* Non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands
* Member of the Congressional Black Caucus
* Endorsed a 2015 legal amicus brief supporting President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions designed to prevent the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants
* Views America as a nation rife with racism
Stacey Plaskett was born on May 13, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents hail from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and immigrated to New York during the 1950s. Plaskett earned a BS degree from Georgetown University in 1988 and a JD from American University College of Law in 1994. Thereafter, she worked variously as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx; a consultant and legal counsel for the Mitchell Madison Group; counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee; and senior counsel to the deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice (2002-04). During her tenure with the DOJ, Plaskett worked on the Terrorism Litigation Task Force and the September 11th Victims’ Compensation Fund. She was also one of the lead attorneys in U.S. v. Phillip Morris, where the federal government “brought suit against nine tobacco companies and two related entities … to recover health care expenditures [it] has paid for or will pay for to treat tobacco-related injuries.” From 2007-14, Plaskett served as general counsel with the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority.
Plaskett attempted to launch a political career in 2012 when she challenged nine-term incumbent Donna Christian-Christensen in the Democratic Party‘s primary race for the office of Delegate to Congress representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, but she lost by a margin of 57.5% to 42.5%. Plaskett again ran for that same office two years later and emerged victorious, thereby becoming a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She also belongs to the Congressional Black Caucus.
In March 2015, Plaskett went to the House floor to condemn the fact that the 4.1 million people living in U.S. island territories were not allowed to vote for president or to have a voting representative in Congress. “As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma this week and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act,” she said, “there are still American citizens today who do not have equal voting rights. These are citizens of America’s island territories—the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Marianas.”
In April 2015, Plaskett joined numerous other House Democrats in endorsing a legal amicus brief supporting President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions designed to prevent the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
That same month, Plaskett participated in a Howard University panel that discussed why the deaths of black Americans—whether as victims of crime or at the hands of police—generally did not spark more outrage across the United States. The Howard event was held against the backdrop of the high-profile deaths of Missourian Michael Brown and New Yorker Eric Garner, two black men who had died in altercations with white police officers in the summer of 2014. “Some lives are more valuable than others,” said Plaskett wryly.
In July 2019, CNBC.com reported that the massively wealthy political financier Jeffrey Epstein — who infamously had been accused of sexually exploiting dozens of underage girls between 2002 and 2005 — had donated money directly to Plaskett’s two most recent campaigns for the U.S. House. Those contributions included a pair of $2,700 donations in 2016, plus another $2,700 in 2018. Plaskett spokesman Mike McQueery told the press that the congresswoman had no immediate plans to refund Epstein’s gifts. “I’m pretty sure she’s not [going to],” stated McQueery.
The very next day, however, Plaskett reversed course and announced that she had decided to give away, to charitable causes, the money she had received from Epstein. “In light of new information and allegations that have been made against Jeffrey Epstein, I have decided to make contributions to Virgin Islands organizations that work with women and children in the amount of his previous contributions,” Plaskett said in a July 9, 2019 statement. “My litmus test for accepting campaign contributions has been based on whether the donor’s money was made legally or by ill-gotten means and that the contributor will not ask of me or my Congressional office for any special favors,” Plaskett added. “All my contributions have passed that test. In this case however, I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times.”
In a March 10, 2021 hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives, Plaskett was angered by Wisconsin Republican Glenn Grothman’s assertion that Black Lives Matter is “a group that doesn’t like the old-fashioned family” — a reference to BLM’s candidly articulated desire to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” After Rothman had finished speaking and began walking away, Plaskett said: “I hope my colleague from Wisconsin will not leave at this time, as he’s talked about Black Lives Matter. How dare you? How dare you say that Black Lives Matter, black people, do not understand old-fashioned families? Despite some of the issues, some of the things that you have put forward that I’ve heard out of your mouth in the Oversight Committee, in your own district, we have been able to keep our families alive for over 400 years.” Lamenting “the assault on our families to not have black lives, or not even have black families,” she added: “How dare you say that we are not interested in families in the black community? That is outrageous—that should be stricken down.”
After the multi-billionaire Elon Musk purchased the social-media platform Twitter in 2022, he permitted a small group of investigative journalists to access to a vast collection of internal and external communications that had been transmitted over the years among the company’s employees and officials. The journalists, in turn, distilled and presented those communications to the public in a series of separate installments starting on December 2, 2022. These so-called “Twitter Files” proved that Twitter – prior to being purchased by Musk — had actively cooperated with federal law-enforcement agencies to censor certain information that conflicted with the company’s leftwing political orthodoxy, and to create “secret blacklists” targeting prominent conservatives.
To investigate this improper collusion between a private-sector company and the federal government, House Republicans in January 2023 established a “House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Just prior to a March 9, 2023 hearing held by that Subcommittee, Matt Taibbi — one of the journalists to whom Elon Musk had granted access to the aforementioned Twitter communications — released a new installment of the Twitter Files. That installment revealed that the social-media giant had established a “Censorship-Industrial Complex” whereby Twitter leaders consulted on a regular basis with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and nongovernmental organizations like the Atlantic Council and the National Endowment for Democracy, to censor information – even if it was accurate – that might make some people reluctant to be inoculated with COVID-19 vaccination shots.
During the first round of questioning in the March 9 hearing, Rep. Plaskett, the ranking member of the Select Subcommittee, sought to dismiss witnesses’ concerns about the fact that the FBI and other federal agencies had pressured Twitter to suspend or ban the accounts of users who were guilty of spreading so-called “disinformation” vis-a-vis the COVID vaccines and other politically charged topics. As National Review noted: “Instead of expressing outrage at the government’s role in censoring political speech, Plaskett attacked the witnesses for allegedly endangering Twitter employees by publishing their redacted internal communications.” For example, the congresswoman cited the testimony of Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, who, during a previous committee hearing, said that he had been the target of threats and online harassment after some of the Twitter Files had exposed his role in censoring content at the behest of the FBI. Plaskett told Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Subcommittee: “I am not exaggerating when I say that you have called before you two witnesses who pose a direct threat to people who oppose them.”
Plaskett further claimed that there was no “real evidence” that Twitter and the federal government had colluded in any way. Instead, she argued that the hundreds of internal Twitter communications that journalists like Matt Taibbi had exposed to the public, were nothing more than examples of benign efforts by Twitter to practice “content moderation.”
Plaskett also made it known, quite explicitly, that she viewed Taibbi and another Twitter Files journalist who was testifying at the March 9 hearing, Michael Shellenberger, as inauthentic and illegitimate members of the journalism profession. Characterizing the two as “so-called journalists,” the congresswoman said: “The Republicans have brought in two of Elon Musk’s public scribes to release cherry-picked, out-of-context emails and screenshots designed to promote his chosen narrative — Elon Musk’s chosen narrative — that is now being parroted by the Republicans.” “Mr. Chairman,” Plaskett said to Rep. Jordan, “Americans can see through this. Musk is helping you out politically, and you’re going out of your way to promote and protect him, and to praise him for his work.”
Mr. Taibbi responded to Plaskett’s disparaging remarks about him by saying: “Ranking member Plaskett, I’m not a so-called journalist. I’ve won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and I’ve written 10 books, including four New York Times bestsellers.” But while Taibbi spoke those words, Plaskett did not listen to him; instead, she carried on a private conversation with two aides.
In the March 9 hearing as well, Plaskett referenced an 18-page report that Rep. Jordan had recently released containing excerpts of letters from the Federal Trade Commission to Twitter – a report condemning the FTC’s “partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.” “On Tuesday, the majority released an 18-page report claiming to show that the FTC is, quote, ‘harassing’ Twitter,” Plaskett said before sarcastically adding: “Oh my, poor Twitter.”
Plaskett also called into question whether some of the lenders whose funds had helped Musk acquire Twitter, may have included operatives from nations hostile to the United States:
“This isn’t just a matter [of] what data was given to these so-called journalists before us now, there are many legitimate questions about where Mr. Musk got the financing to buy twitter. We know for a fact that foreign countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and possibly even Russia and China are investors presently in Twitter. Do these countries now have access to private Twitter user data? What agreement has Elon Musk reached with them?”
Contrary to Plaskett’s insinuations, however, the sources of Musk’s funding for his purchase of Twitter had been publicly known from the outset: In addition to the $21 billion that Musk himself had paid, the other sources of financing were: Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, BNP Paribas, Bank of America, Mizuho, SocGen, Credit Suisse, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Also in the March 9 hearing, Plaskett downplayed recent revelations showing that the Federal Trade Commission had demanded that Musk identify, by name, every reporter who had been granted access to Twitter’s internal records. Indeed, Plaskett herself pressed Mr. Taibbi to reveal the names of the sources who had permitted him to examine the Twitter communications that served as the basis of the Twitter Files. “Who gave you access to these emails?” asked the congresswoman. “Who was the individual who gave you permission to access the emails?” But Taibbi would not reveal any names, stating only that “the attribution for my story is sources at Twitter.”
After watching Plaskett’s exchange with Taibbi – and a similar exchange with Shellenberger — longtime criminal defense attorney Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, tweeted: “… I never thought I would come to see this day when Democrats trash journalists for seeking to disclose government censorship work and pressing them for their sources and confidential information.”
“Stacey Plaskett” (Plaskett.house.gov, Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org).