Hour Two: Justice Dept. Report Finds Political Hiring Bias

An internal report by the Justice Department's own inspector general and ethics office concludes that the department broke the law when it hired candidates based on their political leanings.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, milk. I'm Rachel Martin.

MIKE PESCA, host:

And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Wednesday June 25th, 2008. So, what are we going to try and milk here? How about this? Sitting in the studios when we came in is the latest issue of Ebony Magazine. I don't know how it got here. But as I was leafing through Ebony Magazine, I got to page four, and there is this ad for Budweiser, only it's not for Budweiser. It is Budweiser's attempt to reach to the African-American community.

At Anheuser-Busch, we're proud to help celebrate the heritage of all African-Americans, but more importantly, we hope to inspire the king and queens in all of us. So, what they have done is they have the website called africanamericanbud.com, and they have portraits of great African kings and queens. And I was saying, this just seems like the shortest meeting ever. Hey, hey, hey, what do we do for African-American community outreach? I don't know. Let's see, let's see. We're Budweiser. Clydesdales? No. We're the King of Beers. King? King! Africa, kings. Africa has kings. OK, there we go. Print it. Could it have taken much longer than that?

MARTIN: I think it's a smarter move to put Serena Williams on the cover page. You have a hot model there.

PESCA: Yeah, well, Ebony knows what to put on the cover. I went to the website. There's lots of pictures of kings like Hannibal, who's actually from Tunisia, a part of Africa, but then you have the whole North Africa/South Africa split. I have gone down that African king rabbit hole. Well, anyway, we will be talking about a lot of things, none of it the latest issues of Ebony. Iran, Iraq, the candidates talk about foreign policy challenges in those countries. Talk about that a lot. The last that we heard, there were a couple other countries out there.

MARTIN: Just a couple.

PESCA: Yep. There are more foreign policy issues of what to do with Iran and Iraq. We thought you might like to hear more about that.

MARTIN: Also, Tony Soprano shirts, Jack Kerouac's ashtray. Both likely smell of tobacco. Both are among the detritus of stars available at Christie's pop culture auction. We're going to hear about all sorts of stuff that we think it's pretty cool, but we're probably not going to buy it.

PESCA: Detritus of stars? I like it. And our very own Dan Pashman has spent weeks delving into the world of raw milk. We will milk him for his knowledge. We'll get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

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PESCA: Justice Department officials broke the law. That's according to an internal report according the department's own inspector general and ethics office that was released yesterday.

MARTIN: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston summed up the issue like this.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: If you are a young lawyer trying to get a career job at the Justice Department, there are two ways to get in, either through the honors program, or the summer law-intern program. And according to today's report, ever since the beginning of the Bush administration in 2002, to get through that door, you probably needed to be a Republican.

MARTIN: The problem is that making those hires based on political leanings is a violation of department policy and federal law.

PESCA: The report says young lawyers whose resumes leaned to the left were shut out of key job interviews, while those who leaned to the right had a much better shot at getting hired. In 2002, 15 of 18 perceived liberal candidates were rejected, while every single conservative candidate was accepted.

MARTIN: The inspector general said those involved in the screening denied using politics to judge applicants. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey says the practice was changed in 2007, and says he'll accept all the report's additional recommendations.

PESCA: This is just one of several internal Justice Department investigations that stemmed from the firings of several U.S. attorneys is 2006. Those dismissals were allegedly motivated by politics and the scandal helped bring down former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

MARTIN: One of those fired U.S. attorneys, David Iglesias, has a new book out. Last week, on "The Daily Show," he talked about why he thinks he was let go.

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Mr. DAVID IGLESIAS (Former U.S. Attorney, New Mexico): What happened is, they wanted us to file politically oriented prosecutions, instead of just doing what our normal job is, which is enforce federal law. It wasn't that explicit or vulgar, but what they did do is want us to file voter-fraud prosecutions when the evidence wasn't there beyond a reasonable doubt.

PESCA: Meanwhile, one former interim U.S. attorney who did file those voter fraud prosecutions may be investigated for allegedly lying to Congress about it. Bradley Schlozman has yet to comment on those charges

MARTIN: As for Iglesias, the Evangelical conservative says he's a bit disillusioned with the Republican Party.

Mr. IGLESIAS: To use a "Star Wars" kind of image, I thought I was working with the Jedi knights and I worked for the Sith lords.

PESCA: Maybe he was actually let go for being a little too nerdy for the Justice Department, just a theory. You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of the day's headlines with the BPP's Matt Martinez.

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