Perez’s Expected Nomination to Secretary of Labor Demands Scrutiny

Former NLRB member Peter Kirsanow examines the qualifications of the Obama Administrations’ Secretary of Labor nominee.  Here’s the story on National Review Online.

President Obama’s expected nomination of assistant attorney general Thomas Perez to be secretary of labor merits extremely close scrutiny by senators from both parties, for several concerns about Perez’s record as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice transcend partisanship and ideology. Just one of those concerns involves Mr. Perez’s sworn testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

DOJ’s peculiar dismissal of a voting-rights intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) in 2009 was the subject of a more than year-long investigation by the commission. Throughout the investigation, the DOJ insisted that no Obama political appointees were involved in the deliberations resulting in the decision to dismiss a case DOJ had essentially already won; only career attorneys were involved. The DOJ’s insistence on this point culminated with Mr. Perez’s sworn testimony before the commission on May 14, 2010, regarding possible political interference with the case:

Commissioner Kirsanow: Was there any political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case any further than it was?

Asst. Atty. Gen. Perez: No. The decisions were made by [DOJ career attorneys] Loretta King in consultation with Steve Rosenbaum, who is acting deputy assistant attorney general.

The DOJ provided the same responses to members of Congress. The department never departed from that position.

Throughout, the department’s cooperation with the commission’s investigation was, to put it charitably, grudging. This, despite the fact that the DOJ has a statutory obligation to cooperate fully with commission investigations.

The department refused to turn over a number of requested documents, asserting a variety of specious privileges. In response, the commission requested a privilege log, i.e., just a list of those documents DOJ maintained were protected by privilege and therefore not subject to production. The DOJ failed to produce such a log. As a consequence, the commission repeatedly asked Attorney General Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Civil Rights Division’s handling of the NBPP case and its refusal to comply with the commission’s document requests and subpoenas. No such appointment was made.

It wasn’t until a FOIA lawsuit by Judicial Watch that DOJ finally produced a privilege log. The revelations contained in such log were extraordinary. The log identified more than 50 emails between high-level Obama appointees and career attorneys involving “the Government’s decisionmaking process†involving the NBPP case — all in close temporal proximity to the DOJ’s otherwise bewildering decision to drop a case it had already won.