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Thomas Perez
Thomas Perez
Republicans are upping their attack against Thomas Perez, President Obama's nominee for labor secretary. In a new report,
The GOP lawmakers accuse Perez of misusing his power last year to persuade the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed not to intervene in two whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers. [...]

But Republicans say the deal was dubious, that Perez misled senior officials about his intentions, and that he tried to cover up the true reason for his decision not to intervene in the whistleblower cases.

Luckily, Adam Serwer did a complete explainer on this issue so that when Republicans tried to make it sound all sinister, we'd know what was actually going on. It's like this: slumlords in St. Paul mounted a court case claiming that enforcement of the housing code was in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. To which you most likely say: Huh? The slumlords' contention was that enforcing the housing code on them would put them out of business, which would amount to discrimination against minorities because they would lose their (rat-infested, unsafe) housing. When that argument prevailed in federal court, St. Paul appealed to the Supreme Court, raising concerns that the Roberts Court would use the case to undermine civil rights law. So Tom Perez struck a deal. Under the deal, proposed by St. Paul, not by Perez, the city withdrew the housing case in exchange for the Justice Department staying out of another case.

That's the background. The key is whether Perez handled this in aboveboard fashion. Did he mislead senior officials? Did he try to cover up what was going on here? Serwer:

Shortly after a December 2011 meeting with St. Paul officials, according to a response sent by the Department of Justice to Republican legislators, Perez consulted with the ethics officer in the civil rights division to ensure that the deal, if made, wouldn't violate any conflict-of-interest rules. Next, Perez asked the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office whether the deal would be kosher. Perez was told that it was okay, as long as the person at the head of the department's civil division, which has authority over False Claims Act cases, blessed the arrangement.

According to the Department of Justice, the lead expert on the False Claims Act in the civil division, a career attorney named Michael Hertz, later recommended against joining the Newell case, even though federal attorneys in Minnesota had originally wanted to intervene. Tony West, then the head of the civil division, signed the memo declining to get involved in the Newell case, which noted the deal with St. Paul.

That's the set of actions Republicans would have you believe were a sneaky cover-up of an ethically dubious deal. Asking the ethics officer, the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, and getting sign-off from the head of the civil division based on the recommendation of the False Claims Act expert. Boy, Perez sure does like to take shortcuts, doesn't he? In reality, as opposed to in the Republican portrayal of Perez, the fact that Perez is so careful about dotting his I's and crossing his T's is one of the reasons Republicans are so worked up about him. The fact that he's doing all that dotting and crossing in service of poor and vulnerable people is another big reason they hate him. And, of course, the fact that he's an Obama nominee is reason enough in their book.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 07:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos and LatinoKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is why we need filibuster reform in the (5+ / 0-)


    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 07:33:10 AM PDT

  •  What's really disgusting here (5+ / 0-)

    Is the fact that Slumlords were able to use the fucking Fair Housing Act to actually prevail in court. That's just messed up. The law shouldn't be used like this.

  •  Perez.....sounds hispanic to me.....go for it GOP. (3+ / 0-)
    •  He is U.S. born - parents are Dominican (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AsianAfricanAmerican, eeff
      Thomas Edward Perez was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, to parents Rafael and Grace (née Brache) Perez, who were both first generation Dominican immigrants.[3] His father Rafael, who earned U.S. citizenship after enlisting in the U.S. Army after World War II, worked as a doctor in Atlanta, Georgia before moving to Buffalo where he worked as a physician at a VA hospital.[4] His mother, Grace, who came to the United States in 1930 after her father Rafael Brache, was appointed as the Dominican Republic's Ambassador to the United States, remained in the U.S. after Ambassador Brache was declared persona non grata by his own government, for speaking out against Dominican President Rafael Trujillo's regime

      Dominicans are the 5th largest Spanish speaking group here, and growing.

      Almost all of my Latino students are Dominican - can't wait to share this in class.  

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:34:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ok, I get 1/2 of it (i think).... (0+ / 0-)

    Perez wanted the suit against the slumlords dropped before the supreme court rules that building codes are discriminatory because poor people are more likely to live in buildings that don't meet code.  Given the roberts court, Ok...

    but, what was the case that he wanted the justice department out of and why?

    To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

    by ban48 on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 08:04:09 AM PDT

  •  Maybe disparate impact is a crappy rule. (0+ / 0-)

    Disparate impact strikes me as an appropriate test to apply when evaluating the impact of an actiaon, but insufficient by itself to be determinant.

    If disparate impact is sufficient to determine a violation of civil rights, then it is a crappy rule that can lead to perverse effects like this.

    There is no way in hell an action against these landloards should be tangled up in civil rights law.  There is no way in hell that the city should have to back off pursuit of their sorry asses.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 08:16:00 AM PDT

    •  A quick trip to wiki (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      might help.

      An important thing to note is that disparate impact is not, in and of itself, illegal. This is because disparate impact only becomes illegal if the employer cannot justify the employment practice causing the adverse impact as a "job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity" (called the "business necessity defense").

      Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by NLinStPaul on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 08:38:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmm. Then what is the problem? (0+ / 0-)

        Paranoid fear of the Supreme Court?

        It's one thing to understand that the court is conservative, it's another to be frozen in fear.

        If the defense to the landlord's case is that the rule is not, by itself, sufficient to force a finding, the Court has an easy out, and the Court tends to take easy outs when they are available.

        Besides ---

        No sane person (and the Justices, whatever else they may be, are sane people) could deny that disparate impact is not merely a legitimate test to apply, but an essential one. After all, if the action in questino doesn't result in some difference that disadvantages certain groups, how can anything be wrong?

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:05:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  when it comes to housing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, betelgeux

    (and plenty of other things) Tom Perez is also a champion for people with disabilities.

    From the web site People With Disabilities for Tom Perez:

    In more than 1,600 cases, Tom has cleared the way for more Americans with disabilities to live independently, obtain a quality education, and participate in activities most Americans take for granted.

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:10:47 AM PDT

  •  The way to fight back on this nomination (0+ / 0-)

    push back is simple. Perez fights hard to enforce the law and that is precisely why the Republicans oppose him.

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

    by David Kaib on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 04:44:20 PM PDT

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