Lexis/Nexis Used to Screen Out DOJ Candidates on Political Grounds

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Greg Mitchell of Legal Pad has had some time to scan the 140-page report on the DOJ investigation into whether the White House illegally used political criteria to disqualify candidates for career positions at Justice.  (It’s not against the law to do this for positions classified as political appointments, but it is against the law as to positions to be filled by career civil servants.  5 U.S.C. §§ 2301 & 2302.)

The report’s shocking conclusion: it did.

While not much is funny about that, investigators did find this amusing Lexis/Nexis search string that was used to dig into candidates’ backgrounds.  Some cynics claim this string shows that political criteria were being considered, but you decide:

[first name of a candidate] and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

Potentially, candidates who turned out to have, let’s say, criticized the use of WMD during the Florida recount or who took a gay spotted owl to get an abortion could be located and screened out this way.

Former White House Liaison Jan Williams told investigators she had never used that Lexis/Nexis search string for AG appointments, so it was awkward when they found her email saying "This is the lexis nexis search string that I use for AG appointments."  She sent that email to her replacement, Monica Goodling, who also broke the law by doing the same kinds of things, the report said.  Goodling also asked job-interview questions that one might interpret as political, such as "Why are you a Republican?"  Again, okay for political appointments, but for career positions, illegal.

Among the candidates Goodling screened out this way was someone with extensive counterterrorism experience who she disqualified because his wife was a Democrat.  The guy who did get the job had no experience, but was said to be a "good American."  So that’s nice.

Link: Legal Pad (Cal Law)