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All bets off: "Star" Witness in New Black Panther Investigation Falters

08/04/2010 11:29 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights -- scratch that -- the right-wing majority of the Commission -- investigation into the so-called New Black Panther Party contretemps at the Department of Justice has hit a speed bump. Or, more aptly, given itself a self-inflicted wound. As you may know, the Commission's star (and in essence, only) "witness" in the investigation is J. Christian Adams, a recently-exited DoJ attorney hired during the Bush years, who testified before the Commission last month and has been running around the conservative talk show circuit touting his theory that the Department of Justice is using a racial double standard to only enforce the voting rights of blacks and not whites.

Well, Mr. Adams may have a lot of 'splaining to do.

The first public hiccup in Mr. Adams' carefully manicured veneer occurred when he began leveling charges at the Obama Administration regarding provisions of an Act of Congress that enables overseas soldiers to vote. Called the MOVE Act, Adams said that DoJ "isn't interested in enforcing the law." But when pressed for an interview with TPM Muckraker, Adams now says that he never meant to say the Obama administration was intentionally disenfranchising overseas troops. Of course not. His references to "closed door decisions" and "lack of aggressive enforcement" have no charged meaning against the Administration at all. Right.

But the second, and more damning torpedo, comes from Adam's own testimony before the Commission. Adams, who has staked his second career as a blogger and conservative gadfly, made headlining accusations against his former employer, saying that DoJ has admitted to a policy position that no prosecutions will be brought for violations of the voting rights by black and other minorities -- in other words, no voter protection for whites. Adams could point to no corroborating witness that DoJ had adopted such a policy. He did, however, state, unequivocally that proof of intent not to enforce voting rights for whites would be evidenced by a failure of the Justice Department to object to new filings in the Noxubee case, which involved a black individual and his organization working to suppress and interfere with white votes in Noxubee, Mississippi. Noxubee was decided during the Bush Administration, and was the first prosecuted case of black-on-white voting rights infringement. Noxubee involved a black local Democratic party chairman, Ike Brown, who, in a predominantly black community, worked to deny the voting rights of the white minority (about 30% of the population) who resided there. In a court trial, a U.S. District Court found Brown and his cohorts in violation of the Voting Rights Act by disenfranching white voters. In 2007, a court order was issued enjoining Brown et al. from their illegal acts and established procedures for monitoring and ensuring elections were conducted fairly.

Adams spun his conspiratorial scenario thusly in his testimony:

"This is [a submission] from Noxubee County, Mississippi, the place where Ike Brown was found to have discriminated against the rights of white voters in 2007. This submission is asking the Department to approve Mr. Brown's right to block [white] voters from voting. . . . Well, right now, we'll know by July 14th of this year [2010] whether or not what I'm saying is accurate about the Department, because this submission should be objected to. The Department should take the ruling in the U.S. v. Brown case and lodge an objection to this. But I'll bet you that's not what's going to happen. And everyone's going to be able to see that they're not going to object to something they should be objecting to . . . because the Department doesn't want to . . . protect white voters."

Adams lost his bet. On July 13, 2010, DoJ filed a motion for expanded relief, which sought to prevent Ike Brown and his cohorts from implementing their plan and further required them to go through proper channels for submission of any changes, and extended the court order against Brown through 2013. White voters are explicitly protected, and any attempts to shortcut procedures under the Voting Rights Act were shut down.

It appears that Adams likes to create smoke without any usage of fire. DoJ fired off a point-by-point rebuttal of Adams' charges. More significantly, he was taken to task by the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the franchise for overseas military and civilian Americans.In an email, the organization's president said, in essence, that she hoped that commentators and reporters will more deeply examine and report the actual facts of MOVE . She concluded that "All Americans deserve to know that their government officials at all levels and across party lines are seeking to achieve far broader military and civilian overseas voting than has ever occurred previously."

See a pattern here?

Adams has attempted to dance around being called on his dare by the Justice Department by stating that the DoJ filing is simply to prevent Ike Brown from making "any more inconvenient submissions to the Obama Justice Department which might reveal the hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." The fact is, as experienced voting rights attorney knows, filings under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which was at issue here) has specific procedural requirements for preclearance submissions, and Ike Brown's ability to unilaterally present his misguided case is not one of them. If the County Referee, charged by the U.S. District Court with deciding and submitting these issues, presents Brown's plan to Justice, Justice will be required to review -- hardly the "inconvenience" suggested by Adams. And, regardless, Justice took the extra aggressive step of preemptively striking against Ike Brown's plan in spite of its procedural failure, specifically referencing its negative impact on white voters. So Adams' argument, and supporting facts, fall flat -- once again.

I have repeatedly stated throughout the so-called "investigation" by the Commission that there are no corroborating facts and evidence to sustain Adams' allegations. There is certainly no independent evidence -- such as Adams was praying for in the Noxubee filing -- that there is any "anti-white" voting rights position by DoJ, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. Not that I expect my colleagues to take off their red blinders at any point soon.

It is a time to call the New Black Panther Party investigation what it is: a right-wing politics-driven witch hunt, filled with sketchy testimony by people with an axe to grind against the Obama Administration, and where innuendo, mischaracterizations, and outright lies have replaced truth and common sense. It is cynical election-year politics, an attempt to inject race, to Willie Hortonize a mid-term election that is seen as a referendum on our first African American President. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, of all organizations, should not be an accomplice to such partisan calumny.