months.
A spokesman for the mayor's office declined to explore the possibility of partisan maneuvering.
"I think you'd have to direct that question to the committee," said Coleman spokesman Joe Campbell. "I can't speculate as to what their intentions are."
[Neither of the leading Congressional members] could be reached for comment.
Campbell elaborated in an email: "While the city has no desire to be at odds with any congressional committee, we are concerned that the committee inquiry calls for the disclosure of privileged deliberations, just as the city is preparing for trial in the U.S. District Court. We have given them all non-privileged documents pertaining to their inquiry."
St. Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry said withdrawing the appeal "was a decision that all of us made with our eyes wide open. Winning - if it doesn't achieve the goals that we're supportive of - then it really isn't winning." [Pioneer Press, 4/16/12]
MYTH: Perez Lied To The U.S. Commission On Civil Rights in 2010
The American Spectator: "Loathsome" Perez May Have "Committed Perjury." Quin Hillyer pushed the false allegation that Perez perjured himself to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified about whether political appointees improperly truncated the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) investigation, a case that was concluded before Perez rejoined DoJ. From the Spectator:
As I described in detail last August, Perez is one of the most loathsome figures in the thoroughly loathsome political ranks of Obama's Justice Department.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the little matter of a federal judge hinting broadly that Perez may have committed perjury when testifying that there had been no interference by political appointees in the course of the Obama DoJ's decision to drop already-won voter-intimidation cases against New Black Panthers in Philadelphia. [The American Spectator, 3/12/13]
FACT: Two Internal Investigations And A Federal Judge Confirmed That Perez Did Not Perjure Himself
Mother Jones: Recent Office Of The Inspector General (OIG) Report "Eviscerates The Republican Charge." Citing a federal judge, the OIG re-confirmed the conclusions of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that the NBPP case was not improperly closed by political appointees and Perez did not intentionally mislead the Commission when he testified to this fact. As reported by Adam Serwer:
[T]he Inspector General's report, like a previous OPR report, found that the decision to narrow the New Black Panther case was "based on a good faith assessment of the law and facts of the case," not on anti-white racism or corruption. The report also concludes that the political leadership at Justice did influence the handling of the New Black Panther case--but not improperly--by insisting that that the case could not be dismissed outright. This turns the GOP attack on its head, for Republican critics have accused the Obama administration of trying to bury the case to protect a black separatist group. The IG notes no such thing was done.
The report dings Perez, who was not yet running the division when the New Black Panther case was narrowed, for not providing accurate testimony about that case to the US Civil Rights Commission. But the IG notes that Perez did not intentionally mislead the commission. The report states that Perez errantly said that senior officials in the Department of Justice had no involvement in the New Black Panther case. Perez says he was only referring to the accusation that higher-ups had tried to smother the case. [Mother Jones, 3/13/13]
MYTH: Perez Was Incompetent In His Enforcement Of The Voting Rights Act
National Review Online: There Are "Important Questions About Just How Competently" Perez Managed Voting Rights Act Cases As Head Of The Civil Rights Division (CRD). John Fund has questioned Perez's competency by repeatedly referring to the Voting Section's challenge to South Carolina's voter ID law as an example of how Perez has been "smacked down by courts all over the country." From National Review Online:
There are, further, important questions about just how competent Perez has been in running the Civil Rights Division, though that's beyond the scope of the IG's report. As Quin Hillyer has documented in The American Spectator, Holder's office has been repeatedly smacked down by courts all over the country. Last year, a three-judge federal panel in Washington, D.C., ruled against Perez's challenge to South Carolina's voter-ID law.
[Perez's] abysmal record of legal performance at Justice marks him as someone who is a radical ideologue first and a careful lawyer second. [National Review Online, 3/13/13]
FACT: Under Perez's Watch, The CRD Was Very Successful In Curbing The Many Attempts At Voter Suppression In The Last Election Cycle
The Atlantic: The Voting Section Challenge To South Carolina's Voter ID Law Resulted In Its Overhaul And Partial Approval On The Condition That It Not Discriminate Against Voters Of Color. Perez supervised the successful prevention of multiple state legislative attempts at suppressing the votes of communities of color in the 2012 elections, including in South Carolina. As reported by Andrew Cohen:
Perez and his colleagues in the Voting Rights Section achieved consistent success last year invoking federal law to block discriminatory voting practices.
I guess it all depends on your definition of "a cruddy lawyer," but the truth is that Perez and company prevailed in Texas, and in Florida, and, yes, even to a significant degree in South Carolina, where the Justice Department forced state officials to delay implementation of their voter identification law until after the November general election.
As I wrote last October, the South Carolina ruling was no rout for the feds. But it is silly to contend that the Justice Department got "smacked down hard" in the case. In addition to preventing state officials from enforcing the law last fall, the judges gave South Carolina clear instructions about how it must implement the measure to avoid future constitutional trouble.
Every lawyer dreams of being "smacked down" like that by his trial judge. [The Atlantic, 3/14/13]
MYTH: Perez Served With "Notorious Illegal-Alien Advocacy Group"
Fox's Michelle Malkin: Perez Volunteered For CASA De Maryland, A "Notorious Illegal-Alien Advocacy Group." In a post to her syndicated column, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin attacked Perez for volunteering with -- and later serving as board president of CASA de Maryland:
During the Clinton years, Perez worked at the Justice Department to establish a "Worker Exploitation Task Force" to enhance working conditions for ... illegal-alien workers. While holding down his government position, Perez volunteered for Casa de Maryland. This notorious illegal-alien advocacy group is funded through a combination of taxpayer-subsidized grants (totaling $5 million in 2010 alone from Maryland and local governments) and radical-liberal philanthropy, including billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute.
That's in addition to more than $1 million showered on the group by freshly departed Venezuelan thug Hugo ChÃ¡vez's regime-owned oil company, Citgo. [National Review Online, 3/13/13]
Washington Times Criticized Perez For Working With Organization "Funded by George Soros." A Washington Times article cited right-wing author Matt Vadum to criticize Perez's position with the organization: He was a board member of Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group for illegal aliens funded by George Soros and the recently deceased Hugo Chavez." [The Washington Times, 3/13/13]
FACT: CASA De Maryland Is A Mainstream Organization That Provides Legal And Social Services To Immigrants
CASA De Maryland Evolved From A Refugee Assistance Organization To Provide Services For Immigrant Community As A Whole. From CASA de Maryland's description of its history:
CASA of Maryland was founded in 1985 by representatives of various congregations, both Central Americans and native-born U.S. citizens. CASA was created in response to the human needs of the thousands of Central Americans arriving to the D.C. area after fleeing wars and civil strife in their countries of origin.
As the community grew in numbers and its needs grew in complexity, CASA so expanded its programs. In 1991, in response to growing numbers of day laborers congregating on street corners looking for work in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring, with the support of Montgomery College and private foundations, CASA set up a temporary trailer to provide legal and employment assistance to the workers. In 1993, Montgomery County granted CASA space and funding to operate a formal Center for Employment and Training at 734 University Blvd. East, in Silver Spring. This was CASA's first welcome center, which has served as a model for the creation of numerous other centers in Maryland and across the country.
Today, CASA organizes and advocates with its thousands of individual members and provides direct services in the areas of employment placement, workforce development and training, financial literacy, adult ESOL and Spanish literacy instruction, citizenship and legal services, health education, and human services navigation. [CASA de Maryland, accessed 3/18/13]
CASA De Maryland Receives Funding From Mainstream Foundations And Bipartisan Governments. CASA de Maryland's 2012 annual report shows it received funding from mainstream foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and others, and has received funding from the government under both Democratic and Republican leadership. [Media Matters, 3/13/13]
MYTH: Perez "Worked With Hardcore Islamist Groups" to Weaken Airport Security
Daily Caller: Perez Met With "Hardcore Islamists" And Complimented Them "For Lobbying Against Airline Security Measures." The Daily Caller described an October 19, 2011 "meeting between Perez and hardcore Islamists" in which Perez "complimented the Islamists for lobbying against airline security measures." [Daily Caller, 7/27/12]
Fox News' Patti Ann Browne: Perez Said To Have Worked With "Hardcore Islamist Groups" That "Lobbied Against Airline Security Measures." On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne claimed Perez had a "controversial past" and was "said to have worked with hardcore Islamist groups and applauded those who lobbied against airline security measures." [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 3/13/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Perez Attended Interfaith Conference And Supported Non-Discrimination In Airport Security
Perez Attended Interfaith Civil Rights Summit And Emphasized Need To Protect Civil Rights In Airport Security. In October 2011, Perez attended a civil rights summit hosted by George Washington University Law School on Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans experiencing discrimination and hate crimes following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The event was attended by faith leaders and advocates from many religions, including an imam and a rabbi. In his remarks, Perez thanked the audience for giving the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security feedback on airport safety protocols, producing more effective measures that used "a scalpel, not a meat ax" to identify threats and emphasizing the need to protect civil rights:
I talked about reflection and recalibration and let me give you two examples of the need for continuing reflection and recalibration. You may recall the Christmas Day attempted bombing on the airplane. And you will recall the aftermath of that bombing in which certain protocols were put in place that made categorical targeting, that is to say, individuals from certain countries, were categorically being asked a series of additional questions. What did we hear in the aftermath of that? We heard a lot of feedback from people in this room and leaders across the country that we could do a better job. That we should be using a scalpel, not a meat ax. And that we should reconsider what's happening.
And a few months later, as you know, and thanks to you, we did just that. And the Department of Homeland Security recalibrated what it was doing, and I think as a result, it was a more effective mechanism. Because once again, we must always remember, as Jim Cole told us this morning: Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's either safe streets, secure borders, and secure communities or protection of civil rights and civil liberties. It will always be both. [Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 10/19/11, via Media Matters]