DOJ To End Operation ChokePoint; Porn Stars Free To Bank Once More!

from the strange-times dept

You may recall that in 2014 we wrote about a strange occurrence having to do with Chase Bank refusing to provide its banking services to Teagan Presley, a rather well known adult film actress. When it became clear that Presley wasn't the only performer to whom this was happening, it initially looked as though banks were engaging in a form of slut-shaming of adult film actors. It turned out, however, that it was the federal government doing the slut-shaming, with the emergence of the Department of Justice's Operation Choke Point. This DOJ policy that was developed to combat financial fraud somehow bled over the stencil lines and became a sort of banking morality police, encouraging banks to cut off services to industries like adult film, fireworks retail stores, and sellers engaged in what the DOJ deemed to be "racist materials." It's worth highlighting that all of these industries and actions, whether you like them or not, are legal, yet the DOJ was essentially attempting to extra-judiciously scuttle them through secretive federal policy. That should have terrified everyone, but didn't, and so the program went on.

Until recently. The justice department recently announced that Operation Choke Point will be ended.

The move hands a big victory to Republican lawmakers who charged that the initiative — dubbed "Operation Choke Point" — was hurting legitimate businesses. In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd referred to the program as "a misguided initiative."

“We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor,” says the letter, obtained by progressive activist group Allied Progress and later provided to POLITICO by Goodlatte's office. “Enforcement decisions should always be made based on facts and the applicable law. We reiterate that the Department will not discourage the provision of financial services to lawful industries, including businesses engaged in short-term lending and firearms-related activities,” it adds. A nearly identical letter was sent to Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

We tend to stay away from partisan politics here at Techdirt, but I cannot write this post without pointing out the oddity that is an Obama-era policy preventing adult film stars from getting banking services and a GOP administration then restoring them. Obviously, per Boyd's letter, there are many more industries that were persecuted that are more in the realm of typical conservative fodder, but it seems that the DOJ is ending the operation in full and is doing so as a matter of principle. Good principle, it should be noted, because attempting to punish lawful businesses through banking back-deals is an especially scummy way to do government. Several applauding members of the government rightly point out that temporary presidential administrations ought not be able to choke out (their word, not mine) legal businesses at their whim and fancy.

Goodlatte and House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), along with Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) praised the department in a joint statement.

“We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point," they said. "The Obama Administration created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses."

Now, some of these industries themselves are industries we may not want to applaud. Some of us have severe issues with payday loan companies, for instance, and some of us surely don't care for the adult film business. But if they're legal, and they are, this sort of thing is no way to deal with these industries.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:26pm

    Now repeal all the other Obama-era overreaches.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 26 Aug 2017 @ 1:43am

      Re:

      ... I have to ask, why specify Obama-era? What about Trump-era, Bush-era, Clinton-era, etc, etc? Shouldn't all overreaches be repealed?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:28pm

    This was going into The Maz's just prior pro-corporate piece, but fits here:

    First, I remind that fascism is merged government and corporations, EXACTLY what's done this topic: DOJ and banks in a system outside the Constitution.

    Can't you guys see that if solely corporations decide what's allowed, and thereby control users, it's inherently bad, will certainly lead to tyranny through and by those platforms? Do you think that present "platforms" are good, benign, totally free of gov't interference, follow your philosophy, and always will be? (Emphasis added in revision.)

    Well, even if so... Imagine if Trump, that reckless insane scourge of all that's good and liberal, just simply "nationalized" the platforms? The President has that power -- don't for the moment argue the practical problems in current "democracy" -- just muse on whether you'd want an enemy controlling "platforms". If not, then you should resist Masnick's corporatized view that hands over such power asserting that "platforms" have "First Amendment" Right. -- Show me that Right in the Constitution. You can't. It's another artificial construct by lawyers and Masnicks.

    Where would you go if banned by Facebook, Google, and all other large platforms? Including BANKS? -- All at once: as "persons" they're allowed to collude against dangers. -- You can be worse than marginalized: with minor increase of the principle and a little "script", your bank accounts and indeed all of "you" that's held in electronics can be disappeared with one click. YOU'D BE AN UNPERSON, just as in the book.

    Present "platforms" are just using prior and minor Nazis as excuse to inch closer to their REAL goal: GLOBAL control BY neo-Nazis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:37pm

      Re: This was going into The Maz's just prior pro-corporate piece, but fits here:

      Unless that corporation is the RIAA, then you're all for it, aren't you?

      out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:40pm

    Obviously a Clinton apologist. Oh wait. - Trump supporters

    Ahem.

    "That should have terrified everyone, but didn't, and so the program went on. "

    Like the seizure of domains without due process? Like having Pay-pal freeze accounts and funds without due process? Like.. Well, you got my point. At least some good in a sea of bad these days eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:48pm

    Porn stars harassed by Operation Choke Point-- is that what was meant by unfunded man-dates?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:03pm

    "all of these industries and actions, whether you like them or not, are legal"

    So when you threaten their porn, suddenly they care about overreach into perfectly legal things...Yet they continue trying to kill off planned parenthood who are doing things legally.

    Hurm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Zonker, 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:16pm

      Re:

      On the contrary, I think they were fine with punishing porn stars they have never been supportive of before.

      It seems to me that only because Operation Choke Point started targeting racist/Nazi groups and sites in response to Charlottesville have they decided to put a stop to it.

      But at least they realized that if they just exempted "racist materials" alone that they would face the same kind of backlash that Donald did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Zonker, 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:22pm

        Re: Re:

        But at least they realized that if they just exempted "racist materials" alone that they would face the same kind of backlash that Donald did.

        And rightfully so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Kevin (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re:

        This is just the formal ending, the program unofficially ceased on January 29th, 2015.

        The latest Choke Point letter is a response to a request from August 10th, predating Charlottesville. The official termination of the program has nothing to do with "Racists" -- Non-partisan groups like ACA International have been pushing for this change for years

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Max, 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:24pm

    "some of us surely don't care for the adult film business" - I may disagree, but I respect you choice. Of all three of you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JaredTheGeek, 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:44pm

    Not the only ones

    They also cut off tobacconists. Smoking cigars is legal but a lot of banks and their credit card processors would not do business with them. Sure they are not the government but we should be wary of institutions so quick to ban business from one particular group or product group because they will then use that power on you at some point and precedent will be set.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Porn, Cigs, and... Gunz, 25 Aug 2017 @ 3:35pm

    You guys missed the original (and obvious) target of this Operation - it was predominantly designed by the Obama administration to cut off banking services to gun and ammunition manufacturers, distributors and stores.

    Yeah, some others got caught up by it, but it was originally designed as a straight up executive order-able gun control initiative to drive smaller businesses under financially by fiat instead of legislatively.

    Hope this doesn't change your opinion about how bad a policy it was, because that would mean you think picking and choosing which Amendments are "legitimate" is ok.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2017 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      The original (and obvious) target of the Obummer administration was the conservatives! That's why the DOJ ended it now that Trump is president!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:27pm

    Count your blessings

    "You may recall that in 2014 we wrote about a strange occurrence having to do with Chase Bank refusing to provide its banking services to Teagan Presley"

    How did she get so lucky? It's like a hooker with the clap refusing to screw you unprotected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.