Internal probe slams Bush Justice official for illegal hiring

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 13, 2009 

WASHINGTON — A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as "real Americans,'' kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.

Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers "commies'' and "pinkos'' and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn't be limited to hiring "politburo members'' who belong to some "psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,'' the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.

Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.

The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.

It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and "improperly used political or ideological affiliations'' in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.

Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.

When Schlozman was approached by a lower-level manager or fellow department political employee about a job applicant, he sometimes blurted, "Conservative?'' or "What's his view of the world?'' the report says.

Schlozman also directed several section chiefs not to assign important cases to attorneys he identified as liberal, investigators concluded.

Senior managers in the division, including former civil rights chiefs R. Alexander Acosta, who's now the U.S. attorney in Miami, and Wan Kim, had enough information to be alerted to Schlozman's misbehavior, but "failed to exercise sufficient oversight,'' the report found.

Schlozman, who left the department in 2007 and now works for a law firm in Wichita, Kan., refused along with several other former division political employees to be interviewed by internal investigators.

His Atlanta attorney, William Jordan, said in a statement Tuesday that his client had been exonerated by the decision not to prosecute him. Jordan denounced the internal report as "inaccurate, incomplete, biased, unsupported by the law and contrary to the facts," contending that hiring individuals with a conservative view of the law is not "the same as hiring individuals because they are Democrats and Republicans, which is illegal.''

Schlozman provided prosecutors with the results of a lie detector test — conducted by a polygrapher of his choosing — "that demonstrated his testimony before Congress was truthful and accurate," Jordan said.

Tuesday's report, based on 120 interviews and reviews of 200,000 e-mails and thousands of other documents, paints a different picture. It cites one instance after another in which Schlozman probed job applicants' political or ideological views.

Shanetta Cutlar, the chief of the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section, told investigators that Schlozman and others culled resumes from the applicant pool that typically reflected membership in conservative organizations but had little relevant experience, then overrode her objections. Cutlar also said that Schlozman confided in March 2007 that he ``probably made some mistakes . . . (and) considered politics when I shouldn't have.''

Schlozman went to events sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society to recruit young applicants, but investigators found no similar forays to liberal-leaning groups.

In a 2003 e-mail exchange with a former colleague, Schlozman referred to lawyers in the department's Voting Rights Section as "mold spores'' and said: "My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of those crazy libs . . . out of the section."

Schlozman's conduct persisted even after Kim, at the time a fellow deputy, learned of his screening methods in 2004, met with him and reminded him that a civil service law barred partisanship in hiring, the report says.

While Schlozman was the acting division chief from June 2005 to December 2005, the report found, he considered political and ideological leanings in the transfers of three veteran Appellate Section attorneys to other jobs. The unit's section chief, Diana Flynn, said Schlozman described many of the unit's career attorneys as ``against us,'' ``not on the team'' and ``treacherous'' and that he wanted to replace them with ``real Americans,'' the report says.

On June 15, 2006, after leaving the division to serve as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., Schlozman said in an e-mail to a friend that he missed "bitch slapping" division attorneys and suggested that the department create "the Brad Schlozman Award for Most Effectively Breaking the Will of Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats.''

Schlozman's name surfaced in 2007 as allegations flew over the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and the politicization of the Justice Department. A special prosecutor now is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing.

Department spokesman Peter Carr said Tuesday's report described troubling conduct and that Schlozman had deviated from the department's mission of "evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it.''

Pat Riley, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to specify why Schlozman wasn't prosecuted on perjury charges for denying to the Senate that politics had entered his personnel decisions. She said six prosecutors had conducted an "exhaustive review,'' questioned witnesses not previously interviewed and used additional investigative techniques before deciding not to file perjury charges.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the report ``confirms some of our worst fears about the Bush administration's political corruption of the Justice Department.''

"It should come as no surprise that the result, and of course the intent, of this political makeover of the Civil Rights Division has been a dismal civil rights enforcement record,'' he said.

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