WASHINGTON, D.C., April 18, 2013 (Heritage Foundation) – The president has a right to nominate cabinet secretaries who share his political views. He does not have a right to appoint unqualified cabinet secretaries. The Senate should critically examine Thomas Perez’s nomination for Secretary of Labor. He has a record of selective law enforcement, questionable judgment, and bad management. Americans need much better in the Department of Labor.
Perez heads the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division. The DOJ Inspector General (IG) recently released a 300-page report finding examining the Civil Rights Division’s operations. It paints an ugly picture of Perez’s leadership.
The IG found a Civil Rights Division whose staff formed “Cyber-gangs” for the self-described purpose of “cyber-bullying” colleagues online, and who also harassed colleagues for their religious or political beliefs. Under Perez’s leadership, these “cyber-bullies” kept their jobs and continued to handle sensitive matters.
Perez also politicized his division’s career civil service. Every attorney hired at the Civil Rights Division after 2009 has a background in left-wing activism, Perez did not hire one moderate, non-ideological, or conservative applicant.
Beyond bad management, Perez has a history of only enforcing laws he agrees with. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act prevents states or localities from passing laws that impede the voting rights of minorities. His Civil Rights Division told the Inspector General these protections do not apply to white voters when they are in the minority. (See the IG report, pages 89-90.) Perez selectively enforced voting rights based on the color of the victim’s skin.
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Perez also ignored Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to purge ineligible (or dead) voters from their rolls to prevent fraud. Perez’s Civil Rights Division overruled career staff recommendations to investigate states not complying with Section 8. The IG reported one of Perez’s deputies telling staff she “did not care about” Section 8. Perez has not demonstrated the willingness to enforce the laws Congress writes.
Equally problematic, Perez uses frivolous charges to pursue a political agenda. Perez’s division charged Mary Susan Pine for allegedly blocking access to an abortion clinic. Perez had virtually no evidence supporting these charges, and the federal judge summarily dismissed the case and ordered the division to reimburse Ms. Pine’s legal fees. The judge concluded:
The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and [the clinic], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.… [T]he Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place.
Perez also brought frivolous challenges to South Carolina’s new voter ID law. Career staff recommended the division grant preclearance to the law, but Perez’s deputies overruled them and sued the state. Courts again ruled that Perez was out of line. This bad judgment also cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Federal officers should not waste tax dollars on weak cases to further their political agenda.
The Secretary of Labor is tasked with upholding America’s labor laws. Mr. Perez’s record suggests he may have a challenging time with that task.
This article originally appeared on the Heritage Foundation and is reprinted with permission.