Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5 Things You Won't See Prosecuted By a Romney Justice Department

Every 4 years we have a nation-wide general election in this country to decide who the next President will be.  Ironically, when we only focus on the individuals running for office we lose sight of the most important aspect of any presidential election: presidential appointments.  In the wake of Citizens United and the recent Obamacare ruling, even the most uninformed American voter finally began to see how important it is for a president to appoint the "right" people to the Supreme Court.  But there's another appointment that is just as critical:  the Attorney General.

The U.S. Attorney General heads our nation's Department of Justice.  The Justice Department is effectively the "long arm of the law" for the federal government and is comprised of agencies like the FBI, the ATF, the DEA and the U.S. Marshals in addition to the federal prosecutors who work in the agency known as the U.S. Attorneys Office.  In past years, the Justice Department has concentrated its broad power on problems ranging from the Jim Crow South to meaningless political exploits. Whether the Justice Department uses its power to affect positive social change in America or merely to aggravate the political opponents of a sitting President all depends entirely on which administration appoints the Attorney General.

If a Democrat makes the appointment, chances are the Justice Department will tend to focus on social issues of inequality, racism, sexism, hate crimes, consumer fraud, voter protection, etc.  This stems from a progressive philosophy that the big power structures in our country (state/local governments, corporations, banks, etc.) tend to perpetrate crimes against minorities, women and the poor. Conversely, if a Republican makes the appointment, the Justice Department will tend to focus on imposing harsher sentences for drug or gang-related crimes as well as national security issues like wiretaps and the detention of terrorist suspects.  This stems from a conservative philosophy that the big power structures in our country tend to be on the right side of things and anybody who threatens them must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Having established this context, we can safely predict that the following 5 types of cases would likely never see the light of day under a Romney Justice Department:

#5 - Voter Protection Cases
During the 1960's, many states (primarily in the South) created poll taxes, property ownership requirements and other obstacles in order to keep Blacks from voting.  Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress recognized this problem and passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which outlawed such practices and requires certain states to obtain permission from the Justice Department before they can change their voting laws.  Much to the current Republican party's chagrin, Attorney General Eric Holder has used this law to stop states like South Carolina and Texas from creating voter ID requirements that have a discriminatory effect on minorities.  The GOP views laws like the Voting Rights Act -- and actions like Eric Holder's -- as an infringement upon States' Rights.  According to many Republicans, any time the federal government tells the states what they can and can't do that is a bad thing.  Indeed, Mitt Romney has gone on the record saying:
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction."
- Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, GOP New Hampshire Debate, June 13, 2011
Should Romney be elected President this fall, do not look for his Attorney General to take up the fight for voter protection against the states.

#4 - Consumer Protection Cases
For nearly 2 years, Republicans in Congress consistently blocked the creation of President Obama's Consumer Protection Agency which was spawned from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.  The purpose of the agency is to help everyday consumers get a fair deal from credit card companies, banks, pay-day lenders, student loan lenders, cell phone companies, etc. which have a tendency to prey on the little guy.  As soon as President Obama made the controversial recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the agency in January of 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new consumer protection task force within the Justice Department to prosecute any business entity engaging in shady business practices with the public.  Seeing as how Romney has stated that he will break up the Consumer Protection Agency and repeal Dodd-Frank if elected, do not expect these kinds of cases to be prosecuted by his Attorney General.

#3 - Hate Crimes
Mathew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, and James Byrd, Jr., a Black man in Jasper, Texas, were both killed in their respective states in the fall of 1998.  Shepard was murdered because he was gay; Bryd because he was Black.  However, none of the murderers in either case were ever charged with hate crimes.  This became a national issue during the 2000 presidential election however, the victor, President George W. Bush, stated that he did not believe in hate crime legislation.  Accordingly, the hate crime issue took a back seat in the Justice Department during the 8 years that Bush was President.  In his first year of office, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which increased the Justice Department's ability to prosecute hate crimes around the country.  Under this law, Attorney General Holder has significantly increased the number of federal hate crime prosecutions since the Bush Administration.  In order to task the Justice Department with prosecuting hate crimes one must (1) believe that racism still exists and (2) believe that the federal government should do something about it.  While Romney may not have gone so far as to say racism does not exist, he certainly does not believe that it's the federal government's problem.    

#2 - Cases Against Banks/Wall Street
In case you haven't been keeping score at home, Obama's Justice Department has actually been sending Wall Street bankers to jail who played a part in causing this recession that we're still recovering from.  In addition to that, this Justice Department has forced several of the big banks that engaged in predatory lending during the subprime mortgage era to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars to the American people.  Romney has repeatedly voiced his support for Wall Street and the banking industry and Wall Street has returned the favor.  Although Obama bested McCain during the 2008 election with respect to Wall Street donations, Romney's $37.1 million in financial sector donations this year dwarfs Obama's $4.8 million.  As a former private equity venture capitalist, Romney's deregulation message comports with his position that all business decisions are justified so long as they turn a profit.  Would Mitt's Justice Department make it a priority to send Wall Street bankers to jail or force them to pay back millions of dollars in restitution to the people they've taken advantage of?  Not likely.

#1 - Cases Against Corporations
Have you ever noticed how a guy can get 15 years in prison for robbing a convenience store for $20 bucks but a corporation can rob thousands of people for millions of dollars and nobody ever seems to go to jail or pay back the money?  That's because corporations are difficult to prosecute.  However, that's where the Justice Department's Antitrust Division comes into play.  This is the division that is responsible for going after the "white collar" crimes perpetrated by corporations and their corporate officers.  Under the Obama Administration, the Antitrust Division has been busy kicking ass and taking names.  Per CorruptionCrimeCompliance.com:
Criminal fines in 2009 exceeded $1 billion, dipped to $555 million in 2010, and then in 2011 rose to nearly $1 billion if civil penalties are added in for civil settlements in the municipal bond cartel investigation...The US [Justice Department], however, has one important distinction — criminal prosecution of individuals for antitrust violations.  The Antitrust Division has had some good years in prosecuting individuals, usually convicting 90 percent of charged individuals.  Three-quarters of the convicted individuals are given jail sentences, averaging between 2 and 3 years imprisonment.
Compare and contrast that with the following words of wisdom:
"Corporations are people, my friend."  - Mitt Romney, Des Moines, Iowa, August 11, 2011.
'Nuff said.

Did we get it right?
What laws could you see being prosecuted under a Romney administration?
What laws could you see NOT being prosecuted under a Romney administration?
What crimes should be a priority for the Justice Department? 

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