IRS attacks on tea party, conservative and Christian organizations have been well reported, as have Obama Department of Homeland Security efforts to demonize these same groups, linking them repeatedly to “rightwing extremism” and potential domestic terrorism.
But did you know the White House allegedly tried to scare local banks into closing the accounts of perfectly legal and legitimate businesses?
The organization said Thursday it is pursuing action under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain “any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the legal basis for the targeting of legal business entities under Operation Choke Point.”
The organization also wants records “depicting the criteria for businesses and/or industries to be targeted for any type of scrutiny and/or enforcement or regulatory action under Operation Choke Point.”
Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, explained what little already is known and what is suspected.
“The highly secretive Operation Choke Point program is another abuse of power by the Obama administration,” he said. “The federal government has no business forcing private sector banks and companies to choke off legitimate businesses that have broken no laws or have been charged with no crimes.”
He continued: “President Obama cannot get Congress to target businesses on his political hit list, so he’s allowed his appointees to abuse their authority by choking off companies that offend liberal sensibilities. Ironically, one of the ‘high risk’ indicators of fraud is a lack of transparency and non-disclosure.
“The Department of Justice won’t obey the Freedom of Information Act and disclose basic information as required about Operation Choke Point. Indeed, Attorney Eric Holder has turned his Justice Department into an agency that is one of the worst violators of FOIA. Maybe the Obama administration should stop strong-arming banks, and focus on policing its own well-deserved ‘reputational risk’ for fraud.”
The organization said the program was coordinated among the Department of Justice, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It emerged from Obama’s 2009 executive order addressing consumer fraud, JW said.
But the enforcement actions that have arisen have been criticized, Judicial Watch said, “for pursuing abusive political and retaliatory legal actions to force banks and other financial sector business to settle for billions without any proof of wrongdoing.”
For example, the federal bureaucrats had identified businesses such as firearms and fireworks sales, lottery sales, pharmaceutical sales, tobacco sales, coin dealers, credit repair services and dating and escort services as “high risk.”
“In a 2011 bulletin, the FDIC warned banks that associating with any of these merchants would expose the banks to ‘reputational risk.’ It said that could include penalties imposed by the government if a bank decided not to shut down an account for a legitimate business targeted by the government – even though they had broken no laws,” the watchdog reported.
Judicial Watch confirmed that just a year ago, 31 members of Congress sent Attorney General Eric Holder and FDIC chief Martin Gruenberg a letter asking for information, but were “refused.”
The accusations ratcheted up when banking executive Frank Keating, earlier this year, wrote a commentary that accused the Department of Justice of forcing banks “to deny services to unpopular but perfectly legal industries by threatening penalties.”
Subsequently, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said, “The introduction of subjective criteria like ‘reputation risk’ into prudential bank supervision can all too easily become a pretext for the advancement of political objectives.”