The see-no-evil, do-nothing Justice Department

Worse than a hypocrite is a hypocrite in government office. President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice has plenty of hypocrites. Nowhere are they more apparent than when they attack the voting-rights record of President George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez has become the department’s lead bamboozler. “During the prior administration, civil rights was closed for business,” he told a Pittsburgh crowd last week.

Attorney General Eric Holder now travels the country trumpeting a phony “reopening” of civil rights enforcement. Perez speaks dreamily of “restoration and transformation” of the Civil Rights Division.

But after two years in power, the Obama administration has been pitifully inactive enforcing voting rights.

During his presidential campaign, Obama bewailed the number of vote-dilution lawsuits filed by the Bush DOJ under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to protect racial minorities. Yet how many lawsuits has his DOJ brought? One.

Even the investigation of that single case, which I personally filed in March 2009, was approved during the last year of the Bush administration.

When it comes to protecting racial minorities under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Perez-run division has been on a two-year hiatus.

The Bush administration, in contrast, aggressively brought Section 2 cases against the Euclid, Ohio, City Council and school boards in Euclid, Georgetown, S.C., Osceola County, Fla., and Port Chester, N.Y., among other places.

The contrast between the Bush and Obama departments is more dramatic when enforcing the foreign-language provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In some parts of the country, ballots must be in Spanish, Chinese or Vietnamese under federal law. The Bush administration brought 27 lawsuits to protect language minorities.

The Obama DOJ has brought only three foreign-language voting lawsuits. And all three were started during the Bush DOJ.

The Bush administration filed 10 cases to enforce the voter-assistance requirements of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. Only one such case had ever been filed by any prior administration, and the Obama DOJ has filed nary a one.

But while the lawsuit numbers are low, the rank politicization is sky high.

Take Middlesex County, N.J. The Obama DOJ rejected a lawsuit to protect Spanish voters in Middlesex even though, for two decades, the county completely failed to comply with federal law.

Perhaps the Obama DOJ is just setting sail and it deserves more time to get its sea legs? Wrong.

In the first two years of the Bush administration, seven cases were brought to protect the voting rights of racial or language minorities. During the same time frame, Obama’s DOJ has brought just four lawsuits.

Teddy Roosevelt called hypocrisy “a particularly revolting vice.” It is doubly so when the hypocrisy involves presidential campaign rhetoric fused with racial invective.

Instead of bringing voting-rights cases, the voting section is busy dismissing them. The New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case and a lawsuit against Missouri for dead voters on the rolls were both spiked by the DOJ.

Though accomplishing next to nothing, the voting section has added dozens of new attorneys and support staff. But, according to multiple sources, they watch movies, surf the Web and read novels behind closed doors.

Other work-starved employees have adopted banker’s hours, or a Ferris Bueller-style attitude toward showing up at all. Offices and desks sit empty throughout the day.

Perez of the Civil Rights Division recently told the American Constitution Society, “As we rebuild our ranks, we will be smarter and work more efficiently to ensure that we maximize our new resources. We will hold people accountable.”

Sure he will. Either Perez suffers from that “particularly revolting vice,” or an acute detachment from the reality of what is happening in his own office.

J. Christian Adams is an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the Department of Justice. His website is www.electionlawcenter.com.

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