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IG Report: DOJ Under Bush Favored GOP-conservative Job Candidates

In a new report, the Bush Justice Department was found to lean heavily toward Republican or conservative applicants for entry-level lawyer positions, confirming Democratic fears that "politicization" of DOJ under former AGs John Ashcroft Alberto Gonzales was extensive, even impacting the hiring process.

The joint  investigation by DOJ's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that from 2002 to 2006, senior Justice Department officials heavily favored Republican or conservative when making hiring decisions for its Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program. The two programs are used to funnel new law-school graduates into DOJ's ranks.

"The overall data indicated a pattern of deselecting candidates  based on political or ideological affiliations," the new report states. "A disproportionate number of the deselected Honors Program and SLIP candidates had liberal affiliations as compared to the candidates with conservative affiliations."

The report added: "In sum, the data showed that candidates with Democratic Party and liberal affiliations apparent on their applications were deselected at a significantly higher rate than candidates with Republican Party,conservative, or neutral affiliations."

Not all those who got interviews with Justice via the two programs were hired, but the according to the report, there was a deliberate attempt to skew the selection process begining in 2002, when responsibility for the selection process was taken away from career employees and given to political appointees. For instance, candidates who listed a membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, were approved for interviews at a far higher rate than those candidates with ties to liberal groups.

Since questions were first raised about problems with the Honors and SLIP programs last year, the selection process has been revamped and is now controlled by career DOJ employees.

Democrats immediately pounced on the findings as proof that their fears about Gonzales' tenure at Justice were well-founded, especially the claim that the Bush administration was turning the department into a ideological bastion for Republicans and conservatives.

“Two important Justice Department watchdogs have resoundingly confirmed one of the central allegations of the Committee’s DOJ politicization investigation," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) in a statement. "Yet again, the Department has been putting politics where it doesn’t belong."

“Today’s troubling report from the Inspector General confirms what our oversight efforts in this Congress have uncovered about the politicization of hiring practices at the Department," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in his own statement. "It confirms our findings and our fears that the same senior Department officials involved with the firing of United States Attorneys were injecting improper political motives into the process of hiring young attorneys."
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