Commentary Magazine


Wolf vs. Holder

Rep. Frank Wolf took to the floor of the House today in response to the letter sent to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. He described the decision to dismiss an obvious case of voter intimidation:

This inexplicable dismissal came over the objections of the career attorneys on the trial team as well as the department’s own appeal office, which advised that the complaint was “sufficient to support the injunctions” sought by the career lawyers, and that “the government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters.”

Despite this guidance urging that the department pursue a judgment in the case, it was dismissed in May over the career attorneys’ objections.

However, this unjustified dismissal has not gone unnoticed. I have worked with Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith to demand answers from Attorney General Holder. I am pleased that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has also taken note of this case. The commission has an important special statutory responsibility to “investigate voting rights deprivations and make appraisals of federal policies to enforce federal voting rights laws.”

He then explained the stonewalling that has taken place and called on Holder to respond to the commission’s requests, as he is obligated to:

Congress instilled this independent oversight responsibility of the commission in statute: “All Federal agencies shall fully cooperate with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties.” This includes the authority to subpoena witnesses with regard to cases of interest.

The commission has written Attorney General Holder on June 16, June 22, and August 10 requesting answers on the dismissal of this case. It also voted at its September meeting to make its review of this case the primary focus of its 2009 independent report. Earlier today, the commission sent a fourth letter to Attorney General Holder—which I submit for the record—reiterating its requests for information and asking him to respond no later than October 14—or it will proceed with an investigation using its own statutory authorities.

I applaud the commission’s efforts to investigate this unexplained dismissal, which would have serious and dangerous consequences for future voter intimidation enforcement.

I call on Attorney General Holder to answer the questions posed in my letters—dated June 8, July 17, July 22, and July 31—as well as comply with the commission’s request for information so it may complete its report, as required by its statutory authority.

Over to you, Mr. Attorney General. Stonewall or not?