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Revenge of the Liberal Bureaucrats

A new report on Bush administration hiring practices at Justice.

11:00 PM, Jan 22, 2009 • By HANS A. VON SPAKOVSKY
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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL Glenn Fine, himself a political appointee in the Clinton administration, has released his report on the supposed "illegal" political hiring at the Civil Rights Division of George W. Bush's Department of Justice. [Full disclosure: I served four years as a career lawyer in CRD during the Bush era -- apparently to little notice since the report barely mentions me in passing.] Fine issued the report just days before Attorney General nominee Eric Holder's confirmation hearing. That timing seemed aimed at providing maximum political benefit to Fine's fellow Democrats.

The political left, which never seems to tire of attacking the Bush Justice Department as corrupt, greeted the report with glee. But a dispassionate read can produce only sadness -- sadness that an official report can be so thickly laced with bias, inaccuracies, gross exaggerations, and deliberate misrepresentations of both facts and the law. It is also sad that the biases of those producing the report prevented them from highlighting the blatant examples of ideologically-driven hiring that occurred at Justice when Eric Holder was the Deputy Attorney General.

The report unintentionally demonstrates that what really upset Washington's Liberal Establishment was its temporary loss of power at the CRD. Activist special interests had exercised exclusive control over the Civil Rights Division for decades -- especially with respect to its hiring practices. When that rein was briefly interrupted by outsiders determined to enforce the laws as they are written, the old regime found the situation intolerable.

The Bias of the Report's Authors

The New York Times identifies Fine and Marshall Jarrett, the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which helped prepare the report, as "two veteran Justice Department watchdogs." Yet the OPR lawyer Jarrett assigned to conduct the investigation, Tamara Kessler, is a liberal former Civil Rights Division lawyer who actually worked alongside many of the leading critics identified in the report. Equally incredible, one of the Inspector General's lawyers assigned to probe the hiring practices of former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Schlozman, was none other than Mark Masling, also a former Civil Rights Division attorney and self-proclaimed "proud Democrat." In other words, there was never even any pretense of neutrality, distance, or objectivity. One would think that two "veterans" like Fine and Jarrett would recognize the importance of avoiding personal bias and the basic conflict of interest in having liberal former CRD career lawyers investigating the hiring of CRD career lawyers. Yet both overlooked or deliberately ignored this obvious impropriety.

The bias exhibited by Fine and Jarrett should not surprise. Consider their history in investigating (or, more accurately, ignoring) misconduct by career Civil Rights Division attorneys. Every lawyer knows, for example, that one of the worst things you can do professionally is to reveal the confidences of your client and the legal advice you have provided. Yet when liberal career lawyers leaked internal, privileged memoranda to the media and the Congress on cases like the Texas congressional redistricting and the Georgia voter ID law, Fine and Jarrett exhibited no interest whatsoever in scrutinizing these offenses. (The leakers, of course, complained bitterly about ideological hiring, which is perfectly legal.) The same was true when a particularly strident liberal attorney in the Division -- while still employed there -- contacted the target of an investigation and offered to represent that jurisdiction following his departure! That is an absolute violation of the professional code of conduct. When "watchdogs" repeatedly reveal a history of applying what seems to be a politically oriented one-way ratchet, one cannot expect fairness in their report.

The Skewed Report

The report issued by Fine and Jarrett reads more like a work of fantasy than a sober investigation. For example, the report claims that Schlozman hired only two "Democrats or liberals" during his tenure in the Civil Rights Division. This is utter nonsense. As at least a few media outlets grudgingly acknowledged, Schlozman provided the Inspector General Special Agent on the case a list of more than 25 individuals that he, Schlozman, knew were ideologically liberal or committed Democrats and who he had hired into line attorney or supervisory positions during his tenure in the Division.