The Justice Department under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales routinely violated federal hiring laws by using politics, sexual preference and other illegal criteria to replace qualifications, an internal report concludes.
The report found that qualified candidates for jobs were rejected because a spouse was involved in Democratic politics or because either the candidate or a candidate’s wife was believed to be a lesbian.
The report is a damning indictment of a Justice Department destroyed internally by political motives with no regard to laws.
The practices slowed hiring at critical times and hurt the department’s credibility, the report says.
Reports The New York Times:
A longtime prosecutor who drew rave reviews from his supervisors was passed over for an important counterterrorism slot because his wife was active in Democratic politics, and a much-less-experienced lawyer with Republican leanings got the job, the report said.
Another prosecutor was rejected for a job in part because she was thought to be a lesbian. And a Republican lawyer received high marks at his job interview because he was found to be sufficiently conservative on the core issues of “god, guns + gays.”
The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office, centered on the misconduct of a small circle of aides to Mr. Gonzales, including Monica Goodling, a former top adviser to the attorney general, and Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff. It also found that White House officials were actively involved in some hiring decisions.
According to the report, officials at the White House first developed a method of searching the Internet to glean the political leanings of a candidate and introduced it at a White House seminar called The Thorough Process of Investigation. Justice Department officials then began using the technique to search for key phrases or words in an applicant’s background, like “abortion,” “homosexual,” “Florida recount,” or “guns.”
The report focused its sharpest criticism on Ms. Goodling, a young lawyer from the Republican National Committee who rose quickly in the department to become a top aide to Mr. Gonzales.
Before a crush of cameras, Ms. Goodling testified before Congress in May 2007 at the height of the uproar over the firings of nine United States attorneys, admitting that she may have “crossed the line” at times in using politics in hiring decisions. But Monday’s report catalogued an effort much more systematic than Ms. Goodling described, leading some Democrats to charge that she, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Gonzales should be investigated for perjury.
Last month, the inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, and the Office of Professional Responsibility released a separate report that found a similar pattern of politicized hiring at the Justice Department in reviewing applications from young lawyers for the honors and intern programs.
The report released on Monday goes much further in documenting pervasive evidence of political hiring for some of the department’s most senior career positions, including immigration judges, assistant United States attorneys and even senior counterterrorism positions.