Remember this scandal? Verdict (of a sort) is in:
Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general’s report released today.
Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.
Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.
Taking political or personal factors into account in employment decisions for career positions violates civil service laws and can run afoul of ethics rules. Investigators said today that both Goodling and Sampson had engaged in "misconduct."
The improper personnel moves deprived worthy candidates of promotions and damaged the credibility of the Justice Department, investigators wrote. An experienced counterterrorism prosecutor, for example, was kept from advancing in favor of a more junior lawyer who lacked a background in terrorism.
The procedures imposed on immigration judge candidates caused serious delays in appointing judges at a time when the courts suffered under a heavy workload, the report said.
Of all the Bush adminsitration scandals, and there have been many, this particular scandal will probably be a footnote. But sadly, it should be remembered more fervently. We get into very dangerous grounds will the law, and those oblligated to enforce, are politicized.
The final report from the DOJ (PDF format) contains goodies like this:
We interviewed Angela Williamson, who was the Department’s Deputy White House Liaison and reported to Goodling during most of Goodling’s tenure as White House Liaison. Williamson attended numerous interviews conducted by Goodling and told us that Goodling asked the same questions “all the time” and tried to ask the same questions of all candidates. […] After Goodling resigned, Williamson typed from memory the list of questions Goodling asked as a guide for future interviews. Among other questions, the list included the following:
- Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.
- [W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?
- Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.
We found that this last question often took the form of asking the candidate to identify his or her most admired President, Supreme Court Justice, or legislator. Some candidates were asked to identify a person for all three categories. Williamson told us that sometimes Goodling asked candidates: “Why are you a Republican?”
Several candidates interviewed by Goodling told us they believed that her question about identifying their favorite Supreme Court Justice, President, or legislator was an attempt to determine the candidates’ political beliefs. For example, one candidate reported that after he stated he admired Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Goodling “frowned” and commented, “but she’s pro-choice.”