'Destructive pattern of partisan political action started long before' U.S. Attorney Purge Scandal, Says James D. Rich
RELATED: Anonymous Letter from 'Concerned' DoJ Employees Sent to Judiciary Committees About Political Hirings, 'Litmus Testing' at Justice...
By Brad Friedman on 4/18/2007, 5:23pm PT  

RAW STORY has just posted an anonymous letter sent from "A Group of Concerned Department of Justice Employees" to the chairs of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees detailing their concerns about the politicization and "litmus" test applied to hiring of new career employees, and even interns, at DoJ.

The two-page letter as posted at RAW is somewhat difficult to read, so here is a PDF of that letter if useful.

We're trying to catch up, as time allows, on a number of important items from the last few days and weeks which travel, various background work and deadlines of late have kept us from covering. The following is one of those items (with more to come) and relates to the anonymous letter mentioned above.

We've reported, in a number of stories, how the unprecedented politicization of the Dept. of Justice via the U.S. Attorney purge, and related actions, were meant to influence elections. From the upcoming 2008 Election (here) to the 2004 and 2006 elections (a few examples are here, here, here, here and here.)

An important editorial from Joseph D. Rich, the chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005, was published a few weeks ago by the LA Times but fell through the cracks (as so much has of late) in the busy last couple of weeks. We didn't get to cover it originally, but want to make sure we do.

Rich speaks to much of what we'd reported long ago in late 2005, when few were paying attention to this issue, about the Administration's work in gutting the beloved, 40-year old Voting Rights Act by political contravention of of consensus opinions of career civil rights attorneys at DoJ.

After revealing the tip of the iceberg of the DoJ's corrupt electoral gamesmanship, Rich concludes that "As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor."

Indeed, he details several points that we've reported here over the last several years, but from his insider, first-hand eyewitness experience.

His enlightening op/ed, exposes how the Bush Administration --- for the first time in Rich's 35 years devoted to civil rights law enforcement at DoJ --- politicized and gamed every aspect of the job and the civil/voting rights division for solely partisan purposes. It begins this way...

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

He continues on to describe the way Bush's political appointees consistently overruled the department's career civil rights attorneys time and again on voting rights issues on cases such as the Voter ID issue in Georgia and Tom DeLay's redistricting of Texas. Both of those political decisions, thankfully, were ultimately overruled as unconstitutional by the federal courts where Bush's Reign has not completely corrupted the bench. Yet. Though not after much of the political damage had already been done.

Rich goes on to reveal that he "personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored."

Here's the complete, must-read editorial...