A Justice Department spokeswoman is hitting back at allegations made today at a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther Party Case that the department is politicizing the enforcement of voting rights laws.
“[T]his so-called investigation is thin on facts and evidence and thick on rhetoric,” Tracy Schmaler, a DOJ spokeswoman told TPMMuckraker in an e-mail. She added it was important to place Coates’ testimony in the context of the “politicization that occurred in the Civil Rights Division in the previous administration.”
Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section, charged that under Attorney General Eric Holder there is a “hostility in the Civil Rights Division (CRD) and Voting Section toward the equal enforcement of some of the federal voting laws.”
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is controlled by Republican appointees. But one George W. Bush appointee, Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom, has said the investigation was driven by her colleagues’ fantasies of using the issue to topple Holder and the Obama administration.
Here’s Schmaler’s statement:
“As even one Republican member of the commission has acknowledged, this so-called investigation is thin on facts and evidence and thick on rhetoric.
“The Department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved. We are committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation. We continue to work with voters, communities, and local law enforcement to ensure that Americans can vote free from intimidation, coercion or threats.
“Let’s not forget the context in which these allegations are being made. The politicization that occurred in the Civil Rights Division in the previous administration has been well documented by the Inspector General, and it was a disgrace to the great history of the division. We have changed that. We have reinvigorated the Civil Rights Division and ensured that it is actively enforcing the American people’s civil rights, and it is clear that not everyone supports that. We are committed to enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws, and we are going to continue to do so without respect to politics.”
Coates’ full testimony is available here.