Hans von Spakovsky has two new pieces at National Review attacking the "politicization" of the Obama Justice Department and defending Voting Section Attorney J. Christian Adams and Christopher Coates, the recently transferred former head of the Voting Rights Section. Adams and Coates were pushing for the Section to pursue the dismissed New Black Panther case, which Republicans are trying to use as a cudgel against the new administration. Von Spakovsky defends the two men as nonideological "professionals."
Reviewing briefly: While he was at the Justice Department during the Bush administration, von Spakovsky, along with Voting Section Chief John Tanner and Civil Rights Section head Brad Schlozman, politicized the hiring process by taking it out of the hands of career attorneys. Instead, these three political appointees made hires on an ideological basis. From a 2008 joint Office of Professional Responsibility/Inspector General's report:
Tanner said that he, Schlozman, and Hans von Spakovsky (who was Counsel to the Civil Rights Division AAG) each reviewed résumés, made recommendations for applicants to be interviewed, and conducted interviews.
The report later concludes that "the Civil Rights Division improperly used political or ideological affiliations in assessing applicants for career attorney positions," and that Schlozman had violated the Civil Service Reform Act (the DoJ's new "politicized" leadership has declined to prosecute). The traditional hiring process was restored when former Attorney General Michael Mukasey succeeded Alberto Gonzales, and the conservative ideologues hired by the three Bush appointees have since been granted the benefit of the civil service protections their benefactors violated. During von Spakovsky's supposedly "nonideological" era in the Civil Rights Division, enforcement of voting rights protections plummeted.
Adams, a conservative ideologue who has written for Pajamas Media and The American Spectator, was hired during this period. Despite publishing von Spakovsky's screeds, National Review has never clarified whether or not von Spakovsky had anything to do with Adams being hired at the Justice Department.
While Coates' tenure predates the Schlozman/von Spakovsky/Tanner era of politicization, by the time they arrived Coates had already gone through an ideological transition to the right. As I reported last week, by 2006, Coates was so beloved by the Bush political appointees that Schlozman, (who, according to the report, sought to hire "real Americans" rather than "big libs" or "adherents to Mao's little red book,") referred to Coates as "a true member of the team." Von Spakovsky forgot to mention this in his defense of Coates as a "nonideological" lawyer, instead referring to his "liberal background and experience".
At any rate, the crux of von Spakovsky's argument is that the Justice Department "exiled Christopher Coates to South Carolina." In fact, Coates requested the transfer. Gerry Hebert, a former acting head of the Voting Rights Section and an acquaintance of Coates, tells me that Coates himself informed him that he personally requested the transfer to U.S. Attorney's office in South Carolina.
“It’s where his daughter lives, he wanted to return to the South,” Hebert explains. “The notion that he was transferred because of the New Black Panther Party case is nonsense. He himself initiated it.”
Von Spakovsky concludes his piece with a pristine example of the kind of projection that has informed conservative critiques of the new Justice Department. "Over the past year, all hiring within the CRD has been done on a purely partisan, ideological basis," von Spakovsky writes. "Doubtless that will continue to happen over the next three years."
While von Spakovsky is obviously an expert on "politicized hiring", I think I'll withhold judgment for now. From what I'm hearing, the lawyers in the Voting Rights Section--those the report describes Tanner derisively referring to as "civil rights persons", seem to be pretty happy.
-- A. Serwer