President Barack Obama is reportedly ready to nominate Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to become the next Secretary of the Department of Labor. Issues from Perez’s involvement with DOJ’s decision to dismiss the Bush administration’s case against three New Black Panther Party members, to his political activism as chief of the department’s civil rights division are now resurfacing.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, accused Perez of engaging in political activism within the DOJ after Perez gave remarks to a National Council of La Raza (NCLR) luncheon in July of 2011.
The Assistant Attorney General has had a close relationship with the pro-amnesty organization for a number of years. and the Obama administration has expressed gratitude for NCLR’s support during the president’s campaigns. In fact, by June of 2011, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that NCLR funding had skyrocketed via taxpayer dollars after President Obama hired its senior vice president Celia Muñoz in 2009 to be his director of intergovernmental affairs. According to Judicial Watch, NCLR’s cash flow more than doubled the year Muñoz joined the administration, from $4.1 million to $11 million
“You are all change agents–serial activists and I am confident that we will move America forward and we will create an America of opportunity–an opportunity for everyone,” Perez told the NCLR audience.
Mr. Perez added that while he was proud of the organization’s work in different communities, he stated, “It’s undeniable that what else we see out there in America is an absolute headwind of intolerance and it’s a headwind of intolerance that has been manifested in many different ways shapes and forms.”
Issa was unimpressed, saying, “That’s what concerns me about his speech–if that’s what he’s looking for is to be a fair arbitrator of what’s wrong. The Bush administration was very strong in the same area that they picked up civil rights cases where they saw things wrong and they should.”
Issa explained: “The activism, in other words, encouraging a group to push the limit to somehow saying that there’s injustice there is inappropriate.”
Issa added that Perez shouldn’t have been “lobbying that there’s injustice. He should be looking for it and be an honest arbitrator when [he] finds it.”
Perez told the La Raza audience that the country must have vigorous enforcement of the Constitution and vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and was appreciative of the president’s leadership and understanding that the DOJ needed to have that “resource infusion in order to carry out its program of restoration and transformation. That’s what its about. But we can’t prosecute our way out of these challenges.”
“Prosecutions alone will not be enough. Although I will note, that we will use every–we will continue to use every tool in our law enforcement arsenal to root out hate crimes to ensure opportunity in all of the areas that I have discussed, ” he said, adding, “But that’s why your role is so important, because we need a comprehensive program of effective prosecution and enforcement but we also need programs of prevention–programs of education. We need as Ted Kennedy taught me, to build coalitions.”
Perez noted in his remarks that DOJ received the largest increase in the division’s history at the beginning of the President’s term, saying the administration inherited a DOJ civil rights division. Perez’s civil right’s division later used the resources to help file lawsuits against states that passed voter ID laws, that labor unions and other liberal interest groups rallied against.