The Department of Justice announced this week that they were shutting down Operation Choke Point, a controversial initiative aimed at making it impossible for certain businesses to open a line of credit at federally-backed banking institutions. The operation, which was ultimately responsible for shuttering dozens of legitimate gun dealerships, was a joint effort by the DOJ and the FDIC. And while it may have operated under cover of “good intentions,” Republicans accused the Obama administration of using it as a way around the Second Amendment in the president’s relentless war on guns.
“All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again,” said Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd in a letter to House Republicans. “We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor.”
Operation Choke Point was one of the quieter initiatives endorsed by the Obama administration; in fact, it may never have come to light had it not been for a wave of complaints from the very business owners whose livelihoods were threatened. Though the administration did not admit to the program for some time, entrepreneurs began reporting that they were suddenly being shut out of their bank accounts for no specific reason.
Ultimately, it was revealed that the DOJ and the FDIC were pressuring banks to close these accounts. Businesses like payday lenders, home-based charities, fireworks dealers, and online gambling companies were targeted, and the administration could perhaps defend these targets as high risk. But other companies like pawn shops and firearms stores were also penalized for no other reason than political opposition.
Of course, even if the administration COULD defend those targets, it didn’t make the initiative any more acceptable. It should not be the federal government’s job to go in and force banks to stop doing business with high risk clients. There’s simply too much room here for political motives to surface, as they did in the case of Operation Choke Point. Let the banks decide for themselves who they do business with, what interest rates they charge, and how they can best handle riskier clientele. That’s their right. If laws are not being broken, the Department of Justice does not belong in the mix.
The end of Operation Choke Point is a resounding victory for freedom, but Congress needs to pass a law preventing this kind of political meddling from ever arising again in the future.