Civil Rights Commissioner: Racial Bias Has "Infected Policymaking" In Obama Administration

April 25, 2011 4:45 pm ET — Brian Powell

In an op-ed in the National Review Online last week, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow accuses President Obama's administration of being "racialist" while recycling tired, disproven, and out-of-context myths about Pigford, the phony New Black Panther Party scandal, and other cherry-picked allegations of misconduct. Kirsanow contends that "racial and ethnic preferences/selectivity appears to have infected policymaking at a variety of levels within this administration." He goes on to list a series of bogus and inflammatory claims that he believes support his conclusion:

  • The administration is in the process of paying settlements to black farmers allegedly denied loans by the USDA between 1983 and 1997 (Pigford v. Glickman). The administration has diluted the standard for qualifying for settlement payments to the level of absurdity. How absurd? There are now more than 90,000 claimants seeking compensation of at least $50,000 (one settlement alone was for $13,000,000; more than $2,250,000,000 will be paid out). The problem is that between 1983 and 1997 there were nowhere near 90,000 black farmers in the entire U.S. In fact, the USDA says that in 1997 there were only 18,500.

Kirsanow's misleading bullet follows the lead of the conservative Washington Times, which suggested that a discrepancy between the number of claimants and the number of black farmers is prima facie evidence of a scam.

However, Kirsanow's numbers are based on a census that did not include many farmers who worked on farms operated by multiple individuals, eligible claimants who attempted to farm, or the estates of deceased farmers who were eligible for the settlement but died before the census took place.

Kirsanow also obfuscates the truth about the settlement process. Settlements for greater than $50,000 require a very strict standard of proof. Kirsanow's wording implies that settlements will be for millions of dollars each. Media Matters points out that there has only been one settlement for greater than $675,000, and it was based on a finding that the treatment of the black farmers involved was like a "feudal baron's" treatment of serfs.

Kirsanow's next bullet addresses the phony New Black Panther Party scandal:

  • DOJ dismissed a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against two members of the New Black Panther Party. Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that this wouldn't have happened if the defendants had been white.

Kirsanow ignores the fact that an injunction was obtained against the weapon-brandishing member of the New Black Panther Party, and that it was the Bush DOJ that dismissed the criminal charges against the NBPP members. His "circumstantial evidence" isn't cited, but is probably nothing more than the testimony of J. Christian Adams and Christopher Coates. Coates and Adams are former DOJ attorneys hired during the politicization of the Bush era. Coates, whom the right has described as "a true member of the team," and Adams, who is now a scandal-pusher for the right-wing outlet Pajamas Media, are hardly credible sources.

Most importantly, however, Kirsanow ignores the recent report by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, which concluded that "department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment."

Most of Kirsanow's other allegations are simply regurgitations of uncorroborated partisan accusations against the President or his administration:

  • As Andy McCarthy noted a couple of days ago, there are allegations that political appointees within the Department of Justice quashed indictments against certain co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist-funding case in order to promote "Muslim outreach." [...]
  • Unlawful racial preferences appear in proposed regulations published in the Federal Register on almost a weekly basis.
  • The uncontroverted testimony of two whistleblowers within DOJ shows that the administration has enunciated a policy and tolerates a practice of enforcing voting-rights laws in a racially discriminatory manner.
  • Unlawful racial preferences are embedded in multiple pieces of legislation promoted by the administration, ranging from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank.

McCarthy's "allegations" come from Patrick Poole, a contributor to notorious right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart's Kirsanow's "whistleblowers" are the aforementioned right-wing activists Coates and Adams, and Kirsanow doesn't even bother to cite evidence for his final two accusations.

Kirsanow, who once said that "diversity" is a "feel-good term," concludes his op-ed by accusing the administration of "casually engag[ing] in racial/ethnic discrimination" and calling for Congress and the courts to scrutinize the president's actions.

Unfortunately, in the absence of personal responsibility, it will be up to the average reader and various watchdog groups to scrutinize the reckless words and allegations thrown about by people like Kirsanow.