First, the Justice Department began targeting them with “Operation Choke Point.” Now a new non-profit group is fighting back.
The new group, the United States Consumer Coalition (USCC), has launched a “whistleblower website” asking for the secretive program’s victims to tell their story.
The site will “give anybody and everybody an opportunity to bring light to this dangerous threat to consumer choice nation wide,” USCC executive director Thomas Bezas said in an interview.
The new website describes Operation Choke Point as “a U.S. government program responsible for ending banking relationships with private-sector companies and their customers.”
Industry advocates say DOJ has instructed banks that targeted sectors, including gun stores, are “high risk,” leaving the banks liable for stricter financial regulations. The warnings have prompted many banks to drop customers with good credit histories, depriving them of access to cash.
One gun manufacturer has even launched its own bank to provide financing for industries targeted by the program, according to the Washington Times, which published an extensive story about the matter Sunday.
The DOJ has said its efforts are focused on combating fraud. “We’re committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of these honest merchants,” DOJ said in a May 7 blog post.
Bezas begs to differ. “Operation Choke Point represents the greatest threat to consumer choice in America’s history. This initiative of the Administration is a direct assault on the foundations of our democracy, personal freedom to make our own decisions, and the free market. It disregards the authority of Congress and principles of accountability, transparency, and due process,” he said.
On January 8, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to the Department of Justice requiring the delivery to the committee of all federal documents related to Operation Choke Point by January 22. Issa’s office did not answer inquiries about whether the agency had provided documents pursuant to the request.