Victims of Operation Choke Point gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday to share their stories of an overbearing government strangling their perfectly legal and compliant businesses.
Since 2013, banks have been intimidated by Obama's Department of Justice to crack down on businesses in industries that supposedly have greater occurrences of fraud. The problem: Legitimate, law-abiding businesses are being targeted and having their bank accounts closed without enough proof of fraud to press charges. Due process has been thrown out the window, and industries seem to be targeted based on the administration's moral objections to them.
Caught in the mix are productive companies that complied with every rule and regulation just to get up and running, only to get knocked down by Operation Choke Point. The targeted industries already have to deal with excessive government regulation, and now the disdain of the Obama administration has further harmed business. Firearms, ammunition, payday lending, tobacco and other industries have been targeted.
Kat O'Connor spent over a year to get her ammunition company up and running in Maryland, complying with all the requirements to get licenses from federal and state authorities. "It's an arduous process, and when you finally open your doors and find out your government is trying to use backdoor methods to shut you down it's very disconcerting," O'Connor told the Washington Examiner. O'Connor tried to work with businesses to process credit card payments from customers, but multiple times she was turned away simply because her company is in the ammunition industry. "We went six months without any way to really have a website or internet sales or anything like that."
The victims of Operation Choke Point aren't just trying to right the wrongs they've had to suffer. They want to make things right for their customers and other small business entrepreneurs who might suffer the same frustrations.
Michael Schuetz owns Hawkins Guns in Hawkins, Wis. He said Operation Choke Point's targeting of the firearms industry is an attack on the Second Amendment. "This is a grave atrocity toward the Second Amendment and to those service members and my brothers and sisters who have fought for this country," Schuetz said Tuesday at a press conference organized by the U.S. Consumer Coalition. "I'm here for justice, not only for myself and my business and my customers, but for all the…veterans across this country who have given their lives for our country and for our rights." Schuetz said before adding his credit union was forced to terminate his account by federal regulators simply because he deals in guns.
Also hurt are customers who frequent the enterprises closed or harmed by Operation Choke Point.
"This is also shutting down the ability of…our customers to find a loan that they can make it paycheck to paycheck," Allison Deguisne, the owner of Westshore Cash & Loan said. Her payday lending business is now on the verge of closure after her bank terminated her account and she made more than 50 unsuccessful attempts to open a bank account elsewhere. "Not only has it affected me personally...but the consumers are not able to get the product, and if we continue to shut down these industries they won't have anywhere to go to get loans themselves."
O'Connor said her business should be in the clear now that it's found a company to process credit card payments, but she's fighting for other entrepreneurs who might get hurt by Operation Choke Point. "I don't want this to happen to anybody else," she said. "Starting a new business and then being crippled from the starting gate is extremely difficult. It just caused so much stress. It shouldn't have been there for any other business."
Although the administration claims Operation Choke Point has concluded, the plight of businesses like Deguisne's shows that more and more law-abiding enterprises are falling victim. The Obama administration may think it can covertly shut down businesses in industries it does not like, but the victims of Operation Choke Point are making their cases heard.