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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Goodling Legacy

by dday

The DoJ Inspector General released the findings of their investigations into the politicization of hiring at the Department, particularly by Monica Goodling and senior staff. A PDF of the report can be found here. It's everything you expected and more. I mean, Goodling already admitted to Congress that her hiring decisions "may have been influenced in
part based on political considerations." So the report just fills in some of the details. And the details are pretty incredible.

As a routine for hiring both political and career positions in the Department of Justice, Goodling would ask the following questions:

Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

We found that this last question often took the form of asking the candidate to identify his or her most admired President, Supreme Court Justice, or legislator. Some candidates were asked to identify a person for all three categories. Williamson told us that sometimes Goodling asked candidates: “Why are you a Republican?”

When someone answered "Condoleezza Rice" to that last question, Goodling mused, “but she’s pro-choice.”

Another candidate for a position, a "top counter-terrorism prosecutor," was denied because his wife was a Democrat.

He was an experienced terrorism prosecutor and had successfully prosecuted a high-profile terrorism case for which he received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service. … The candidate’s wife was a prominent local Democrat elected official and vice-chairman of a local Democratic Party. […]

[Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) Michael] Battle, [EOUSA Deputy Director and Cheif of Staff] Kelly, and EOUSA Deputy Director Nowacki all told us that Goodling refused to allow the candidate to be detailed to EOUSA solely on the basis of his wife’s political party affiliation. Battle said he was very upset that Goodling opposed the detail because of political reasons.

Another woman was denied an Assistant US Attorney position because Goodling believed she was a lesbian.

Goodling and her predecessor as the hiring manager, Jan Williams, apparently Googled candidates to determine their professional, political and ideological histories, as it was official White House policy. Check this out.

At some time during the year Williams served as White House Liaison, she had attended a seminar at the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and received a document entitled “The Thorough Process of Investigation.” The document described methods for screening candidates for political positions and recommended using www.tray.com
and www.opensecrets.org to find information about contributions to political candidates and parties. The document also explained how to find voter registration information. In addition, the document explained how to conduct searches on www.nexis.com, and included an example of a search string that contained political terms such as “republican,” “Bush or Cheney,” “Karl Rove,” “Howard Dean,” “democrat!,” “liberal,” “abortion or pro-choice,” as well as generic terms such as “arrest!” and “bankrupt!”

As the report spells out pretty clearly, this is all completely illegal. John Conyers and Linda Sanchez today considered a criminal referral of these charges.

"Today's report describes ‘systematic’ violations of federal law by several former leaders of the Department of Justice," said Conyers. "Apparently, the political screening was so pervasive that even qualified Republican applicants were rejected from Department positions because they were ‘not Republican enough’ for Monica Goodling and others. The report also makes clear that the cost to our nation of these apparent crimes was severe, as qualified individuals were rejected for key positions in the fight against terrorism and other critical Department jobs for no reason other than political whim. The Report also indicates that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, and Alberto Gonzales may have lied to the Congress about these matters. I have directed my staff to closely review this matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for perjury is needed."

Sen. Leahy has a fairly strong statement out as well. The IG will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The very familiar question here is, who will be held accountable, if anyone? Under the relevant statutes, much of the punishment concerning Hatch Act violations like this concerns removal from office, and most of those implicated in this report have already left DoJ (though one, EOUSA Deputy Director John Nowacki, who lied to senior DoJ officials about Goodling's politicized hiring practices, remains). Goodling and her pals may get disbarred for illegal hiring and lawbreaking, or maybe not. The IG's recommendations all concern how to prevent illegal hiring practices like this in the future, and have little effect on the sins of the past. More importantly, we don't even know how many career positions throughout the DoJ, particularly those working as immigration judges, are the ones who passed Goodling's loyalty tests and are now permanently installed inside the government. You can say that a new Democratic Administration should immediately fire everyone Goodling hired and start the process over again. I'm not sure that is legal under civil service reform laws dating back to Chester Arthur in the 1880s. What Goodling and her team did was to go around the spoils system that was the impetus for civil service reform, but there would have to be some kind of executive finding that the hiring process was polluted and would need to be reworked. And this would of course be a major undertaking for the DoJ, although I would argue a necessary one.

If this is ignored, you are going to see all kinds of whistleblowers and martyrs coming out of the woodwork in an Obama Administration, telling lurid and probably false tales accusing them of exactly what the Bush Administration put into practice and more. And they will be held up on the right as shining examples of patriots who understand how the rule of law must be respected at all times.

And they will probably have been hired by Monica Goodling.