Susan Walsh/AP
Attorney General Michael Mukasey

Justice Department Showed Political Hiring Bias, Says Report

June 25, 2008 04:26 PM
by Josh Katz
The Justice Department released a report Tuesday indicating that, under the Bush administration, the department hired Republicans over more-qualified Democrats and liberals.

30-Second Summary

The 115-page report points out the conservative bend in choosing candidates for the Attorney General’s Honors Program and the Summer Law Intern Program from 2002 to 2006. Federal law bans officials from choosing civil service applicants based on political affiliation.

This revelation is not the first high-profile incident of the Justice Department making politically based decisions. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was accused of misconduct in 2006 in the scandal over the department’s dismissal of U.S. attorneys. Gonzalez resigned in 2007 after allegedly committing perjury when he testified before Congress about government surveillance programs.

Tuesday’s report says that “that many qualified candidates” were rejected for jobs in the internship programs in 2006 “because of their perceived political or ideological affiliations.”

For example, Justice Department lawyer Esther Slater McDonald, one of the officials pinpointed in the report for misconduct, criticized a candidate in an e-mail for espousing liberal ideology. McDonald wrote, “Leftists usually refer to achieving ‘social justice’ or ‘making policy’ or anything else that involves legislating rather than enforcing.”

In the Examiner, Jay McDonough indicates that the department significantly favored applicants belonging to the conservative Federalist Society over the liberal American Constitution Society. Kate Klonick of the site TPMmuckraker cites similar statistics about the honors program: “in 2002, of the 100 ‘liberals’ nominated, 80% were ‘deselected’ by the Screening Committee. Of the 46 ‘conservatives’ nominated, only 9% were deselected.”

The Justice Department is expected to release more reports over the next few weeks that delve into the role of politics in government hiring and firing practices.

Headline Links: Report points to bias

Background: The firing of U.S. attorneys

Opinion & Analysis: Looking at the numbers

Related Topic: ‘Court Says Guantanamo Inmates Can Contest Detention’

Reference: The Justice Department report


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines