The Right Wing Doesn't Want You To Know Coates Is "A True Member Of The Team"

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The right-wing media's smear that the Obama administration Department of Justice as engaged in race-based justice depends on the credibility of the witnesses that have come forth to make those allegations. That's why the conservative media has been so diligent in lauding them as career attorneys and "whistle-blowers."

In their interim report on the Justice Department's response to the New Black Panther Party case, the right-wing Republicans at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights likewise do their darndest to cover the tracks of their top witness, Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates. They claim that Coates has been victim of a vicious smear campaign to paint him as a right-wing hack, and cite his past credentials as an attorney for the ACLU as evidence that he is no such thing:

The troubling nature of these allegations of misconduct in the Division might explain why some anonymous sources within the Department have attempted to paint Coates as a disgruntled right-wing ideologue. A review of his career, however, speaks for itself and paints a picture at odds with his detractors' characterization.

Before beginning his work at the Department, Mr. Coates served with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta, Georgia. During his time there, he litigated cases on behalf of African-American clients, particularly those challenging at-large election procedures. In 1993 he argued a case before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of six African-American citizens in the local NAACP chapter in Bleckley County, Georgia. For his service with the ACLU he was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Decade Award by the Georgia Conference of the NAACP, as well as an award from the Georgia Environmental Association for his representation of African-American clients opposing the installation of landfill in their neighborhood.

Of course, the Commission has a bit of a problem: The primary evidence that Coates is a "right-wing ideologue" comes not from leaks from the DOJ, but from his own mouth.

Back in 2008, the Justice Department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that Douglas Schlozman, a senior Bush appointee in the department, had improperly considered ideology when making personnel decisions and cited numerous emails in which Schlozman discussed adding conservative members to "the team." In one of those emails, Schlozman recommended a DOJ attorney for a position as an Immigration Judge, writing: "[D]on't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team."

In September testimony before the USCCR, Coates admitted that he believed he was the person to whom Schlozman was referring. Moreover, he defended Schlozman's hiring practices, saying:

Mr. Schlozman found a Civil Rights Division that was almost totally left-liberal in the basis of the ideology of the people who were working in it, and that he made some concerted effort to diversify the division so that conservatives as well as liberals could find work there.

Kind of sounds like a right-wing ideologue, doesn't he?

As for J. Christian Adams, the Commission's other top witness, don't look through the report for the USCCR's attempt to wash away his years as a GOP activist before and after (and during?) his work on the New Black Panthers case. They don't even make an attempt, instead simply ignoring his past and referencing him as a "Voting Section attorney" and the like.

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