The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee rejected a proposal by the ranking Republican asking the Justice Department to explain why it had dismissed a voter-intimidation claim against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia during the last general election.
Rep. Frank Wolk (R-Va.) had taken up a cause trumpeted by fellow Republicans, demanding the rationale behind the dismissal of a lawsuit protesting the Panthers’ actions at a predominantly Black polling station in November 2008.
On Election Day, the suit alleged, two members of the Panther Party, garbed in military-style attire, stood watch over the activities at the heavily Democratic precinct.
Republican Party-hired videographer taped the incident and uploaded it to YouTube. In January, the conservative-dominated U.S. Civil Rights Commission filed a civil lawsuit against the Panther’s president, Malik Shabazz, and his Washington, D.C.-based party, alleging voter intimidation.
While no actual voters complained – White Republican poll watchers demanded an investigation. A lawyer with the Civil Rights Division, known for his conservative advocacy work, prepared the lawsuit.
Four months later, after the Panthers failed to contest the suit, the Justice Department dismissed most of the charges.
Conservatives were outraged, with Reps. Wolf and Smith asking the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate whether politics played a role in the decision to dismiss the case.
Last Monday, the House Judiciary Committee voted against Wolf’s measure in a 15-14 party-line vote.
“I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote. There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice,” Wolf said in a written statement.
“The Justice Department has gone as far as to claim ‘privilege’ and redact seven pages of a letter that I sent to the attorney general and released publicly on July 31, 2009,” Wolf continued. “It failed to provide the commission with many of my other letters that it said it was prepared to share. I sincerely question the judgment of the Civil Rights Division leadership — both in its dismissal of this case and its stonewalling of this Congress and the Commission on Civil Rights.”