In the past few weeks, the New Black Panther Party case has re-emerged as a point of focus for the conservative media. Last year, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Decision dismissed most charges in a voter-suppression case against a group of New Black Panther Party members, two of whom were caught on tape by Fox News standing outside a Philadelphia polling place during the 2008 election. One of them, who was brandishing a baton, received an injunction. Conservatives have been using the Department's decision not to pursue further action to accuse the Obama administration of politicizing the Justice Department -- and yes, of hating white people.
The Bush-appointee-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been demanding that the Department make someone from the Division available to explain what happened. While the head of the Division, Thomas Perez, testified months ago, the USCCR has been seeking the testimony of J. Christian Adams, an attorney who once worked on the case. Adams is a conservative activist and blogger whose prior legal experience in voting rights involved blocking potential Democratic voters from access to the polls.
The USCCR's focus on this case -- and Adams' accusation that the
current Civil Rights Division is racist -- are both examples of the
lingering politicization of the Bush years, during which enforcement of civil rights laws languished across the board and the Voting
Rights Section wasted its time on a quixotic crusade
against voter fraud that never bore fruit. The Bush-era appointees who
politicized hiring and enforcement saw themselves as being "fair and balanced" in their approach to safeguarding civil rights -- in particular when it came to protecting disfavored groups, a mission they saw
as inherently racist and politicized.
To understand why the USSCR is still interested in talking to Adams, you need to understand where both the USCCR and Adams are coming from. Adams was hired during a period in which Bush appointees to the Justice Department had removed all safeguards against politicized hiring. This was a period in which, according to a joint report by the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Inspector General's Office, the head of the Civil Rights Division, Bradley Schlozman declared that "lefties," "big libs," or "adherents of Mao’s little red book need not apply” for jobs in his division. Adams, on the other hand, with his Republican bonafides, was what Schlozman would have referred to as a "real American" or "a true member of the team." Having been hired for being conservative, Adams is now using his credibility as a former voting rights lawyer to trash the Civil Rights Division as though he were a merely a concerned whistleblower with no political agenda.
Schlozman was eventually found to have violated civil service laws with his hiring practices, but the Obama administration "looked forward" instead of pursuing charges. On June 4th, Adams resigned from the DoJ so he could appear full time on the conservative media circuit talking about the New Black Panther Party Case.