When Ty Clevenger, a line attorney in the Civil Rights Division, forwarded a friend's resume to deputy division chief Bradley Schlozman, he was expecting questions about his friend's experience as a lawyer. But what Schlozman wanted to know, according to Clevenger, was whether his friend was a Republican.
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Clevenger, a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association, told Schlozman that his friend was conservative. He just wasn't sure how active his friend was politically. The friend never got an interview.
It's the most direct account yet of politicization at the Justice Department. There have been many other signs -- and not just the administration's preference for "loyal Bushies" as U.S. attorneys. Last week, a group of anonymous Justice Department employees wrote to the House and Senate judiciary committees to complain about politicization in the department's hiring process. The deputy attorney general's office, they alleged, was screening department applicants to eliminate Democrats.
"We take allegations like this one very seriously," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) told me, reacting to Clevenger's account. "Specific to the Civil Rights Division, we are investigating complaints of politicization both in hiring and prosecutions. The Justice Department is not the place for this type of political cronyism, and we will get to the bottom of it."
Clevenger, who graduated from Stanford Law School in 2001, told me that he came to work at the Civil Rights Division when a friend, also a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), asked him if he'd be interested working there. Clevenger said yes and gave him his resume. Relatively soon, he received a call from Schlozman, then the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who asked him to come in for an interview.
It's certainly not surprising that the RNLA was used as a recruiting ground for the division -- as McClatchy detailed last month, at least 25 members of the RNLA work in the Justice Department, including at least 10 in the Civil Rights Division.
But apparently membership in the RNLA was not the only way that Schlozman gauged applicants. In an interview with McClatchy last month, Schlozman claimed that he'd tried to "depoliticize the hiring process" at the Civil Rights Division.
But Clevenger found quite the opposite to be the case.