When we last left the saga of the Obama administration’s dismissal of the default judgment in the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case, the Justice Department had finally consented to an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility while the independent U.S. Civil Rights Commission had decided to embark on a comprehensive study and produce a report on the decision and its implications for voting-rights policy. Attorney General Eric Holder to date has stiffed the commission—first ignoring its inquiries and then citing the OPR investigation as reason not to cooperate.
Rep. Frank Wolf, who was instrumental in raising the profile of the case and in demanding an explanation for the dismissal, isn’t satisfied. A spokesman in his office, Dan Scandling, explained to me that Wolf continues to press forward for a congressional hearing to get to the bottom of the issue. As for the commission, Scandling explains, “He’s very supportive of what the Commission is doing.” An excuse that the Justice Department need not cooperate with commission because an internal review is going on, Wolf believes, is “ridiculous.” Scandling explains, “You can’t hide behind that particularly here when the Commission has separate statutory authority and subpoena power.” He notes that the decision as to how to respond to the Justice Department’s stonewalling rests with the commission, but Wolf, for one, isn’t buying the notion that the Justice Department can prevent any independent inquiry.
Other lawmakers, I am informed, are also unsatisfied with the Justice Department’s effort to, in effect, sweep this under the rug by delegating OPR to review the department’s conduct. Stay tuned. The New Black Panther case is not buried yet.