The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibilty just released this report on the allegations of politicized hiring by Monica Goodling, the Department’s former White House liaison.
The watchdogs' conclusion?
Goodling and others including D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales violated federal law and department policy by taking politics into consideration in the hiring of career Justice Department lawyers and immigration judges.
The 140-page report comes down especially hard on Goodling, who, it says, “subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and Department policy.”
One instance occurred in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Some time after the 2006 midterm elections, Jeffrey Taylor, the interim U.S. attorney, sought approval from Goodling to hire an assistant U.S. attorney.
“Goodling responded that the candidate gave her pause because judging from his résumé he appeared to be a ‘liberal Democrat.’ Goodling also stated that because Republicans had lost control of Congress after the November 2006 elections, she expected that Republican congressional staff might be interested in applying for AUSA positions in Washington,” the report says.
After Taylor complained to Sampson, he was given permission to hire the AUSA.
Goodling screened candidates by researching their political contributions, voter registration records, by searching for evidence of their political affiliations on the Internet, and by asking candidates questions about their politics in interviews, the report says.
The problem of political hiring was most pronounced in the case of immigration judges, who hold career positions covered by civil service laws, the reports says. In 2004, Sampson moved that hiring under the umbrella of the Attorney General’s Office, on the mistaken belief that the judges were appointees. Sampson told investigators that lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and Executive Office for Immigration Review told him that the positions were exempt from civil service laws.
The report concludes that he was never given such advice.
The report says the White House recommended most of the immigration judge candidates but “Republican sources” submitted names to Sampson, who resigned in March 2007, Goodling, who left April 2007, and Goodling’s predecessor as liaison, Jan Williams.
“All three of these officials inappropriately considered political or ideological affiliations in evaluating and selecting candidates for IJ positions,” the report says.
Since Goodling, Sampson and Williams have all resigned, they aren't subject to discipline by the Justice Department, the report says.
In a statement, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he was "disturbed" by the report's findings.
"I have said many times, both to members of the public and to Department employees, it is neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career Department employees," Mukasey said. "And I have acted, and will continue to act, to ensure that my words are translated into reality so that the conduct described in this report does not occur again at the Department."