Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RTAs 'R Us at Justice

"Right-Thinking Americans" is how they referred to themselves. I think Righteous Toady Attorneys is more like it.

Lost in all of the pre-inaugural pomp and Cabinet confirmation news is the Inspector General report on the politicization of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division that was just released. DOJ IG Takes Down Schlozman.

As the NYTimes reports, Criticism of Ex-Official in Hiring at Justice Dept.:

A former senior official at the Justice Department routinely hired Republicans, Federalist Society members and “R.T.A.’s” — “Right-Thinking Americans”— for what were supposed to be nonpolitical posts and gave them plum assignments on civil rights cases, an internal department report released Tuesday found.

The former official, Bradley Schlozman, who helped lead the Civil Rights Division for about three years beginning in 2003, also gave false statements to Congress when he denied factoring politics into his hiring decisions, the report from the inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department found. But last week federal prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Mr. Schlozman, who left the department in 2007 amid an uproar over accusations of widespread politicization.

In the Civil Rights Division, regarded as a cornerstone of the Justice Department since the days of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the investigation found that political supervisors charged with enforcing federal bias laws had illegally discriminated against job applicants seen as too liberal. The report said Mr. Schlozman’s superiors had ignored warnings about his brash management style and his political agenda.
The reports details the brazen politicization of the DOJ, which was pervasive. As David Kurtz of TPM notes, "Schlozman called career attorneys in the Voting Rights Section "mold spores" and in an email wrote, "My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of those crazy libs rights out of the section." See "Right-Thinking Americans".

The NYTimes also reports on the degree of illegal emphasis on ideology by Schlozman:

The report makes its case against Mr. Schlozman in his own words, drawn from e-mail and voice mail messages to colleagues and underlings, as he talked about reshaping the political makeup of the Civil Rights Division and doing away with “pinko” and “crazy lib” lawyers and others he did not consider “real Americans.”

In one e-mail message regarding a pool of job applicants, he wrote that “as long as I’m here, adherents of Mao’s Little Red Book need not apply.”

When a colleague reported that he had been given an office next to a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal affairs group, Mr. Schlozman responded in an e-mail message: “Just between you and me, we hired another member of ‘the team’ yesterday. And still another ideological comrade will be starting in one month. So we are making progress.”

The report found that Mr. Schlozman had selected conservative lawyers for prime assignments and transferred three lawyers out of the Civil Rights Division because they were seen as liberals who were opposed to his political agenda. All three later brought federal discrimination claims and returned to the division after Mr. Schlozman left. The transfers, the report found, violated federal civil service law and “constituted misconduct.”

The investigation found that among people hired by Mr. Schlozman, 63 of 65 were considered Republican or conservative, but that when he was not involved, “the results were more balanced,” with conservatives and liberals split about evenly.

In a 2003 voice-mail message to a colleague, Mr. Schlozman said experience in civil rights law was not needed to work for the division. “‘I just want to make sure we don’t start confining ourselves to, you know, Politburo members because they happen to be a member of some, you know, psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,” he said.
One of the most egregious instances was not mentioned by the Times. That was the "Black and Bitter" incident. As TPM reports:

From a footnote to the IG's report on the politicization of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ:

In that incident in August 2004, Voting Section Chief John Tanner sent an e-mail to Schlozman asking Schlozman to bring coffee for him to a meeting both were scheduled to attend. Schlozman replied asking Tanner how he liked his coffee. Tanner's response was, "Mary Frances Berry style - black and bitter." Berry is an African-American who was the Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from November 1993 until late 2004. Schlozman forwarded the e-mail chain to several Department officials (including Principal DAAG Bradshaw) but not Acosta, with the comment, "Y'all will appreciate Tanner's response."

Tanner, whose disastrous tenure in the Voting Section we chronicled extensively at TPMmuckraker, was canned not long after claiming that voter ID laws have a disproportionate impact on the elderly and therefore could not have an adverse impact on minority voters: "Minorities don't become elderly the way white people do: They die first."

The IG report was originally issued in July of last year, but was not released until now because it had been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. Schlozman testified about the politization of the Department before Congress and his statements, in light of the IGs findings, were determined to be comprised of "false statements." However, the DOJ declined to prosecute Schlozman.

A TPM reader points out that when Roger Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use in baseball, a grand jury was convened to consider a prejury indictment. Yep, It Does Seem A Little Odd. But when the IG finds that Bradley clearly broke the law by considering political affiliations in career attorney hiring decisions and lied to Congress about it? What ya gonna do about it? According to the US Attorney for DC: Nada.

And it's something that's just Not Right To Allow!

No comments: