Barletta Votes to Stop “Operation Choke Point” from Attacking Legitimate Businesses

Feb 4, 2016
Press Release
Obama’s Justice Department Targets Businesses for Political Reasons

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today voted in favor of legislation that prevents the Obama Administration’s Justice Department from unfairly targeting legitimate businesses simply because they run afoul of the president’s political agenda.  The bill, H.R. 766, blocks what it known as “Operation Choke Point,” which is an administration strategy of cutting off banking relationships for legal businesses which fail to meet with President Obama’s approval, such as firearms and ammunition stores or tobacco distributors.  The Financial Institution Customer Protection Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 250-to-169 and now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

“Operation Choke Point represents exactly what people fear as government at its worst,” Barletta said.  “We cannot have the Obama Justice Department picking winners and losers in the marketplace based on whether or not the businesses meet with the approval of President Obama and his ideological crusaders.”

Under Operation Choke Point, either the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) exerts pressure on banking institutions to sever ties with targeted businesses, which are otherwise perfectly legal.  The scheme is an unconstitutional projection of executive power used to harm small employers by cutting them off from access to capital and depository institutions.  Operation Choke Point results in a blanket prohibition against entire industries, with no concern for whether specific businesses are law-abiding and legitimate.

The Financial Institution Customer Protection Act:

  • Requires DOJ or FDIC to cite legal rationale for ordering a business-banking relationship severed.
  • Forbids regulators from using subpoena power to coerce banks into closing customer accounts.
  • Requires a court order for any subpoena in a civil action.
  • Requires an annual report to Congress to include the number of termination requests made to financial institutions and the legal basis for each such request.

“Operation Choke Point is just another time the president has done an end-around past the legislature because he knows he couldn’t get his policies through the people’s representatives in Congress,” Barletta said.  “This is a terrible practice, as he is coercing banks into acting as the legal and political arm of the Department of Justice.  Operation Choke Point is wrong; it is an abuse of power; and it must be stopped.”