Opinion

Op-Ed: Perez the wrong pick for Labor secretary

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Senators of both parties should be reluctant to confirm nominee Thomas E. Perez as Labor secretary because he has provided inaccurate testimony under oath.

The explosive report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz details the existence of an open and toxic hostility inside the DOJ toward bringing voting rights cases to protect white victims of discrimination. When Perez testified before the Civil Rights Commission in May 2010, he denied he had ever heard of any such hostility. His testimony was false.

We should know. We detailed this problem to Perez in his office the day before his testimony. We described the long and detailed history of hostility by many DOJ employees toward race-neutral enforcement of the voting rights laws if the victims of discrimination were white.

Yet when Perez was pressed by Civil Rights Commission member Todd Gaziano on whether he was aware of such rancid attitudes toward protecting white victims, he replied: "We don't have people of that ilk, sir." Perez knew that wasn't true. The inspector general's report documents people "of that ilk," stacked from top to bottom at the Civil Rights Division, most still working there.

The report reveals that even Perez is "of that ilk."

Perez told the inspector general that he does not believe Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be enforced to protect white victims of race discrimination, even if they live in majority-minority jurisdictions. Perez's racially selective view is in direct conflict with the statutory language of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination against "any citizen," and is not limited to national racial minorities.

Perez's views are not driven by a concern for what the law says, but by his leftist, race-preferential views on civil rights enforcement. The report also shamefully reveals Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., is of the same ilk as Tom Perez.

Because of our expressed desire to protect all victims of discrimination -- not just traditional national racial minorities -- a prolonged and retaliatory effort was made to remove the Op-Ed writer Coates from his position as chief of the Voting Section -- an effort which even included Holder himself.

Horowitz's report documents a platoon of Obama administration political appointees gathering with Holder in 2009 to complain about our willingness to protect white victims of discrimination. Holder acquiesced in targeting Coates for removal, simply because he was willing to enforce civil rights laws to protect whites.

Never mind that we both had a long successful record of protecting black voters, including Coates' 40 years of representing minorities in civil rights cases, both in private practice and as a DOJ and ACLU staff attorney.

Imagine it -- a group of Obama political appointees griping to the attorney general that we were willing to protect white voters. What's even more outlandish is that Holder gave his assent to carry out their retaliatory and racialist demand to remove Coates from his position as chief of the voting section as they saw fit.

Holder should have instead blocked them and reminded them that all Americans deserve equal protection of the law.

Before voting on Perez, every senator should read the inspector general's report detailing the dysfunction inside his Civil Rights Division. They should also read about his resistance to the recommendations contained in the report.

There are many reasons to oppose Perez's confirmation. His contempt for Supreme Court precedent involving race based hiring, his refusal to enforce the law equally and his failed attack on South Carolina's voter identification laws should be enough. But his lack of candor under oath makes him especially unqualified for elevation to Labor secretary.

Christopher Coates served as voting section chief in the Department of Justice and is an attorney in South Carolina. J. Christian Adams is the author of Injustice (Regnery, 2011) and also served as an attorney in the Voting Section. The authors brought the case against the New Black Panther Party in 2009.

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