Operation Choke Point is a lesser-known example of why the federal government needs significantly less power. The Obama DOJ operation has served as a cudgel to beat lawful businesses into submission or, more often, extinction.
The secretive government operation, on paper, is an effort to crack-down on illicit businesses. According to officials, it is an effort to “attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters’ access to the banking system.”
However, the bulk of the work done on the operation is geared towards cracking-down on lawfully-owned businesses who deal in products or services that run contrary to the Obama Administration’s anti-Second Amendment agenda.
Using banks who rely on federal cooperation and federal depositor’s insurance, the DOJ routinely targets gun stores and other firearm or ammunition-related endeavors to block business arrangements with banks. This includes prohibiting business loans, forcing banks to drop long-time account holders and even suspending the ability of these businesses to process credit cards.
In a recent case, a large bank in Monroe, Connecticut refused a line of credit to a former police officer who had started a gun and tactical accessories business because the bank “no longer lends to firearms dealers.”
In another example, a bank in North Carolina refused to set-up a payment service for a firearm seller because of what he was selling.
Officials have been cagey about the secretive government program that targets legal businesses and their owners. However, despite Congressional investigations into the discriminatory federal operation, it seems that Operation Choke Point is still going strong.
Rich Sprandel, an 18-year veteran of a Connecticut police force, was injured on duty when he was hit by a drunk driver. To help make ends meet, he started Blue Line Firearms & Tactical in Monroe, Conn.
“I have a retirement pension, but it’s not 100 percent of my pay, so I need to make a living to support my family,” Sprandel said after he was denied by the bank who would not do business with him as a result of the government operation.
On March 7th, Sprandel received a voicemail from People’s United Bank in Fairfield, Connecticut, indicating that they can no longer do business with gun dealers.
“It came back denied,” the bank official said. “They said they no longer lend to firearms dealers, so that’s a new thing for us.”
“I know I’ve done them before where it was the [gun] manufacturers, and it went through without a problem, but they’re not doing it with the dealers, so sorry about that.”
Sprandel says that this is the second bank to deny his request on the basis that he sells guns. He has orchestrated a boycott of the bank.
“Why should Second Amendment supporters support a bank that doesn’t support them?” Sprandel said.
Another merchant, Luke Lichterman, attempted to open an automatic clearing house payment service with Hometrust Bank for his business, Hunting and Defense, in Tryon, N.C.
He was denied the arrangement because he sells guns.
“[The bank official] explained that he’s terribly sorry, but the banking industry is tightly regulated by the federal government and we cannot approve your [payment service] because of the high risk nature of your business,” Lichterman said. “I said, ‘high risk?’ What risk? What’s the problem?”
The banker replied, “I’m sure your business is fine, but it’s your industry that we feel is too risky.”
Lichterman asked what other businesses would be deemed “too risky.”
“Pornography,” the banker replied.
“I really had to stop from laughing,” Lichterman said. “I said, ‘I’m not a pornographer. I deal in constitutionally protected goods.’”
Operation Choke Point was created in 2013, but has faced congressional inquiries into the operation that blatantly targets lawful businesses to squeeze them into extinction.
The Obama Administration has attempted to lay-low and have maintained that they have largely backed-off from enforcing the despicable operation guidelines. However, financial institutions continue to operate in accordance with Choke Point’s mandate and despite Congressional efforts to shine a light on the nefarious operation, nobody seems to have been disciplined or fired for the illegal operation that is nakedly discriminatory.
In February, the House passed the Financial Institutions Consumer Protection Act, a bill that keeps federal agencies from forcing banks to terminate customer accounts without “material reason.”
Despite holding a healthy majority in both houses of Congress, the Republican-controlled Senate has not yet been taken-up by the Senate.
Obama has threatened to veto the bill should it pass.
The intended damage has already been done. The Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to substantially interfere with banking institutions that do business with gun sellers. Even if the official line of the Obama DOJ is that they are no longer hovering over the shoulders of bank officials, banks are forced to engage in an uneven relationship with the federal government and few want to incur heightened scrutiny from a federal government that has demonstrated a thorough willingness to wield power against those who do not comply with the Obama Administration’s radically unconstitutional agenda.