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Bush appointee saw Justice lawyers as 'commies,' 'crazy libs,' report says

Bradley Schlozman, who supervised civil rights and voting rights lawyers, broke the law by considering political affiliations in deciding who can serve, an inspector general's report says.

January 14, 2009|David G. Savage

WASHINGTON — To Bradley Schlozman, they were "mold spores," "commies" and "crazy libs."

He was referring to the career lawyers in the Justice Department's civil rights and voting rights divisions. From 2003 to 2006, Schlozman was a Bush appointee who supervised them. Along with several others, he came to symbolize the midlevel political appointees who brought a hard-edged ideology to the day-to-day workings of the Justice Department.

"My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of those crazy libs right out of the section," he said in an e-mail in 2003. "I too get to work with mold spores, but here in Civil Rights, we call them Voting Section attorneys," he confided to another friend.

He hoped to get rid of the "Democrats" and "liberals" because they were "disloyal" and replace them with "real Americans" and "right-thinking Americans."

He appears to have succeeded by his standards, according to an inspector general's report released Tuesday. Among the newly hired lawyers whose political or ideological views could be discerned, 63 of 65 lawyers hired under Schlozman had Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

Slapping down "a bunch of . . . attorneys really did get the blood pumping and was even enjoyable once in a while," Schlozman wrote three years later when he left to become the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo.

Schlozman surrounded himself with like-minded officials at the Department of Justice. When he was due to meet in 2004 with John Tanner, then chief of the voting section, he asked how Tanner liked his coffee.

"Mary Frances Berry style -- black and bitter," Tanner replied by e-mail, referring to the African American woman who chaired the U.S. Civil Rights Commission from 1993 to 2004. Schlozman circulated the e-mail. "Y'all will appreciate Tanner's response," he wrote.

The inspector general concluded Schlozman violated the civil services laws while at the Justice Department. While the president's appointees are entitled to run the department and set policy, they are prohibited from considering "political affiliations" in deciding on who serves in career positions in the federal government.

"We found that Schlozman inappropriately considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys," said the report issued jointly by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, who heads the Office of Professional Responsibility. The report cited the abusive language as evidence of the harsh political tone.

Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, said it "describes troubling conduct" from the recent past, but added, "We are confident that the institutional problems identified in today's report no longer exist and will not occur."

Separately, the U.S. attorney's office in Washington announced it will not seek to prosecute Schlozman for giving false testimony to Congress. Patricia Riley, a spokeswoman for that office, said acting U.S. Atty. Jeffrey A. Taylor stepped aside, and six career prosecutors looked into the case against Schlozman.

Joseph D. Rich, the former chief of the voting rights section, said the report "confirms the disdain and vitriol they had for career civil rights attorneys. He called us 'mold spores.' That kind of epitomizes his view. He was probably the most miserable person I ever worked for," said Rich, who retired in 2007 after a 37-year career at the Justice Department.

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david.savage@latimes.com

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