Over five -and-a-half years, Attorney General Eric Holder has politicized the Justice Department in ways never seen before, and the department’s external and internal actions are establishing a pattern of using the law to achieve political ends and taking cronyism to a new level, according to a scathing book on Holder’s tenure.
In addition to chronicling Holder’s personal and professional drift to the left and how that ideology manifests itself in his approach to justice, “Obama’s Enforcer” by Hans von Spakovsky and John Fund also offers a detailed look into some of the most explosive controversies of the Holder era.
Just days after taking office in 2009, Holder labeled the U.S. a “nation of cowards” for not having a more frank national discussion on race. Fund and von Spakovsky contend Holder is blatantly engaging on racial bias, most notably on voting laws such as his fight against any state laws requiring voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot.
“They’re clearly waging a war on election integrity. I have come to the belief that they really seem to think that any kind of measures that would make fraud harder to commit or might dissuade or deter people who are not U.S. citizens from voting, all of that might hurt the Democratic Party. I think that’s one of the reasons they are doing that,” said von Spakovsky, who says Holder makes it very clear he views civil rights as a one-way street.
“There’s an inspector general’s report that was released last year about the mismanagement of the civil rights division. They did interview Eric Holder about that. It’s very clear that he does not believe in the race-neutral enforcement of federal discrimination and voting laws. I find that appalling in the chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” said von Spakovsky, who is himself a former Justice Department official.
He says Holder’s philosophy is not only evident in the policies he pursues but in the cases he chooses not to prosecute.
“I know a case of almost 300 non-citizens who were registering and voting in Virginia. That information was sent to the Holder Justice Department, which refused to do anything about it, despite the fact that it’s a federal felony to engage in that type of behavior,” he said.
In addition to picking and choosing which cases to take up, the authors allege Holder is also fostering a hostile atmosphere within the civil rights division toward anyone not marching in lockstep with his political agenda. They say it’s an accusation the inspector general documented in his report.
“It documents the extensive bullying and intimidation of anyone perceived to be a conservative. This is done by other liberal, career lawyers and it has been approved of by the Obama political appointees who refuse to do anything about it,” said von Spakovsky.
Part of the problem, he says, is the track record of Holder packing the Justice Department with political allies as quickly as possible.
“This administration has bent and broken federal rules on hiring to put political cronies of the president and his party into career positions as well as hiring almost exclusively from liberal advocacy organizations,” said von Spakovsky, who says clearing out the bullies and the political operatives from these key positions is much harder to do than most people realize.
“The rules governing career positions are extremely strict and firing someone is very, very difficult. This administration has shown it has no interest in firing or disciplining liberal career folks who engage in this kind of behavior. One particular employee who is still in the civil rights division actually committed perjury by lying to the inspector general’s investigators when they were looking at the problems in the civil rights division. She was neither disciplined nor terminated for committing perjury. In fact, she was treated as a hero by the Obama folks who were there,” said von Spakovsky.
Fund and von Spakovsky say Holder’s approach to racial issues also extends to mass fraud and fleecing American taxpayers to further an agenda, seen most clearly they say in the Pigford case.
In 1997, a black North Carolina farmer named Timothy Pigford sued the Department of Agriculture, alleging that he had been discriminated against in the pursuit of a federal loan. Two years later, a judge turned it into a class action suit and any black farmer could join the lawsuit.
“A claims process was set up in which you would automatically get $50,000 if you simply filled out a form that said you had attempted to farm. That generated huge numbers of claims that were all paid off without question. The estimates are that 80-90 percent of the claims were fraudulent,” said von Spakovsky.
The payouts continued throughout the Bush administration, and von Spakovsky says the Obama administration doubled down on the fraud.
“A second lawsuit was filed in the Obama administration, this one adding Hispanics, women and Indian farmers. It was very clear that this was a bogus lawsuit. There was no evidence that these groups had been discriminated against. The line lawyers at the Justice Department said there was no evidence here. They could easily win this suit. They were overridden by the White House,” he said.
“There was a meeting called at the White House of these lawyers. They were told this would be settled. It would be paid off. It was very clear the White House wanted to use these taxpayer funds to make payments to these groups that they considered to be political supporters and constituents of the president and the Democratic Party,” said von Spakovsky.
Beyond the disturbing changes Fund and von Spakovsky see at the Justice Department, they say rolling back these efforts will be next to impossible, even with different leaders in place.
“This president has gotten exactly the attorney general he has wanted. It’s going to take a new attorney general, someone with very high ethical and professional standards, to try to turn around the Justice Department and clean up what has happened. But they’re going to have a very hard time doing that because there will be many entrenched career lawyers there, people hired by this administration who will be doing everything they can to stop and fight any attempt to clean things up,” said von Spakovsky.