Obama to nominate Justice official cited in negative report for Cabinet


McClatchy Newspapers

President Barack Obama will nominate Thomas Perez to be labor secretary on Monday, a week after an inspector general's report said the assistant attorney general provided incomplete testimony to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission about a lawsuit involving the New Black Panther Party.

The report ultimately concluded Perez did not intentionally mislead the commission in May 2010 when he said the Justice Department’s leadership was not involved in a decision to dismiss three defendants in a lawsuit the Bush administration brought against the New Black Panther Party.

But the report threatens to complicate the confirmation process of Perez, head of the department’s civil rights division. If the Senate confirms him, he would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz also found that the department's voting rights unit suffers from "deep ideological polarization" and a "lack of professionalism" including leaks and harassment. But the report indicated there was insufficient evidence to support accusations that leaders in the Bush and Obama administrations refused to enforce voting laws on behalf of particular groups of voters.

With regard to the New Black Panther Party case, Perez failed to mention that a pair of political appointees -- an associate attorney general and a deputy associate attorney general -- were involved in discussions, according to the report. No rules bar them from being involved.

The department initially sued New Black Panther Party, but after Obama came into office, the administration asked the court to dismiss the suit against three of the four defendants. The report determined the department acted properly.

Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, has served in his current job since 2009. Prior to that, he worked for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) as state labor secretary and was a member of the Montgomery County Council.

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