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A Pulitzer for PJ Media? The Case for Our ‘Every Single One’ Series

We’ve submitted last year’s blockbuster investigation for an award. Click here to review the entire series.

by
David Steinberg

Bio

February 21, 2012 - 12:00 am

Last year, PJ Media published an eleven-article series titled “Every Single One”, the result of a year-long investigation of — and legal battle with — the Department of Justice.

Our correspondents — PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky — discovered the Eric Holder DOJ had used an ideological litmus test when evaluating applicants for employment within the Civil Rights Division. The Civil Service Reform Act, a law dating to President Chester Arthur, prohibits federal hiring based on political affiliation. The act’s authors and supporters intended it as an assurance that all future federal hiring be merit-based.

Adams and von Spakovsky suspected that the new DOJ had chosen to disregard the Act as a matter of practice. PJ Media subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Act request to view the resumes of all new hires in the Civil Rights Division since the ascension of Eric Holder to attorney general.

One year and one lawsuit later, the DOJ finally complied. The “Every Single One” series published summaries of the resumes of all 113 new hires, and revealed that Adams’ and von Spakovsky’s assumptions of illicit hiring had been correct — to an astonishing degree.

Every single new hire possessed the same or similar political leanings.

We decided to submit the series for a Pulitzer because the Pulitzer Prize committee has previously awarded an investigation of the exact same topic.

In 2007, journalist Charlie Savage — then of the Boston Globe — won the National Reporting Pulitzer for his eight-article submission. One of the winning articles was titled “Civil Rights Hiring Shifted in Bush Era: Conservative leanings stressed”:

The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.

The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

The profile of the lawyers being hired has since changed dramatically, according to the resumes of successful applicants to the voting rights, employment litigation, and appellate sections. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Globe obtained the resumes among hundreds of pages of hiring data from 2001 to 2006.

Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds — either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups — have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.

Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply. Since 2003 the three sections have hired 11 lawyers who said they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Seven hires in the three sections are listed as members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, including two who volunteered for Bush-Cheney campaigns.

To summarize, Savage examined three divisions, and found 58% of the new hires had the same or similar political leanings.

PJ Media examined ten divisions — the Civil Rights Section contains 11 in total — and found 100% of the new hires had the same or similar political leanings.

Additionally, Savage did not need to wage a year-long legal battle to obtain the resumes, as the 2006 Department of Justice complied with his FOIA request fully and within the required time frame.

So: PJ Media has chosen to submit the “Every Single One” series for a 2011 Pulitzer in the National Reporting and Investigative Reporting categories.

(Click here to download a PDF of our submission cover letter.)

David Steinberg is the New York City Editor of PJ Media. Follow his tweets at @DavidSPJM.
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