Scandal: Politicization of Fed. Gov’t
Updated Sept. 29
For the past couple years, the White House has been under fire for politicizing the federal government. A battery of investigations has focused on two government agencies in particular: the Department of Justice and the Environment Protection Agency.
Department of Justice
Nearly a year after former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left the post under heavy criticism for the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys, DoJ Inspector General Glenn Fine released two reports identifying illegal political hiring practices at the department.
The first (PDF) uncovered DoJ officials' political manipulation of the agency's hiring of interns and entry-level attorneys: In both 2002 and 2006, scores of applicants perceived to be Democrats were systematically rejected. The second (PDF) identified broader violations of civil service law in the hiring for non-political positions like prosecutors, management, and immigration judges. That report focused in particular on the conduct of Monica Goodling, formerly the department's White House liaison, and Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff.
The IG released a report (PDF) on the U.S. attorney firings on September 29. The report found "significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor" in the firings of "several" of the U.S. attorneys. IG Fine recommended that a special prosecutor continue the probe, because his was stonewalled by several key witnesses. Attorney General Michael Mukasey hired a federal prosecutor from Connecticut to do so.
Another IG report, on politicization at the civil rights division, is forthcoming. One former civil rights division official is reportedly the subject of a grand jury inquiry for possible perjury.
Though Fine's reports have been bluntly critical of several officials, the IG stopped short of calling for criminal prosecutions or removing judges and lawyers who were hired in order to cultivate a conservative legal "farm system."
Democrats say that politicization at the department also spread to the handling of certain cases, particularly the controversial prosecution by a U.S. attorney of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. His conviction on bribery charges is currently being appealed, and a congressional investigation continues.
Environmental Protection Agency
Meanwhile, at the EPA, Administrator Stephen Johnson has been criticized by Dems and environmental groups for making a number of decisions in accord with White House policy but against the advice of EPA staff scientists.
In December 2007, Johnson denied California the right to limit greenhouse gases despite his legal and technical staff's unanimous recommendation that he grant it. Later, it surfaced that Johnson had planned to grant the waiver but changed his mind after speaking with the White House. In March 2008, the EPA was further criticized for setting laxer standards for ozone than the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee had recommended. A congressional investigation found that the White House had alerted Johnson to President Bush's opposition to the stricter ozone standards just hours before the EPA finalized the new rule.
Then, in a survey released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on April 23, more than half of the 1,600 EPA scientists who responded claimed to have experienced incidents of political interference in their work. The report unleashed a barrage of congressional fury and a letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, House Oversight Committee chairman, warning Johnson that he would face questions about the survey at a May Congressional hearing on the new ozone standards.
In early May, the controversy heightened when the Bush administration forced out Mary Gade, the EPA's top administrator in the Midwest, after she battled with Dow Chemical to clean up its dioxin pollution. In that same month, Johnson refused to hand over several documents that the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed or to answer questions about his conversations with the White House at the May 20 congressional hearing.
The House Oversight Committee finally scheduled a vote (pdf) to decide whether Johnson should be held in contempt of court. But on the day of that vote, President Bush asserted executive privilege, which delayed the committee's vote.
On June 25, senior EPA officials revealed that the White House had refused to open a December e-mail from the EPA concluding that greenhouse gases are pollutants that necessitate regulation. Those conclusions were a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases were damaging to health or environment.
The Washington Post further reported that not only had the White House refused to open the e-mail, but it had also tried to silence the report, demanding that the e-mail be recalled. The EPA finally released the report in July, but it was published with an introduction prepared by the White House that basically repudiated the findings ($). It was also reported in July that Vice President Cheney's office tried to delete key passages of congressional testimony about the link between climate change and health and swayed the opinion ($) of Bush administration officials on emissions regulation.
Bush Admin Leaks Bolstered Rick Renzi’s Reelection Bid The Hill, 6/25
Rove Can Claim Privilege Only When Asked About Bush TPMMuckraker, 3/5
Deal Clears Bush Aides to Discuss Prosecutor Firings Washington Post, 3/5
Key Witnesses to be Interviewed About U.S. Attorney Firings Washington Post, 2/12
Feds Probe Sen. Domenici over Iglesias Firing TPMMuckraker, 2/5
Attorney: Rove Will Cooperate With DOJ Probes TPMMuckraker, 2/3
Bush Lawyer Directs Rove Not to Talk to Congress—Again Newsweek, 1/30
Ball In Obama’s Court On Rove’s US Attorney Testimony TPMMuckraker, 1/27
Experts: Obama Order Could Let Us See US Attorneys Docs TPMMuckraker, 1/22
Critics Say Obama’s AG Pick Politicized DoJ Decisions, Too McClatchy, 1/15
Gov’t Report: DoJ Official Politicized Hiring New York Times, 1/14
Gov’t Report: DoJ Official Lied to Congress McClatchy, 1/13
House Renews Probe of U.S. Attorney Firings Las Vegas Sun,
In Depth: The Subversion of the EPA Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/17
IG Report Finds Meddling in Interior Dept. Actions New York Times, 12/16
Appeal Hearing in Ex-Alabama Gov’s Conviction New York Times, 12/10
DoJ Reopens Probe Of Siegelman Trial TPMMuckraker, 12/4
Fed. Prosecutor Probing 2006 U.S. Attorney Dismissals Washington Post, 12/3
In Depth: Bush and Cheney’s Bid to Hide Records Washington Monthly, 11/25
New Twist in Appeal of Ex-Alabama Governor New York Times, 11/24
EPA, with White House Nudge, Eases Rule on Lead Emissions Los Angeles Times, 11/24
Taxpayers Will Pay for Ex-AG Gonzales’ Private Attorney McClatchy, 11/18
Sen. Report: Rove Helped Compile List of U.S. Attorneys to Fire TPMMuckraker, 11/18
Admin to Bypass Law Barring Political Interference with DHS New York Times, 10/27
EPA Weakens New Lead Rules After White House Objects McClatchy, 10/24
House Panel Probes “Censorship” at EPA Society of Environmental Journalists, 10/14
This Week in Scandals ProPublica, 10/3
Analysis: DoJ Report Shows White House Engineered U.S. Attorney Firings TPMmuckraker, 10/2
Inside the DoJ’s Report on U.S. Attorney Firings TPMmuckraker, 10/2
DoJ Report Implicates White House in Prosecutor Firings Washington Post, 10/1
Lawmakers Rebut DoJ Report on Attorney Firings CongressDaily , 10/1
Ex-Prosecutor Says His Ouster May Have Ties to Renzi Case Arizona Republic, 10/1
Former Gov. Don Siegelman Files Final Appeals Brief in Corruption Case Birmingham News, 10/1
Rove E-Mails Spotlight WH Role in U.S. Attorney Firing TPMmuckraker, 9/30
White House, DoJ, Senator Stonewalled IG on U.S. Attorney Firing TPMmuckraker, 9/29
Rove and WH Helped Shape Info Release on U.S. Attorney Firings TPMmuckraker, 9/29
Gov. Report: Politics ‘Important Factor’ in U.S. Attorneys’ Firing ProPublica, 9/29
No Charges Expected in Dismissal of Attorneys New York Times, 9/29
Senator: EPA Head Lied to Congress Under Oath Reuters, 9/24
EPA Unlikely to Limit Chemical in Tap Water Washington Post, 9/22
Lawyers Ask Va. Bar to Investigate Monica Goodling Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/17
White House Cut China Reference from NASA Talk Washington Post, 9/16
Executive Privilege Showdown Looms for Congress, White House Los Angeles Times, 8/28
Rep. Conyers Sets Date for Production of U.S. Attorney Docs TPMmuckraker, 8/27
Judge Allows No Delay of Miers’ Testimony About Fired Prosecutors Washington Post, 8/27
12 States Sue EPA to Regulate Oil Refineries Reuters, 8/26
After Prosecutor’s Firing, a Shift in Case Washington Post, 8/25
Vetted Judges More Likely to Reject Asylum Bids New York Times, 8/25
Rep. Waxman Subpoenas Clean Water Act Docs Oversight and Government Reform Committee, 8/21
DoJ Pushes to Keep Bush Aides From Testifying Huffington Post, 8/19
Political Hiring Class Action Suit Against DOJ Grows TPMmuckraker, 8/15
DoJ Issues a Callback to Illegally Rejected Applicants Washington Post, 8/13
House Judiciary Chairman Requests RNC Docs on Siegelman Washington Independent, 8/8
DoJ Subpoenas Its Former Lawyers in Civil Rights Probe Huffington Post, 8/6
Rep. Waxman Presses for Info in Wake of Exec. Privilege Ruling CongressDaily , 8/6
For White House, Hiring is Political New York Times, 7/31
Immigration Cases Soar as Number of Judges Decreases Washington Independent, 7/30
Senator Pushes for EPA Chief’s Firing Washington Independent, 7/30
IG Interviewed Only One White House Official in DoJ Hiring Probe TPMmuckraker, 7/30
House Panel Votes to Cite Rove for Contempt TPMmuckraker, 7/30
Dems Ask for Probe into EPA Chief’s Testimony Wall Street Journal ($), 7/30
Gov’t Report: Sexuality Bias Seen at DoJ Los Angeles Times, 7/29
Coming This Week… ProPublica, 7/28
EPA Chief Refuses to Testify to Senate Committee TPMmuckraker, 7/25
Sen: EPA E-Mail Concluded Global Warming Endangers Public Health Washington Post, 7/25
Karl Rove Denies Involvement in Prosecution of Ala. Governor The New York Times, 7/24
AG’s Wary Start Dismays Early Backers The New York Times, 7/23
Montana U.S. Attorney Weathers Scandals, Remains in Post Los Angeles Times, 7/21
Cong. Report: Bush Admin. Reversed Climate Stance After Cheney’s Office Objected The Wall Street Journal ($), 7/21
EPA: Global Warming a Major Health Threat Washington Post, 7/18
Bush Admin Wanted Loyalist As DoJ Legal Adviser Washington Post, 7/17
DoJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility Investigates Ala. U.S. Attorney TPMmuckraker, 7/17
White House Releases EPA Report, and Rejects It The Wall Street Journal ($), 7/14
EPA Won’t Act on Emissions This Year Washington Post, 7/11
AG Denies Politics at DoJ McClatchy, 7/10
Ex-EPA Official: White House Lied to Hide VP’s Cuts to Climate Testimony Think Progress, 7/9