The New York Times reports: A former top Justice Department aide testified on Wednesday that she had “crossed the line” in considering the political beliefs of applicants for nonpartisan legal jobs and suggested that earlier testimony by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and another top official about the dismissals of federal prosecutors may have been flawed.
Monica M. Goodling, the former Justice official, told a House panel that she regretted favoring applicants with Republican credentials for lower level prosecutor jobs or prestigious postings at Justice headquarters, actions that could violate federal employment laws. ...
Ms. Goodling acknowledged repeatedly that she had improperly sought to gauge the political leanings of applicants when she reviewed résumés for nonpartisan jobs or promotions, including posts as assistant United States attorneys and immigration judges or for temporary assignments at Justice headquarters.
She said she had done Google or Nexis searches on job candidates or searched their names on campaign-finance databases to see if they might have given money to Republican or Democratic candidates. She also pressed applicants’ references, at times, to ferret out the political background of the job candidates they were endorsing.
“There were times I crossed the line probably in my reference calls” by asking political questions, Ms. Goodling told the committee.
Political factors are routinely considered for some jobs at the Justice Department, like United States attorneys or senior posts, like the heads of the litigating divisions.
But civil service rules prohibit such questions when federal agencies are hiring or promoting staff members for career positions. Violations could be unlawful, although probably not a crime, Justice Department officials have said. Two internal investigative units have begun an inquiry into Ms. Goodling’s screening practices. -- Ex-Justice Aide Admits Politics Affected Hiring