Operation Choke Point is not a conspiracy theory. In March of this year, Congress convened hearings into the Department of Justice program that pressured banks and other financial institutions to close accounts for certain businesses. A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report found:
- Operation Choke Point was created by the Justice Department to “choke out” companies the Administration considers a “high risk” or otherwise objectionable, despite the fact that they are legal businesses. The goal of the initiative is to deny these merchants access to the banking and payments networks that every business needs to survive.
- Operation Choke Point has forced banks to terminate relationships with a wide variety of entirely lawful and legitimate merchants. The initiative is predicated on the claim that providing normal banking services to certain merchants creates a “reputational risk” sufficient to trigger a federal investigation. Acting in coordination with Operation Choke Point, bank regulators labeled a wide range of lawful merchants as “high-risk” – including coin dealers, firearms and ammunition sales, and short-term lending.
The Daily Signal broke it down in a video, explaining what it is and what it does:
The program sets up the federal government bureaucracy as “judge, jury and executioner” for businesses that, while legal, the federal government deems “high risk.”
Republican Rep. Sean Duffy compared the alleged abuse of power to the Soviet Union or Venezuela, saying:
“Our concern is you have agencies in the Obama administration that are using government as a weapon and they going after industries and people that they don’t like,” said Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who co-chairs the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “This is not the old Soviet Union or Venezuela or Cuba. I think it’s important for all Americans to stand up and push back on policies that are an abuse of government.”
The way it would work is, businesses would receive a call from their bank, sometimes a bank they had used for years, and they would be told their accounts were being closed.
One bank even cited Operation Choke Point as why. The recording of the call is featured in Reason.com’s video, showing that despite assurances the program is shut down, it’s just switched from one department to another:
The good news is, the Department of Justice investigated itself and found they didn’t do anything wrong.
The bad news is, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, brainchild of self described progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren, now has control of the program:
“Once [Operation Choke Point] was made public, and victims began coming forward, the Administration had to find a way to protect the program and its ability to prevent lawful industries from operating. Due to the lack of congressional oversight, and the unique funding and leadership structure of the CFPB, the Administration knows that it will make the perfect agency to carry on the legacy of Operation Choke Point. The Administration will continue to remove any obstacles in their way.
“The U.S. Consumer Coalition has been warning lawmakers and industry leaders about the plan for the CFPB to take over Operation Choke Point since the FDIC took down their list of ‘high-risk’ merchants in 2014. Now everyone can begin to see that the CFPB is the nation’s most dangerous, unaccountable, and out of control agency in the federal government.”
Well, that’s a bit much. We can think of a couple agencies more dangerous, unaccountable and out of control, but that’s a matter of opinion. What isn’t is the fact that Operation Choke Point is alive and well, targeting businesses still that the government finds unworthy of existing.
That’s a dangerous role for any government, local, county, state or federal, to take and one with which we should all take issue. This kind of power will be abused, by both Republicans and Democrats.