Pajamas Media Documents Change At DoJ

In the latest in a series of conservative unintended advertisements for change at the civil rights division of the Justice Department, Pajamas Media have announced that through the results of a Freedom of Information Act Request, they've determined that "There are so many aggressive attorneys who previously worked at the ACLU, NAACP, Legal Aid, or at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights that it is a wonder these organizations have anyone left on their staffs." 

Matt Gertz notes that, ostensibly, this is meant to prove that the Obama administration is as politicized as the Bush administration was when it screened out applicants to the civil rights division who were insufficiently conservative, the leadership exchanged racist jokes over email, and enforcement of most voting protections for minorities declined. More comedy: Pajamas Media offers J. Christian Adams, who was hired back when Bush appointees didn't want to hire ""lefties" or "big libs," folks he saw as "adherents to Mao's little red book," space to dryly note that the Bush administration was accused of hiring some attorneys for ideological reasons." (If by "accused" you mean "found by the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Inspector General" to have "violated federal law.") Adams complains that DoJ consulted with outside organizations like the ACLU on cases. Consulting with actual voting rights organizations, you understand, is completely different from Adams begging a Republican consultant to (unsuccessfully) help him find witnesses to justify filing a case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. Adams never found one, though he did say it was "fantastic" that the consultant offered to interview witnesses for him.

Pajamas Media seems confused about what the Bush administration actually did wrong when it violated civil service laws by deliberately hiring Republican partisans which might explain why Pajamas Media asked Hans von Spakovsky, who was part of the leadership of the division during the time they were trying to "gerrymander all those crazy libs out of the division" to offer his two cents.  The problem wasn't that Bush's political appointees hired conservatives, it's that they politicized the hiring process by taking the hiring decisions out of the hands of career attorneys and then deliberately hired lawyers on the basis of political affiliation, which, in case it isn't clear yet, is against the law. The safeguards were put back in place by Alberto Gonzales' successor Michael Mukasey. 

The more honest argument is that conservatives think that, in the words of former voting section chief John Tanner, "civil rights people" are inherently liberal and so the division ends up disproportionately populated by liberals. Well there's probably something to that, but only in the sense that conservatives are ideologically opposed to the federal government taking aggressive action to protect the rights of minorities and therefore uninterested in working in a field that involves just that. It wasn't always thus--it was after all, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower established the division in the first place. Unlike the say, the Republican Lawyers Association however, the above organizations don't exist to help Republicans win elections, they exist to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote is able to do so. 

Making sure everyone who has the right to vote is able to is not an inherently partisan enterprise, it's only because Republicans have decided that restricting the franchise is a legitimate political objective that there's any conflict at all. What the division is doing is hiring people who are actually interested in doing the work the job requires, and there's nothing scandalous about that. It's only notable because the last administration did the opposite. 

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