Bipartisan Demands

Rep. Cummings joins Issa in demanding info from Obama nominee

Elijah Cummings / AP
May 9, 2013

One of the nation’s most powerful Democrats has joined Republicans in demanding that President Barack Obama’s labor nominee Tom Perez comply with an Oversight Committee investigation into allegations that he dodged transparency laws.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on Perez to submit 1,200 emails sent from his personal email account to conduct Department of Justice business—a tactic used to avoid disclosure laws.

"We write to request that you produce all documents responsive to the subpoena issued to you by the committee on April 10,2013, regarding your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official Department of Justice business," Cummings wrote in a letter with Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.). "To allow the committee to fully examine these e-mails, please produce all responsive documents in unredacted form."

The Department of Justice has insisted that it has fully complied with the committee’s request for the emails, but Issa has repeatedly accused Perez, who serves as the DOJ’s chief civil rights enforcer, of withholding information. Issa sent a blistering letter to Perez on Monday, calling on him to comply.

"Your continued and blatant disregard for a duly issued congressional subpoena is extremely disconcerting, especially coming from one of the nation’s highest law enforcement officers," the letter said. "You have not produced a single e-mail as required by the plain terms of the subpoena issued to you on April 10, 2013. Until you produce all responsive e-mail communications, including at least the 1,200 e-mails that the department has identified as responsive, you will continue to be noncompliant with the subpoena."

Cummings’ cosigning of the letter stands in stark contrast to his staunch defense of Perez’s nomination. He criticized Republicans during a Tuesday subcommittee hearing that explored allegations that Perez quashed a $200 million whistleblower lawsuit to preserve a constitutionally dubious legal doctrine known as disparate impact.

"Today’s hearing is an unfortunate and highly partisan exercise intended to raise unfounded questions about the reputation of Mr. Perez," Cummings said in his opening statement. "Mr. Perez did nothing wrong."

Perez is the latest Obama administration official accused of using private email accounts to dodge transparency laws. Two EPA officials, including agency head Lisa Jackson, also allegedly sent thousands of emails using pseudonymous accounts.

The committee’s 10-month investigation into Perez’s conduct in the alleged quid pro quo, as well as the email controversy, caused the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to postpone his nomination for a second time yesterday.

Perez, who was originally scheduled to undergo a committee confirmation vote on Wednesday afternoon, will now have to wait until May 16 to move forward to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"Mr. Perez and the administration have not yet produced all the information some Senators are requesting—information that is key to the Senate's constitutional role of advice and consent—and until those documents and answers to questions are received, it is appropriate to delay the committee’s vote on Mr. Perez," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), the ranking member of the HELP Committee, said in a statement.