Washington For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a "farm system" for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices.
That aide, Monica Goodling, exercised what amounted to veto power over a wide range of critical jobs, asking candidates for their views on abortion and same-sex marriage and maneuvering around senior officials who outranked her, including the department's second-in-command.
An extensive report by the department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded Monday that Goodling and others had broken civil service laws, run afoul of department policy and engaged in "misconduct," a finding that could expose them to further scrutiny and sanctions. The report depicted Goodling as a central figure in politicizing employment decisions at Justice during the Bush administration.
Goodling declined to cooperate with investigators, who instead interviewed 85 witnesses and scoured documents and computer hard drives to prepare their report. Last year, she trembled as she told the House Judiciary Committee that she "crossed the line" by asking improper questions of job seekers to gauge their political leanings.
But the report and accounts from lawyers who worked alongside Goodling, 34, at Justice provide a far more extensive examination of her dominance during her time as the department's White House liaison and counselor to the attorney general. Thirty-four candidates told investigators that Goodling or one of her deputies raised the topic of abortion in job interviews and 21 said they discussed same-sex marriage, the report said. Another job applicant said he admired Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, only to watch Goodling "frown" and respond, "But she's pro-choice."
The 140-page report appeared to confirm the suspicions of congressional Democrats and raised fresh questions about the reputation of the Justice Department, which has been roiled since the resignations of more than a dozen top officials last year, including Goodling, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Gonzales chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson. The report also found that Sampson had engaged in misconduct by systematically involving politics in the hiring of immigration judges.