President Biden’s new nominee for Associate Attorney General, Vanita Gupta, is under scrutiny by Senate Republicans. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for her to undergo a second hearing before letting her appointment advance due to various concerns, including some surrounding civil asset forfeiture.
The reason for the pause in deliberations of Ms. Gupta’s appointment is her alleged misleading answers to committee questions on her advocacies. According to the Republican senators, she was dishonest in her “support for eliminating qualified immunity, her support for decriminalizing all drugs, her support for defunding the police, and her death penalty record” as well as civil asset forfeiture.
These allegations led the right-wing officials to revisit Ms. Gupta’s activities before her nomination. The website Open Secrets lists her as a lobbyist for the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. Her record on the website coheres with her Senate Lobbying Disclosure files, which state she lobbied extensively for civil rights and liberties.
Her opinion on civil asset forfeiture, for example, was even published in a 2010 article on the ACLU website entitled, “End Policing for Profit.” Gupta wrote about how civil asset forfeiture disenfranchises low-income regular Americans because the laws are prone to abuse.
The article shows how strongly she feels about these issues, but it was seen as a red flag by the Republican Party. They allege that she might rule unfairly on laws or issues that she has previously lobbied against. They additionally noted that as Associate Attorney General, she would encounter numerous cases about issues she has voted against.
Ms. Gupta’s appointment was complicated since the beginning. President Biden signed the executive order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel right after his inauguration. It stipulates that former lobbyists must refrain from partaking in matters they previously posited on for two years after their appointment.
The nominee’s party argued that she is aware of the ethics pledge she has to sign for the position. A DOJ ethics official also asserted that Ms. Gupta will be obligated to repudiate matters she previously lobbied for. She isn’t a stranger to these rules because she was previously appointed in the Department of Justice by the Obama administration.
The head of ethics for the Obama Administration stated that President Biden is reviving a similar policy on restraining past lobbyists appointed to government positions. He believes this ethical barrier with be enough to exclude nominees such as Ms. Gupta from issues they might be biased on. The pledge implies Ms. Gupta won’t be able to decide on matters of civil rights and liberties, among many others issues she has lobbied for before. Additionally, she can’t adjudicate or be affiliated with civil asset forfeiture matters on the Department of Justice. The consequences of swearing the pledge will hopefully lead to a fair system of justice in the DOJ.
Despite all the issues plaguing her nomination, Ms. Gupta has a fair chance of being appointed as Associate Attorney General. The Judiciary Committee will vote on Thursday.
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