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Congress launching hearings on complaints businesses targeted by 'Operation Choke Point'
A controversial federal law enforcement program that critics say targeted businesses the Obama administration didn't like is about to face a new wave of congressional scrutiny, with Capitol Hill hearings set to begin Tuesday.
Under the program, called Operation Choke Point, banks and other financial institutions were reportedly pressured to cut off accounts for targeted businesses. This included gun stores, casinos, tobacco distributors, short-term lenders and other businesses.
Critics claim the program -- overseen by the Justice Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and other agencies -- was used to squeeze legal companies that some politicians considered morally objectionable.
Choke & Gag
Operation Choke Point is an initiative of the United States Department of Justice that was announced in 2013, which is investigating banks in the United States and the business they do with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies believed to be at higher risk for fraud and money laundering.
This operation, first disclosed in August 2013 Wall Street Journal story has been criticized for bypassing due process; the government is pressuring the financial industry to cut off the companies' access to banking services, without first having shown that the targeted companies are violating the law. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, critics believe "it's a thinly veiled ideological attack on industries the Obama administration doesn't like, such as gun sellers and coal producers."
The operation itself is now under investigation by two federal agencies.