The Bush administration took the country down the road to dysfunction by replacing merit with politics as a deciding factor in hiring decisions.
Justice Weeds Out Liberals, Report Says
By LARA JAKES JORDAN,AP
Ivy Leaguers and other top law students were rejected for plum Justice Department jobs two years ago because of their liberal leanings or objections to Bush administration politics, a government report concluded Tuesday.
In one case, a Harvard Law student was passed over after criticizing the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. In another, a Georgetown University student who had previously worked for a Democratic senator and congressman didn't make the cut.
Even senior Justice Department officials flinched at what appeared to be hiring decisions based — improperly and illegally — on politics, according to the internal report.
"Individuals at the department were rejecting any of our candidates who could be construed as left-wing or who were perceived, based on their appearances and resumes and so forth, as being more liberal," Kevin Ohlson, deputy director of the department's executive office of immigration review, complained to Justice investigators.
The report marked the culmination of a yearlong investigation by Justice's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility into whether Republican politics were driving hiring polices at the once fiercely independent department...
The report issued Tuesday concluded that politics and ideology disqualified a significant number of newly graduated lawyers and summer interns seeking coveted Justice jobs in 2006.
As early as 2002, career Justice employees complained to department officials that Bush administration political appointees had largely taken over the hiring process for summer interns and so-called Honors Program jobs for newly graduated law students. For years, job applicants had been judged on their grades, the quality of their law schools, their legal clerkships and other experiences.
But in 2002, many applicants who identified themselves as Democrats or were members of liberal-leaning organizations were rejected while GOP loyalists with fewer legal skills were hired, the report found. Of 911 students who applied for full-time Honors jobs that year, 100 were identified as liberal — and 80 were rejected. By comparison, 46 were identified as conservative, and only four didn't get a job offer.
The political filtering of applicants ebbed for the three years between 2003 and 2005, the inquiry found, then resumed by 2006.
Of 602 Honors candidates that year, 150 were identified as liberal — including 83 who were cut. Five of 28 self-described conservatives were rejected.
Investigators blamed two political appointees on a three-person screening committee for the preferential treatment. It also singled out one of them, former deputy attorney general staff chief Michael Elston, for failing to make sure the hirings were proper — and giving evasive and misleading answers about why they were not.
Although federal law prohibits discriminating against government job applicants based on their politics, it's unlikely that any of those involved in the hiring process will be penalized since they no longer work at the department...
"This is the first smoking gun," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We believe there will be more to come. This report shows clearly that politics and ideology replaced merit as the hiring criteria at one of our most prized civil service departments."