Operation Choke Point was President Obama’s “pen and phone” solution to force banks to snuff out industries the president dislikes. And without even becoming president, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee are acting to dismantle it.
“Under President Obama’s reign, the DOJ has abandoned its longstanding tradition of staying out of politics and has instead become a partisan arm of the White House,” Cruz said. “The Obama administration initiated Operation Choke Point to punish law-abiding small businesses that don’t align with the president’s political leanings. The DOJ should not be abusing its power by trying to bankrupt American citizens for exercising their constitutional rights.”
Choke Point allowed the Justice Department to target banks who process payments for the FDIC’s list of 30 high-risk merchant categories, which was determined by pulling the list out of thin liberal air.
The list includes such
illegal activities as ammunition sales, coin dealers, firearms sales, surveillance equipment, payday loans–wait a second, those are all legal, well-regulated businesses. The list also includes a smattering of rackets like get rich quit products (Trump University anyone?), escort services, debt consolidation scams, and credit repair services.
Certainly many of those activities should be looked into, and banks who conduct “third-party payment processing” for those industries should be very carefully watched. I used to be in the third-party payment industry, and I know that most banks are very conservative in their approach and wouldn’t touch most of these categories anyway. So we’re dealing with shady banks, which are really the purview of states, not the DOJ.
But Obama’s goal was never to deal with the banking industry, it was to use financial blackmail to choke out the legal businesses he personally doesn’t like. The Washington Post noted this in 2014.
The ability to destroy legal industries through secret actions to deprive them of banking services has obvious political consequences. For example, it was reported last week that firearms shops are alleging that Operation Choke Point is being used to pressure banks into refusing to providing financial services. There are also reports that porn stars (and here) have had their bank accounts terminated for “moral” reasons related to the “reputation risk” of banking individuals in the porn industry. IRS officials must already be salivating about ways to apply Operation Choke Point to tea party groups.
Even more deliciously and perniciously liberal:
Quite obviously, some of these things are not like the other; moreover, just because there are some bad apples within a legal industry doesn’t justify effectively destroying a legal industry through secret executive fiat.
Especially ironic, of course, is that while the DOJ and bank regulators are choking off financial services to legal industries, they are also encouraging banks to provide banking services to illegal marijuana sales.
Lee told The Daily Signal that it’s time to dismantle Operation Choke Point based on its targeting of firearms.
“Our right to bear arms—a right granted by God and protected by the Constitution—is fundamental to the protection of all our other rights,” Lee told The Daily Signal in a statement. “An executive branch bent on taking away this right, through any administrative means necessary, is a danger to all Americans. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, which would end the federal government’s ability to abuse financial regulations to target firearm proprietors like they did during Operation Choke Point.”
Since the House passed an identical bill in February, once the Senate approves its version, it will go to Obama’s desk. He’s almost certain to veto it.
But while Cruz is being a Senator as well as a candidate for president, Donald Trump is sitting in the Trump Tower running his organization, which sells its most valuable asset, the “Trump” brand, to just about every shady operator on Choke Point’s list–except for guns that is.