The Justice Department division headed by Thomas Perez, President Obama’s putative choice to be the next Secretary of Labor, appears to have been guided by the idea that civil rights laws protect only minorities—i.e., not white people. Perez is currently the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. A 300-page report by the department’s Office of Inspector General, released this week, contains evidence supporting the accusations of former Voting Section chief Christopher Coates and department lawyer J. Christian Adams. Following the department's decision to dismiss a case against the Black Panthers for intimidating white voters in Philadelphia, Coates and Adams charged that their colleagues were not interested in enforcing civil rights laws in a race-neutral manner. Previously Coates’s Voting Section had sued and won a judgment against black Noxubee County election officials for violating the rights of white voters. The IG report notes the response to this case within the department:
Coates and other career attorneys told the OIG that they were aware of comments by some Voting Section attorneys indicating that the Noxubee case should have never been brought because White citizens were not historical victims of discrimination or could fend for themselves. Indeed, two career Voting Section attorneys told us that, even if the Department had infinite resources, they still would not have supported the filing of the Noxubee case because it was contrary to the purpose of the Voting Rights Act, which was to ensure that minorities who had historically been the victims of discrimination could exercise the right to vote. […]
Many of those individuals told the OIG that they believed that the reason the voting rights laws were enacted was to protect historic victims of discrimination and therefore the Section should prioritize its resources accordingly. Additionally, some of these individuals, including one current manager, admitted to us that, while they believed that the text of the Voting Rights Act is race-neutral and applied to all races, they did not believe the Voting Section should pursue cases on behalf of White victims.
And regarding efforts to remove Coates as head of the Voting Section, the report notes:
Attorney General Holder told us that he understood from what others told him that Coates was a divisive and controversial person in the Voting Section and that one concern about Coates was that he “wanted to expand the use of the power of the Civil Rights Division in such a way that it would take us into areas that, though justified, would come at a cost of that which the Department traditionally had done, at the cost of people [that the] Civil Rights Division had traditionally protected.”
The OIG report describes these conflicts in Perez’s Civil Rights Division as “deep ideological polarization” that “fueled disputes and mistrust that harmed the functioning of the Voting Section.” [“A Review of the Operations of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division,” Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, March 2013]