AP compared Obama's hiring of progressives at DOJ to Bush administration's alleged illegal hiring practices

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER & MATT GERTZ

In an article about criticisms of President Obama's nominations for Justice Department positions based on the nominees' "backgrounds" and "past clients," the AP's Devlin Barrett wrote: "Accusations of political manipulation at the Justice Department are not new. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has been investigated and excoriated by Democrats for making firing and hiring decisions based on political considerations." But there is no comparison between Obama's appointment of progressives to political jobs at DOJ and the Bush administration's alleged illegal use of political criteria to fill career DOJ jobs.

In a February 5 article about Christian conservatives' criticisms of President Obama's nominations for top Justice Department positions based on the nominees' "backgrounds" and "past clients," Associated Press reporter Devlin Barrett made a false comparison between those complaints and complaints Democrats made about Justice Department hiring and firing decisions under the Bush administration, writing: "Accusations of political manipulation at the Justice Department are not new. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has been investigated and excoriated by Democrats for making firing and hiring decisions based on political considerations." In fact, there is no comparison between Obama's appointment of progressives to political jobs at the Department of Justice and the Bush administration's alleged illegal use of political criteria to fill career Justice Department jobs.

In a July 28, 2008, report, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) noted the distinction between restrictions on hiring procedures for political and career staff, writing: "It is not improper to consider political or ideological affiliations in making hiring decisions for political positions. However, both Department policy and federal law prohibit discrimination in hiring for career positions on the basis of political affiliations."

The July 2008 report, titled "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General," found that former Justice Department White House liaison Monica Goodling "improperly 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." The report further concluded:

The evidence also showed that Goodling "often used political or ideological affiliations to select or reject career attorney candidates for temporary details to Department offices, including positions in EOUSA [Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys] that had not been filled by political appointees. Goodling's use of political considerations in connection with these details was particularly damaging to the Department because it resulted in high-quality candidates for important details being rejected in favor of less-qualified candidates."

In addition to Goodling, the report concluded that "[former chief of staff to the attorney general Kyle] Sampson, [former Justice Department White House liaison Jan] Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy, and Sampson and Goodling committed misconduct, by considering political and ideological affiliations in soliciting and selecting IJs [immigration judges], which are career positions protected by the civil service laws."

From the February 5 AP article:

Christian conservatives are challenging President Barack Obama's picks for top Justice Department positions, charging that past clients like Playboy taint their resumes.

The criticism comes ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Thursday for David Ogden, Obama's pick for deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at the Justice Department.

Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, was confirmed by the Senate on Monday and started work the next day. As he waits for confirmation of his top aides, many on the religious right are questioning the nominee's [sic] backgrounds, saying they have promoted far left, pro-abortion, pro-gay policies.

[...]

Some Republicans believe a tight embrace of social conservative values turns off independents and moderates, but many Christian right leaders resist compromise and contend that, if anything, the GOP has strayed too far from its principles.

Besides Ogden, conservatives also have taken aim at two other Justice picks -- Indiana University professor Dawn Johnsen for her association with an abortion rights group, and Thomas Perrelli, who represented the husband of Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a right-to-die case that energized evangelical groups across the country.

Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a past colleague of the three during the Clinton administration, said the conservatives' criticism of the trio is unusual and unwarranted.

"Usually, you may have a fight over who the attorney general is, but this is not par for the course, picking off next to the attorney general three of his top appointments," Greenberger said. "This is harassment and it is an attempt to reverse the election."

Accusations of political manipulation at the Justice Department are not new. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has been investigated and excoriated by Democrats for making firing and hiring decisions based on political considerations.

Tom Minnery, a vice president at Focus on the Family, charges that through the nominations, the new Democratic administration is not depoliticizing, but re-politicizing the Justice Department.

"They take our breath away the more we learn about these people," said Minnery. "This is left-wing politicization of the Justice Department. This is not a Justice Department that looks like America."

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
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