Updated 8:45 am, Saturday, June 11, 2016
Former Attorney General Eric Holder has come out against proposals in Chicago and New Jersey to require fingerprint background checks of drivers for ride-hailing platforms such as Uber and Lyft. Why would Obama’s onetime top lawman come out against regulation that is supposed to protect the riding public? Credit the intersection of two forces. First, Holder’s tony corporate law firm, Covington & Burling, represents Uber. Also, as Holder sees it, requiring drivers to submit fingerprints may “have a discriminatory impact on communities of color.”
I was surprised to read about Holder’s opposition, as I have trouble seeing Holder as a model for social justice. As deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder gave a “neutral-leaning to positive” recommendation for the pardon of billionaire Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland to evade fraud and tax evasion charges. As President Obama’s first attorney general, he was so stingy with the pardon power that political scientist P.S. Ruckman wrote that inmates seeking clemency had “a better chance of being struck by lightning.”
Besides, law enforcement relies on fingerprinting because it works. According to the National Rifle Association, gun buyers must undergo fingerprint checks in some states. California teachers submit fingerprints for criminal background checks. California drivers are fingerprinted. I get into my gym thanks to a fingerprint scanner and swipe my index finger to open my phone. Don’t tell me, I said to myself, Holder has joined gadflies who question the validity of fingerprints the way others oppose vaccinations.