- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A serious clash may be looming between the Department of Justice and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission about the department’s dismissal of a voter-intimidation case against agents of the New Black Panther Party. The commission — not Justice — is on the side of the just.

Charges had been filed against two Black Panthers, national Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, and the party as a whole after the two Panthers were videotaped outside a Philadelphia polling place in paramilitary garb. One of them was brandishing a night stick, while they reportedly made racially inflammatory remarks. The case was already effectively won, by default judgment, when Obama appointees at Justice suddenly dropped three of the four charges and penalized the final one with what amounted to a laughable tickle on the wrist.

After months of stonewalling letters of protest from Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, and the Civil Rights Commission, the Justice Department late last month opened an internal investigation to look into how the case was handled. The investigation is under the auspices of the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. But the mandate of this office is a narrow one of prosecutorial ethics. The commission, on the other hand, is asking broader questions about Justice’s underlying policy choices that the Office of Professional Responsibility is not equipped to consider. Worse, the office reports up the line to the same political team led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that made the bad decision in the first place. That’s like asking the warden to investigate the sheriff who controls the warden’s job.

It gets worse still. Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, charges that the Office of Professional Responsibility is filled with “liberal and partisan” attorneys unwilling to buck the Obama administration. Leading the investigation, wrote Mr. Spakovsky at National Review Online, “is a career lawyer named Mary Aubry. Despite her modest government salary, Ms. Aubry contributed $3,850 to Mr. Obama’s campaign and victory fund, not to mention the $2,500 she has given to the [Democratic National Committee] or the $1,000 she gave to Hillary Rodham Clinton.” That hardly sounds like an unbiased investigator.

The Civil Rights Commission has commissioned a yearlong study into the suspicious dismissal of the Black Panther case. The federal law creating the commission states, “All Federal agencies shall fully cooperate with the Commission.” Yet Portia Robinson, the Justice Department’s intergovernmental liaison, finally wrote on Sept. 9 in answer to the commission’s inquiries that “the department will not provide further response until [the Office of Professional Responsibility] review is complete.”

That is not cooperation. There is no legal reason for the internal investigation to preclude the department’s broad cooperation with the Civil Rights Commission. Mr. Holder’s minions appear to be using the Office of Professional Responsibility less as a spade to unearth the reasons for the absurd dismissal of the Panther case than as a shield to block the commission’s own digging.

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