Civil Wrongs at the Justice Department
BEFORE THE BUSH era passes too far into history, take a moment to peruse yet another devastating report about politics run amok at the Bush Justice Department. The subject is personnel decisions in the department's Civil Rights Division. The report, which was released publicly on Jan. 13, was prepared by the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility. The findings are, in a word, disgusting.
Supervisors in the division routinely weighed political affiliation or ideology in hiring for career positions, which is a violation of federal civil service laws. Managers referred to some employees hired during Democratic administrations as "libs" or "pinkos." When making hiring decisions, one supervisor, Bradley Schlozman, in conversations and e-mails, stated a preference for hiring conservatives -- or, in his parlance, "right-thinking Americans" (whom he also referred to as "RTAs"). According to the report, roughly 64 percent of those Mr. Schlozman hired were considered Republican or conservative; 2 percent had more liberal or Democratic credentials, and the political views of 34 percent were unknown.
The report says that Mr. Schlozman often resisted assigning critical cases to lawyers he perceived as being too liberal. It cites as an example an e-mail exchange Mr. Schlozman had with the supervisor in charge of the division's appellate section. Mr. Schlozman wanted to know who was handling an important case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit: "The potential stakes are too great to entrust to either a lib or an idiot," Mr. Schlozman wrote.
The inspector general's office and the Office of Professional Responsibility accused Mr. Schlozman of making false statements to Congress when he denied taking political affiliation into account in hiring decisions. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, to which the matter of Mr. Schlozman's conduct was referred, announced this month that it would not file charges. The office did not explain its rationale. Mr. Schlozman's lawyer derided the report and told The Post's Carrie Johnson that it was a "Star Chamber-type inquiry from the start."
Attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. promised during his confirmation hearing Jan. 15 that, if confirmed, he would review the decision not to prosecute. He should follow through with this promise and make his findings public to the extent possible. There is virtually nothing that can be done to make Mr. Schlozman pay for the damage he did by injecting politics inappropriately into the hiring and management process. But if he lied to Congress, he can and must be held accountable under federal law.