Press Release

 

For Release: February 18, 1999
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]


Black Leadership Network Opposes Civil Rights Nominee

Senate Urged to Reject Clinton's Choice to Implement Civil Rights Policy

Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 urge the U.S. Senate to reject President Clinton's expected renomination of activist lawyer Bill Lann Lee as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Lee's unrelenting implemention of divisive racial preference policies while serving as "acting" head of the Division are at odds with Supreme Court and lower court decisions.

"Bill Lann Lee's rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul policies are not only out of step with the mainstream of the American polity, but are out of step with the majority of the Democratic Party as well," said Project 21 member Council Nedd, the director of government affairs for Citizens Against Government Waste.

Mr. Lee's nomination to become the nation's chief civil rights enforcer deadlocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee in November of 1997 due to his controversial support for race-based preferences in hiring, government contracting, education and voting laws. President Clinton then chose to bypass the Senate's constitutionally mandated "advise and consent" role in the nomination process in December of 1997 by appointing Mr. Lee as the "acting" head of the Division.

In a recently-released report evaluating Lee's tenure at the Department of Justice, Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity and Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice concluded: "Lee sides with racial classifications in government contracting, employment, voting and education in nearly every instance, placing the federal civil rights arsenal at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court's repeated pronouncements that racial classifications are presumptively impermissible... Americans should be profoundly saddened that the Civil Rights Division under Bill Lann Lee is not primarily a force for racial healing, but instead persistently deploys its resources to classify and discriminate against Americans on the basis of race and ethnicity." On February 17, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart confirmed President Clinton's plans to renominate Mr. Lee, saying, "The President believes [Mr. Lee has] done a very good job since assuming his role... I think the President wants him to continue the important work he's doing, and plans to resubmit his nomination soon."

"Racial harmony will not be achieved in this country as long as the federal government promulgates policies that discriminate on the basis of race," said Project 21 member and writer Sharon Hodge. "Consequently, it is imperative that the critical post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights be filled by someone who would strive to unite the races by supporting Supreme Court rulings and other legal precedents, which clearly have called for an end to racial preferences. Frankly, Bill Lann Lee is not that person."

On February 12, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) warned the White House not to renominate Mr. Lee in a letter that read, "During Lee's tenure, the Justice Department has advocated the same policies that initially led to his failure to be confirmed."

"President Clinton's appointment of Mr. Lee is a demonstration of not only his disregard for the law, but for the Constitution," said Nedd. "After 14 months, Mr. Lee is still serving in an acting role having never been confirmed by the Senate. The fact that Mr. Lee is using his post for his own brand of social engineering is vindication of the Senate's right to approve his appointment."

Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.

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