Report: Justice Official Made Politically Biased Hires

A Justice Department investigation has concluded that a powerful manager who worked in the Civil Rights Division during the Bush administration illegally hired attorneys based on partisan credentials and then lied about his actions to Congress.

Those conclusions are part of a long-awaited joint report by the Justice Department's inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

This is the final installment in a four-part investigation. Each report has focused on a different part of the Justice Department, and each has shown how Bush appointees at Justice broke the rules to put conservatives in positions that were supposed to be apolitical.

The Civil Rights Division report focuses on Brad Schlozman, who worked in the division from 2003 to 2006. For the last year of his employment at Civil Rights, he was second-in-command to the man in charge of the division. The report portrays Schlozman as a brash, self-important manager who tried to build an ideologically pure team of conservatives.

At a 2007 congressional hearing, Schlozman told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the conservative attorneys he brought into the Civil Rights Division "were not hired because they were Republican." Justice Department investigators now say Schlozman lied in that hearing.

The report quotes e-mails to colleagues in which Schlozman called civil rights attorneys "pinkos" and "commies." He bragged about hiring "real Americans" and "bitch-slapping a bunch of attorneys" he perceived as liberal.

In one voice mail to a colleague, Schlozman tried to justify hiring people with no record of civil rights experience.

"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," Schlozman said.

Schlozman's spokesman, Mark Corallo, cautioned, "Let's not confuse inartful comments with breaking the law."

Corallo worked with Schlozman as the Justice Department's communications director under John Ashcroft. He noted, "the United States attorney's office looked at it, they did a very thorough investigation, and they said there's nothing here. There's no violation of law."

The U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., spent six months investigating the allegations before deciding not to prosecute Schlozman. Republican former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh says the absence of criminal charges does not exonerate Schlozman. "I wouldn't put too much stock on the U.S. attorney's decision not to prosecute," said Thornburgh. "There's a real difference between not prosecuting someone criminally" and exonerating them.

Thornburgh, who ran the Justice Department under President Reagan, expressed dismay at "the kind of overt and blatant kind of partisan considerations that were apparent from this report." He said they "really have a harmful effect on the operations of the department."

Schlozman hired 112 attorneys during his tenure at Justice. According to the report, two-thirds were clearly conservative. Almost all the others had no obvious ideology. Schlozman's spokespeople dispute those numbers. They say Schlozman hired at least two dozen liberals.

Joe Rich worked at the Civil Rights Division from 1968 to 2005. For his last two years running the voting section, he worked under Schlozman.

Schlozman "had a disdain, a real vendetta, to get civil rights division attorneys," said Rich. Rich described Schlozman's goal as "to harass [career attorneys] and to drive them out of the division."

Rich left the division, in part, because he found it "extremely difficult" to work with Schlozman. "Some of the stuff in this report is really quite despicable," said Rich. "For a government official to be discussing things the way he discussed things is a real travesty of justice, to say the least."

In one e-mail quoted in the report, Schlozman wrote to a former colleague: "I too get to work with mold spores, but here in Civil Rights we call them Voting Section Attorneys."

In 2006, Schlozman left the Civil Rights Division after he was chosen to be interim U.S. attorney in Missouri. While in Missouri, he wrote an e-mail saying, "Perhaps the Division will name an award for me or something. How about the Brad Schlozman Award for Most Effectively Breaking the Will of Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats. I would be happy to come back for the awards ceremony."

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