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Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez will face a number of questions over the next several days during his confirmation hearings in the Senate. Many of those questions will revolve around recent reports of Mr. Perez’s mismanagement at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as a secret backroom deal he made that cost American taxpayers millions of dollars. The laundry list of his questionable actions continues to grow.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine a report released on March 12 by the Inspector General of DOJ regarding the politicization, polarization, and mismanagement occurring at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice – specifically the Division’s Voting Section. The findings of this report include evidence of inappropriate conduct by political appointees, harassment of employees because of their political views, selective enforcement of voting laws, and misleading testimony by the Division head – Mr. Perez.
This Division is entrusted with protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, and to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status, and national origin. The report, however, describes a Division tainted by partisanship, and unfairly favoring one group over another, both in its enforcement of the laws and in its workplace culture. Any kind of partisan or racial bias undermines the core goals of this Division. One overarching question leaps from this report: with this sort of obvious dysfunction at the Division, what if anything has Mr. Perez done to remedy it?
That’s just the beginning. Just a few days ago, Chairman Issa of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Ranking Member Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a joint staff report on Mr. Perez’s involvement in a secret deal with the City of St. Paul, Minn. that ignored the rule of law and ultimately cost the taxpayers as much as $200 million. This deal blocked Supreme Court review of his Division's controversial legal tactics. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed to abandon an unrelated fraud case worth as much as $200 million taxpayer dollars. Failure to recover these funds is a significant disservice to taxpayers.
Mr. Perez should face tough questions about this backroom deal he helped orchestrate, his role in interfering with a Supreme Court case, and his mismanagement of the Civil Rights Division. With his nomination by President Obama to head the Department of Labor, the American people deserve to know whether Mr. Perez is capable of properly managing a government department and if he has the best interests of the nation in mind. As the Senate begins confirmation hearings, we will continue to investigate this troubling matter, seeking answers for the American people and accountability for Mr. Perez’s questionable management practices.