Resignation calls fly at Justice Dept. spokeswoman over Media Matters collaboration

Several targets of a collaborative relationship between Justice Department Office of Public Affairs director Tracy Schmaler and the liberal message group Media Matters for America told The Daily Caller that Schmaler’s conduct is grounds for her resignation, or for the termination of her employment.

And members of Congress have told TheDC that Media Matters’ enviable tax-exempt status may be in jeopardy as a result of that collusion.

Emails TheDC obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Schmaler — Attorney General Eric Holder’s top press defender — and Media Matters staffers working together to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals and other administration critics. (RELATED: Emails reveal Justice Dept. regularly enlists Media Matters to spin press)

One target of Media Matters and Schmaler, now-former DOJ attorney Chris Coates, told TheDC he thinks Schmaler should step down. “I think that a resignation would be in order from her,” Coates said in a phone interview.

Coates was still a DOJ employee when Schmaler worked with Media Matters in the fall of 2010 to attack him. He was at one time the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Rights Section, a high-ranking position for a civil servant who was not politically appointed.

While Schmaler and Media Matters collaborated to attack Coates’ reputation, he was prosecuting cases for the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina.

“I do find it unusual that apparently during the time that I was prosecuting criminal cases in South Carolina for the Department of Justice, the Department’s press spokesman was clandestinely providing information to chosen media outlets to try to defame me,” Coates told TheDC.

“Some of that information was false.”

Coates left the DOJ in May 2011 and is now in private practice in South Carolina. But during his tenure at the Justice Department, he was actively involved in a voter intimidation case targeting the New Black Panther Party. A scandal erupted when DOJ dismissed the case, despite videotaped evidence of alleged voter intimidation at a November 2008 polling place in Philadelphia.

The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, also a former DOJ official targeted by Schmaler and Media Matters, told TheDC he agrees Schmaler should resign.

“The President and Attorney General Holder should be embarrassed over such behavior by one of their political appointees,” von Spakovsky said in an email. “Tracy Schmaler must resign immediately. Holder’s failure to ask for her resignation will be confirmation that he approved of her unethical, unprofessional, and undemocratic behavior.”

Of the Justice Department’s coordination with Media Matters to bash his reputation, von Spakovsky said the administration’s behavior seems dictatorial.

“I know from my family’s personal experience that it is dictatorships and third world banana republics that use the machinery of government to attack their critics,” he wrote. “It is both shameful and shocking that such thuggish behavior has gone on at the U.S. Department of Justice where I formerly worked.”

Fellow DOJ official and Media Matters-DOJ target J. Christian Adams echoed von Spakovsky and Coates and demand Schmaler’s termination. “DOJ employees who use their high paying job to falsely attack people should not have high paying jobs,” Adams told TheDC. “Her behavior isn’t worthy of being a public servant.”