Report Cites Politicized Hiring at Justice Dept.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: January 13, 2009
WASHINGTON — A former senior official at the Justice Department routinely hired conservatives, Republicans and so-called RTA’s — “Right-Thinking Americans — for what were supposed to be apolitical posts and gave them plum assignments on important civil rights cases, an internal report found Tuesday.
The former official, Bradley Schlozman, who helped lead the civil rights division from 2003 until he resigned in the fall of 2007 amid a political uproar over broad charges of politicization at the department, also gave false statements to Congress in denying that he had taken politics into account in his hiring and personnel decisions, the report found.
The investigation, conducted by the department’s inspector general and its office of professional responsibility, is the fourth and last in a series of reports since last year detailing the use of improper political considerations in hiring decisions at the department. The investigations grew out of the controversy over the firings of eight United States attorneys, which led to the 2007 resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Mr. Schlozman was a senior political appointee in the civil rights division who eventually became the acting head of the division, which is responsible for enforcing federal laws on voting rights, racial and gender discrimination, fair housing and other issues. Investigators found that his own e-mail messages, along with interviews with more than 120 current and former employees, made clear that Mr. Schlozman tried to re-shape the office in a more conservative bent by hiring some 64 people — two-thirds of all the hires in the division — who were considered Republican or conservative.
He would also steer important assignments to lawyers he considered conservative. In an e-mail message about an appellate case, for instance, Mr. Schlozman said he did not want certain lawyers on the case. “The potential stakes are too great to entrust this to either a lib or an idiot,” he wrote.
Mr. Schlozman declined to speak with investigators as part of the review. Because he left the department, he is not subject to internal disciplining. Investigators referred the matter for possible criminal prosecutions based on accusations of false statements to Congress, but prosecutors last week declined to bring charges, the report said.
The department said Tuesday that it had taken internal steps to correct the “institutional problems” identified in the report and was confident they would not recur.
“The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it, and that mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own department,” said Peter Carr, a department spokesman. “As today’s report makes clear, Mr. Schlozman deviated from that strict standard.”