Barack Obama's Letter to Edward Kennedy & Michael Enzi

Letter regarding the nomination of David Palmer
by Barack Obama

Sent to Edward Kennedy and Michael Enzi on 26 July 2007.

Dear Chairman Kennedy and Ranking Member Enzi:

I am writing to express my serious concerns about the nomination of David Palmer to become a Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Mr. Palmer’s record as Chief of the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice raises serious questions about his competence and his commitment to civil rights.

The EEOC is the nation’s preeminent agency for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Every EEOC Commissioner must be above reproach and have a history of achievement and commitment to the enforcement of anti-discrimination in employment.

On July 13, 2007, Mr. Palmer met with HELP Committee staff, including two representatives from my office. He articulated a commitment to civil rights and the enforcement of discrimination law. When pressed about his actual record, however, he was unable to reconcile his professed views with the disappointing record of his leadership at the Justice Department.

For example, Latinos filed over half of the nearly 300 charges of national origin discrimination that the EEOC referred to the Employment Litigation Section while Mr. Palmer led that section. Yet, during his tenure, he brought only one case on behalf of a Latino complainant. And while Mr. Palmer told HELP staff that he recognized that African Americans and Latinos suffer disproportionately from employment discrimination, he could not explain why the section filed almost as many cases alleging national origin or race discrimination against whites as against African Americans and Latinos combined.

Moreover, according to a July 23, 2007 letter from a group of former career managers, attorneys, and career professionals from the Department of Justice, Mr. Palmer treated colleagues with "disdain and contempt," and there was "at least one complaint of discrimination or other improper activity . . . filed against Mr. Palmer during his tenure as Section Chief."

Although I do not question the sincerity of Mr. Palmer’s statements to the HELP Committee staff, the facts about his section’s work are too serious to be ignored.

Given Mr. Palmer’s poor record and the declared concerns of his former colleagues regarding his fitness for this position, I hope you both will work to address these issues before Mr. Palmer is given a confirmation vote in Committee. I look forward to working with you to ensure that any nominee to the EEOC is dedicated to the mission of the Commission and has a track record that demonstrates his or her capacity for the job. Thank you for your consideration.


Barack Obama
United States Senator