July 28, 2008
DOJ Finds That Its Hiring Was Unlawful
We've posted before about some of the problems with politics infecting hiring at the Department of Justice. Now the DOJ's own internal investigation has found that some of the hiring throughout the DOJ was unlawfully based on politics (the text of the report is here). According to the New York Times:
Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by using politics to guide their hiring decisions for a wide range of important department positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility and independence, an internal report concluded Monday. The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office, singles out for particular criticism Monica Goodling, a young lawyer from the Republican National Committee who rose quickly through the ranks of the department to become a top aide to Mr. Gonzales. . . .
The inspector general’s investigation found that Ms. Goodling and a handful of other senior aides to Mr. Gonzales developed a system of using in-person interviews and Internet searches to screen out candidates who might be too liberal and to identify candidates seen as pro-Republican and supportive of President Bush. . . . In her position as White House liaison for the Justice Department, Ms. Goodling was involved in hiring lawyers for both political appointments and non-political, career positions. Regardless of the type of position, the report said, Ms. Goodling would run through the same batch of questions, asking candidates about their political philosophies, why they wanted to serve President Bush, and who, aside from Mr. Bush, they admired as public servants. Sometimes, Ms. Goodling would ask: “Why are you a Republican?” . . .
In one case, for instance, Ms. Goodling slowed the hiring of a prosecutor in the United States attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., for a vacancy because she said she was concerned that he was a “liberal Democrat.” After the United States attorney, Jeffrey Taylor, complained to her supervisors, he was allowed to hire the candidate anyway.
And in another case, colleagues said that Ms. Goodling refused to extend the appointment of a female prosecutor because she believed the lawyer was involved in a lesbian relationship with her supervisor, according to the report.
And in another case cited by the inspector general, Ms. Goodling blocked the hiring of an experienced prosecutor for a senior counter-terrorism position because his wife was active in Democratic politics. The candidate was regarded as “head and shoulders above the other candidates” in the view of officials in the executive office of United States attorneys, but they were forced to take a candidate with much less experience because he was deemed acceptable to Ms. Goodling.
In forwarding a résumé in 2006 from a lawyer who was working for the Federalist Society, Ms. Goodling sent an e-mail message to the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury, saying: “Am attaching a résumé for a young, conservative female lawyer.” Ms. Goodling interviewed the woman herself for possible positions and wrote in her notes such phrases as “pro-God in public life,” and “pro-marriage, anti-civil union.” She was eventually hired as a career prosecutor.
Ms. Goodling also conducted extensive searches on the Internet to glean the political or ideological leanings of candidates for career positions, the report found. She and other Justice Department supervisors would look for key phrases like “abortion,” “homosexual,” “guns,” or “Florida re-count” to get information on a candidate’s political leanings.
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