Congressman Frank Wolf Presses AG Holder On Black Panther Voter Intimidation Case - Demands Answers

December 21, 2009 - San Francisco, CA - - As part of a continuing effort to ascertain why Holder's DOJ dismissed the voter intimidation case against the Black Panther Party which took place in Philadelphia during the 2008 November election, Congressman Frank Wolf [R-VA] has announced legislation which would force the House of Representatives to deal with the matter and break the logjam of stonewalling by team Obama on this serious matter.

The legislation was announced on Wednesday and is now in the House Judiciary Committee, where it faces an uncertain future.

Wolf has submitted language in the annual spending bill that funds DOJ forcing its Office of Professional Responsibility to provide the results of the investigation it is conducting surrounding the dismissal the case to the House Appropriations Committee.

In these efforts Wolf has been joined by Rep. Lamar Smith [R - TX], the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

Wolf has petitioned AG Holder six times already demanding answers, so far to no avail.

Rep. Wolf's statement follows:

"I regret that Congress must resort to oversight resolutions as a means to receive information about the dismissal of this case, but the Congress and the American people have a right to know why this case was not prosecuted...

I rise today to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the attorney general to transmit to the House all information relating to the decision to dismiss an important voter intimidation case, United States v. New Black Panther Party. The case sought to enforce Voting Rights Act statutes against members of the New Black Panther Party that threatened Philadelphia voters -- both verbally and physically -- last year.

This case was inexplicably dismissed earlier this year -- over the ardent objections of the career attorneys overseeing the case as well as the department's own appeal office.

I regret that Congress must resort to oversight resolutions as a means to receive information about the dismissal of this case, but the Congress and the American people have a right to know why this case was not prosecuted.

As ranking Republican member of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, I take oversight of the department very seriously.

I also strongly support voting rights protections. In 1981, I was the only member -- Republican or Democrat -- of the Virginia delegation in the House to vote for the Voting Rights Act and was harshly criticized by the editorial page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, and when I supported its reauthorization in 2006, I was criticized again by editorial pages.

Time and again over the last year, the department has stonewalled any effort to learn about the decision to dismiss this case. I have written Attorney General Holder on six occasions asking for an explanation for the dismissal of this case. To date, I have received no response from him.

I wrote the DOJ inspector general to request a review of this decision. He deferred to the Office of Professional Responsibility - which reports directly to the attorney general. I have written the Office of Professional Responsibility seeking information on its investigation. The Office has refused to share any information.

In fact, the only response I have received - from a legislative affairs staffer - was woefully incomplete and - in places - inaccurate.

Two months ago, I met with House Judiciary Chairman Conyers to ask for his assistance in obtaining this information, but he has yet to take any action. This is a shameful failure to provide necessary congressional oversight.

It is not only Congress that is being stonewalled by the attorney general. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has repeatedly sought this same information, in fulfillment of its statutory responsibility to ensure the enforcement of civil rights law.

After being similarly rebuffed, the commission filed subpoenas with the department for this information as well as to interview the career attorneys that handled the case.

However, we understand that the attorney general has instructed his department to ignore these subpoenas. The nation's chief law enforcement officer is forcing these career attorneys to choose between complying with the law and complying with the attorney general's obstruction.

At least one of the attorneys has been compelled to obtain private counsel.

I urge the House Judiciary Committee to report this resolution out favorably and to demand that the attorney general answer the questions surrounding this case. The career attorneys and Appellate Division within the department sought to demonstrate the federal government's commitment to protecting voting rights by vigorously prosecuting any individual or group that seeks to undermine this right.

This House must not turn a blind eye to the attorney general's obstruction. He has an obligation to answer the legitimate questions of the House and the Civil Rights Commission. It is imperative that we protect the right of all Americans to vote -- the sacrosanct and inalienable right of any democracy."

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