|WEEDING OUT CANDIDATES Bradley Schlozman reportedly favored employees who shared his political views, and derided others as "libs" and "pinkos."|
Report says ideology was major factor in Justice Dept. hiring
WASHINGTON - Ideological considerations permeated the hiring process at the Justice Department's civil rights division, where a politically appointed official sought to hire "real Americans" and Republicans for career posts and prominent case assignments, according to a long awaited report released yesterday by the department's inspector general.
The extensive study of hiring practices between 2001 and 2007 concluded that a former department official improperly weeded out candidates based on their perceived ties to liberal organizations. Two other senior managers failed to oversee the process, authorities said.
The key official, former deputy assistant attorney general Bradley Schlozman, favored employees who shared his political views and derided others as "libs" and "pinkos," the report said.
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility chief H. Marshall Jarrett said they would refer their findings to legal disciplinary authorities.
"The department must be vigilant to ensure that such egregious misconduct does not occur in the future," Fine said in a statement.
The report marks the last in a series of inquiries by internal watchdogs into hiring lapses at the Justice Department during the Bush administration, a scandal that prompted the resignations of more than a dozen senior officials.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said the findings "confirmed some of our worst fears about the Bush administration's corruption of the Justice Department."
The report's release was delayed by more than six months after inspector general agents referred the case for possible prosecution by authorities in the District. But prosecutors in the US attorney's office declined to pursue the matter last week, according to lawyers involved in the case.
The decision means that Schlozman, who went on to serve as an acting US attorney in Missouri, will not face criminal sanctions for testimony he provided to Congress two years ago. Internal Justice Department investigators determined that Schlozman had made "false statements" to lawmakers about his role in the affair, they said in yesterday's report.
In June 2007, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Schlozman about his use of political factors in hiring decisions and the basis for bringing a voter registration case against a liberal group days before a local election. For example, Schlozman denied using political or ideological ties as a hiring criteria in response to questions from Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, the report said.
He later amended his testimony in September 2007 after his account was challenged by a career official. Schlozman resigned from the department in 2007.
William Jordan, a lawyer for Schlozman, said his client "testified fairly and accurately before the Senate" and provided investigators with a list of people he had hired who expressed liberal political views.
Investigators interviewed more than 120 employees and reviewed 200,000 e-mails, according to the report. They also performed a statistical analysis of hiring practices during Schlozman's tenure, finding that "political and ideological affiliations did not appear to have been a factor when attorneys were hired without Schlozman's involvement."
Uproar over changing priorities at the civil rights unit emerged more than four years ago, as longtime career officials departed or were reassigned into other spots.
But during the past several months, Attorney General Michael Mukasey moved to calm the waters. He engineered the return of several career lawyers into management roles and reached out to junior lawyers improperly denied jobs on the basis of political affiliation.