Justice Dept.: Racial disputes abound in voting section, but no partisan slant

by
March 13, 2013

Deep ideological divisions within the Justice Department’s voting rights section fueled disputes harmful to its operation and often evolved into the harassment of its employees and managers, but there was “insufficient evidence” to show that either the Bush or the Obama administration used the enforcement of voting laws to seek improper partisan advantage, the agency’s inspector general said Tuesday.

The long-awaited report, spawned by the New Black Panther Party voter harassment investigation, was released as Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who oversees the section, is being considered for appointment by President Obama as labor secretary.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s 258-page report outlines concerns by section employees that attorneys could not pursue cases against black defendants for the benefit of white victims, and located emails in which current and former voting section attorneys criticized and mocked Christopher Coates, the section chief, for his work in a discrimination case in Mississippi against a black official who used fraud and lawlessness to discriminate against the white minority.

One email sent to four former voting section attorneys after the Mississippi complaint had been filed referred to Mr. Coates as a “klansman.” Another section employee wrote in an email that those who “fought and died” for the Voting Rights Act were “rolling over in their graves with that perversion of the act … im sorry, but [White people] are NOT covered for a reason.”

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, immediately called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to appoint an outside panel to conduct a review of all officials and correct the systemic dysfunction within the division. He said the report “validates concerns” he first raised in 2009 about the “politicization and inappropriate activities” within the civil rights division, including the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter intimidation case.

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