Jan. 13, 2009 -- A former Justice Department official discriminated against liberal job applicants at the department and then made false statements to Congress on the matter, according to a Justice Department report released Tuesday.
The probe, conducted by two watchdog groups within the department, reviewed "allegations that political or ideological affiliations were considered in hiring, transferring and assigning cases to career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice," specifically under former DOJ official Bradley Schlozman, who held an interim post at the head of the division.
According to the report, Schlozman circumvented many of his colleagues and arranged the hiring of lesser-qualified applicants based on their conservative political ideology.
The jobs involved were not political appointments but career positions for which candidates, according to federal law and guidelines, are to be selected for their qualifications, not their political or ideological leanings.
In one Jan. 30, 2004, e-mail, Schlozman declined a lunch invitation from a colleague, citing a previous commitment to interview "some lefty who we'll never hire."
In a March 5, 2004, message, he referred to potential hires in another division of the department as "commies" and said that "as long as I'm here, adherents of Mao's little red book need not apply."
The report notes that Department of Justice officials interviewed as part of the investigation said Schlozman believed many career employees at the departments were holdovers from prior administrations and not, as Schlozman reportedly said, "on the team." He wanted to hire "real Americans," a term those interviewed said Schlozman used "when referring to political conservatives."
Additionally, in a February 2006 voice mail Schlozman left for a colleague, he said that in hiring volunteer interns, experience relevant to the job should not always work in the candidate's favor.
"[W]hen we start asking, 'What is your commitment to civil rights? ... [H]ow do you prove that? Usually by membership in some crazy liberal organization or by some participation in some crazy cause ? Look, look at my resume -- I didn't have any demonstrated commitment, but I care about the issues. So, I mean, I just want to make sure we don't start confining ourselves to, you know, politburo members because they happen to be a member of some, you know, psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government."
Political Favoritism for Conservatives Alleged
After their review of e-mails and other messages from Schlozman and interviews with his former colleagues, the investigators found that he "favored applicants with conservative political or ideological affiliations and disfavored applicants with civil rights or human rights experience whom he considered to be overly liberal."
In addition, he winnowed down the applicant pool for the prestigious jobs before allowing section chiefs in his division to review resumes, the report concluded.
Schlozman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2007, and under questioning from lawmakers, he said that he "did not" violate government statutes, which state that a candidate's political ideology cannot be considered when hiring for a so-called career position.
Based on Schlozman's statements during the hearing and his written responses to lawmakers' questions, investigators concluded that he was not truthful in his testimony.
Schlozman declined through his lawyer to be interviewed as part of the investigation, but attorney William Jordan released a lengthy statement on his behalf that criticized its findings.
In the statement, Jordan called the report "inaccurate, incomplete, biased, unsupported by the law and contrary to the facts." He noted that Schlozman underwent a polygraph examination, the results of which, he said, "demonstrated his testimony before Congress was truthful and accurate."
Contrary to the report, he said, Schlozman did hire and promote more than two dozen individuals "that he knew to be either ideologically liberal or Democrats." Schlozman hired employees based on their "academic records, respect for the rule of law and their ability to separate their personal views from the enforcement activities of the Civil Rights Division," said Jordan, and "he is justifiably proud of the individuals he hired and the record level of enforcement activity of the Civil Rights Division."
Schlozman, who now works for a law firm in Wichita, Kan., resigned from the department in September 2007, so he will not face any reprimand from the government. As noted in the report and by Jordan, the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, D.C., received the report last year but declined to take any action against Schlozman.
Investigation of Gonzales-Era Justice Department
The report is the latest in a series of investigations critical of the department's hiring and firing processes under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales left the department under a cloud in September 2007, after months of criticism from Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers from both political parties charged that the department singled out and fired at least nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 based on political considerations.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that he was not only "particularly disturbed" about the allegations that Schlozman lied to his panel, but that the report "confirms some of our worst fears about the Bush administration's political corruption of the Justice Department."
Leahy has been a vocal critic of the department's activities under Gonzales, and noted that the report "is just one of the final chapters in the regrettable legacy of the Bush administration at Main Justice."
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr released a statement on the report, noting that the department's mission "is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it." In the statement, he criticized Schlozman, saying he "deviated from that strict standard."
Carr added that the department "agrees with the recommendations outlined in the report" and has already taken steps to remedy the issues. "As a result of these reforms ? we are confident that the institutional problems identified in today's report no longer exist and will not recur," he concluded.