It took a few years, but the report issued this week by the DOJ inspector general confirms reporting (here) by PJ Media: the powerful DOJ Voting Section ran an ideologically charged attorney recruitment and hiring effort that deliberately sought left-leaning lawyers.
Sources familiar with the thinking of Civil Rights Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez report that he and others in the department believe the damning inspector general report actually vindicates the attorney hiring decisions over the last few years in the Civil Rights Division. In essence, Perez believes that the report shows that the attorneys were qualified.
He must not have read page 218 of the report. And Perez, of course, misses entirely the point of the charges levied at the division about hiring per our Every Single One series.
Qualifications weren’t the core issue, ideological biases were.
And on that score, the IG report offers Perez no quarter. In fact, the IG report concludes that the criteria — that only attorneys with experience working at a civil rights organization, which is invariably (and empirically) left of center, will be hired — should not be a qualification in the future. Perez should know better than to claim that the report vindicates the division’s hiring decisions, because Perez himself complained about the recommendation to jettison this “civil rights group experience” qualification.
Ideological binders can produce skewed thinking, and that’s happening, in relation to the report, by division leadership.
Consider the damning passage below. For years we heard that the Bush administration made hiring decisions based on ideology. Now, we learn in the inspector general report that the infamous Julie Fernandes, with the help of Deputy Becky Wertz, were up to the same shenanigans — except this time with the purpose of recruiting liberal attorneys because of their ideology. The pair created an ideologically pure list of left-wing lawyers to recruit to the DOJ Voting Section, where they had previously worked. The list excluded conservative attorneys who had left the Voting Section in the same timeframe who also had extensive experience litigating election cases, but left in part because of the harassment by liberal DOJ employees.
Will the names “Fernandes” and “Wertz” be thrown around for years in left-wing blogs as violators of DOJ policies against ideological hiring? Of course not. The ends justify the means for this crowd.
Note the horse-hockey explanations offered by Wertz and Berman for the list. From the IG report, starting on page 218:
We received inconsistent responses from CRT staff to our questions concerning the purpose of the list of former Voting Section attorneys that DAAG Fernandes requested in late 2009 – a list that ultimately included 25 former Voting Section attorneys but omitted several former Section attorneys who were widely perceived to be conservatives. Fernandes stated that she requested a list of attorneys who had left the Section since 2005 and did not seek a list that excluded conservatives. Herren told the OIG that he could not remember how the list of attorneys was compiled, but believed it should have included attorneys who left during the prior administration, primarily those who departed the Section due to improper practices like those described in the prior OIG report. Wertz told us she believed that she may have worked on the list and said that she thought that Fernandes was looking for staff with extensive voting rights experience who might be interested in returning. However, when we pointed out that some attorneys on the list did not have extensive voting experience, she could not explain why they were included. She also could not explain why conservatives were left off the list even though they had significant voting litigation experience. She said that they may not have been interested in returning, though we found that Voting Section staff did not make any attempt to gauge the interest of the conservative attorneys. Berman said that the list was made up of attorneys with redistricting experience.
Although we did not receive a consistent explanation for the purpose of this list, we did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the list was actually used in the recruitment and selection of new attorneys for the Voting Section. However, we found the explanations we received about the list troubling because it appeared that the list was prepared in part for recruiting purposes (Fernandes said she thought that there may be former staff who wanted to return to the Section), people widely perceived to be conservatives were omitted from it, and staff in the Voting Section failed to provide a consistent explanation as to why that was the case.
We believe these incidents point to ongoing risks within the Voting Section for future violations of merit system principles, as well as for creating perceptions that CRT engages in favoritism based on ideology and politics”
Current Voting Section Deputy Chief Becky Wertz said the conservatives “may not have been interested in returning,” because, of course, Wertz is a clairvoyant.
Without talking to them, she was able to tell that hard-working lawyers who left DOJ (because of a poisonous atmosphere she has personally presided over for years) didn’t want to return. She seems confident that they never wanted to return even though she never contacted a single one of them. Some of them were, in fact, looking for jobs.
In the real world — outside of government — Wertz’s excuse has a name not fit for publication.
Also consider current Voting Section Deputy Chief Bob Berman’s response to the IG — that he wanted lawyers with “redistricting experience.” (And it is no accident that the two — Wertz and Berman — were sympatico on this effort.) His response doesn’t hold water either, because the attorneys who left didn’t all have redistricting experience.
Why does all this matter?
Ask the governor of Pennsylvania, who received a letter from this Voting Section demanding he turn over documents his office used to prepare a press release.
Ask any of the jurisdictions who faced a Voting Section willing to twist the law (or to overrule career lawyers on South Carolina Voter ID) to achieve partisan ends.
The conniving of Wertz and Fernandes matters.
We’ll have much more on this here, at other news outlets, and — in time — in Congress. But this episode gives you yet another example of the mismanagement and ideological rot that have infested that place for years, and which you can now read about first-hand in the damning report released this week.