David H. Chipman’s nomination to helm the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms just got another hole poked in the hull. The embattled nominee was publicly hit with the broad brush of racism Tuesday, August 10, with the release of whistleblower revelations from inside the agency where he worked for 25 years. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) wrote that Chipman “has exhibited a pattern of extremely concerning racially biased behavior.” A black former ATF agent has accused Chipman of racial bias for falsely claiming he cheated on a promotion exam.
President Biden nominated Mr. Chipman to head the agency on April 12, and there hasn’t been a day of smooth sailing since. It would take a simple majority in the Senate to approve the nomination, and given we’ve passed the four-month mark, it’s clear the votes just aren’t there. There were plenty of reasons for Democrats who aren’t hostile to the Second Amendment to vote no previously. Now there’s a new one, and it’s the catchall third rail, especially in the Democratic Party: racism.
Too Good for a Black Man
Grassley sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting more information about two cases, including one involving a claim regarding Chipman and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both issues allege Chipman acted illegally, based on “racial animus,” during his long career as an ATF official:
“[N]ew reports claim that Mr. Chipman filed a complaint with the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG) triggering an unwarranted investigation into an African American employee who he alleged, without evidence, cheated on an exam to become a GS-15.”
And “The only indication that the examinee had cheated was that his answers to the hypothetical questions posed by the panel were ‘just too good.'” The whistleblower claims the subsequent investigation lasted years and crippled the career of the black man “by barring him from promotion and commendations.”
There are 50 Republicans, and each is expected to vote nay on this nomination, which means all 48 Democrats and the two independent Senators allied with them must vote yes for Chipman. Then Kamala Harris would vote his nomination in with her tie-breaking vote. Before these latest troubles, however, Chipman ran afoul of Democrats with pro-gun constituencies on several fronts, including insulting gun owners. Susan Collins (R-ME), perhaps the one Republican who might have voted for him, refused to do so on that basis. She said Chipman had spent the years since he retired from the BATFE as “an outspoken critic of the firearms industry and has made statements that demean law-abiding gun owners.”
Some Democrats likely to spoil President Biden’s nominee include Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Angus King from Maine, who is actually an independent, but votes Democrat. Many of their constituents are part of a deep and abiding gun culture they are not keen on upsetting. Perhaps the president has resolved to read the writing on the wall privately. A legacy D.C. newspaper reports, “Senator Jon Tester from Montana has also stressed for weeks that he is reviewing the nomination, and he hinted to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that it could be withdrawn.” Tester explained, “I’m still reviewing it, and I’m not even sure it’s going to come up.”
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.