In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Newt Gingrich called the Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point, “the beginning of a real tyranny in the United States,” and said the whole program needs to be dismantled.
“I don’t think the average American realizes that the bureaucrats have come up with a model, which could kill any industry, kill any business, and do so even though what it was doing was totally legal,” he said while attending the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.
“I think that’s very frightening for our future.”
Gingrich, a former speaker of the House and presidential candidate, is an outspoken critic of Operation Choke Point, which was designed in 2012 as a way to reduce mass market consumer fraud by blocking certain industries’ access to bank accounts, payment processors and other financial institutions.
Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce defended the agency’s actions in an email to The Daily Signal, saying it has “no interest in pursuing or discouraging lawful conduct.”
Instead, Pierce said the program—which she did not address by name—aims to “hold accountable banks and payment processors that illegally enable fraudulent businesses to siphon billions of dollars from consumers’ bank accounts in exchange for significant fees.”
But whether intentional or not, The Daily Signal has documented multiple examples where Operation Choke Point affected a range of legal and legitimate industries, including firearms sellers and payday lenders.
Under Operation Choke Point, federal regulators pressure banks and other financial institutions to not do business with customers operating in what they consider “high risk” industries.
Of that strategy, Gingrich said:
The liberals that come up with this new model—where you’re doing something which is totally legal that they don’t like—they go to your banker and they choke off your money by saying to the banker, ‘You know, that business over there, that’s kind of risky.’ And the bank gets scared because these are their regulators. And so the bank comes to you and says, ‘We’re no longer going to be able to handle your account.’
Gingrich said the program poses a real threat to the American public and that “the whole model needs to be replaced.”
“What you’re doing is totally legal, but they have decided as bureaucrats, that they don’t like it,” he said.