Conservative Civil Rights Commission Spent $173K Exclusively On Black Panther Query

The conservative-controlled U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it has spent $173,653 investigating an incident involving voter intimidation by members of the New Black Panther Party — a case in which no voters have alleged they were intimidated.

That’s according to data provided by the Commission on Civil Rights in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by TPMMuckraker. As of Sept. 30, the obligations for the project stood at $173,653, up from $141,357 as of Aug. 2.

But given that entire 2010 Statutory Enforcement Report — the biggest project of the year for the Commission — centers on the incident in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008, the actual dollar amount spent is likely higher. Several meetings of the Commission have centered exclusively on the New Black Panther Party case — and the commission’s budget for 2010 totals in at $9.4 million.The $173,653 total does not include costs in the new Fiscal Year 2011, which began in October. Commissioners discussed the case at a meeting on Oct. 8 and will approve the final version of the 2010 Enforcement Report — expected to slam the Justice Department’s decision in the case — on Friday.

Abigail Thernstrom has been the one Republican dissenter from her colleagues’ focus on the New Black Panther Party case. She has said that her colleagues have been driven by fantasies of using the issue to topple Holder and the Obama administration.

Documents also show that the Commission received 3,786 complaints and requests for assistance from the public and members of Congress in Fiscal Year 2009, an increase of about 4 percent over FY 2008. Most complaints, which are usually referred to other federal agencies, involve discrimination in the administration of justice and employment, law enforcement misconduct, and the rights of institutionalized persons, according to the Commission’s report.

The New Black Panther Party case has riled conservatives, who allege that the first African-American Attorney General, Eric Holder, is not enforcing the law in a race neutral manner. It led to the resignation of one Civil Rights Division attorney, who testified before the commission.

Conservatives on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights first began looking into the New Black Panther case back in 2009, and began discussing hearings last October. They ended up holding several hearings throughout 2010. The Department’s decision to drop the civil case against all but one of the members of the New Black Panther Party and the fallout that followed were the subject of the story in the Washington Post over the weekend.

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