A Culture of Corruption

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 29, 2008; 11:26 AM

The big fish keep swimming away.

The latest investigation into the overt politicization of the Department of Justice has meticulously documented how a handful of young political appointees blatantly violated federal laws and Justice Department policies by hiring career employees based on the extent of their devotion to Republican dogma.

But the report doesn't address who is responsible for creating the culture of corruption in which these aides thrived.

Who asked them to behave this way? Or, barring an explicit request, how did they come to conclude that this was what their superiors expected of them? Who twisted the Justice Department, designed to operate with a large degree of independence, into a political adjunct of the White House?

And is it really just a coincidence that Monica Goodling, the central culprit of this latest report, held the title of White House liaison?

A June report by the same two Justice Department offices that produced yesterday's findings concluded that over a five year period, aides stocked a prestigious hiring program with young conservatives, intending to reshape the department's ranks. Two more internal reports are in the works, one about political interference with the Civil Rights Division and the other about the role of politics in the administration's controversial firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

Whether the eager, young politicos who carried out these policies are held accountable is one question. But who was pulling their strings is another.

It's unlikely that former absentee landlord Alberto Gonzales was a key player here. Not only did some of these practices pre-date him, but his primary task, which he bungled, appears to have been to conceal the fact that he wasn't the one calling the shots.

Indeed, it's hard to reach any conclusion other than that White House political operatives masterminded a plan to defile the Justice Department's mission in the short run and to seed its ranks with people who will be in a position to continue the corruption for a long time to come.

The Coverage

Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a 'farm system' for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices.

"That aide, Monica M. Goodling, exercised what amounted to veto power over a wide range of critical jobs, asking candidates for their views on abortion and same-sex marriage and maneuvering around senior officials who outranked her, including the department's second-in-command.

"An extensive report by the department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded yesterday that Goodling and others had broken civil service laws, run afoul of department policy and engaged in 'misconduct,' a finding that could expose them to further scrutiny and sanctions. . . .

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company