February 17, 2011

February 17, 2011 | Commentary on Legal Issues, Rule of Law

Liberal Civil Servants Treat Political Opponents as Enemies

"Remember, we have no enemies, only opponents," President Reagan once said. He was referring to the political melees fought in Washington between the branches of government and within Congress.

But few realize how often such battles are fought within the career ranks of the vast civil service inside the executive branch. Unfortunately, that civil service is dominated by liberals and radicals who don't follow Reagan's axiom and who view the rule of law and those who support it as the enemy. I went to work in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in December 2001. I was not a political appointee -- I was hired as a trial lawyer in the career civil service because of my experience in election administration.

I had worked in a number of different jobs for different employers. But I had never encountered the absolute fury and unrelenting hostility that greeted me when I started my job in the Justice Department, where I was treated as an enemy whose personal and professional career needed to be destroyed.

I couldn't understand what was going on at first, but I quickly learned that my very presence as an openly conservative lawyer offended most of the individuals I worked with. Out of the more than 80 individuals who worked in the Voting Section, only two were known to be conservative, and that included me.

The other career employees made it very clear to both of us that they considered anyone who wasn't politically liberal or a Democrat unqualified to work in the career civil service. They were furious that two conservatives had made it through their usual screening procedures.

Most of the few conservatives I found at Justice hid their political views from their colleagues to avoid retribution by the uniformly liberal career managers throughout the Civil Rights Division. They knew that favorable salary increases, promotions, work assignments and even office space was dependent on minimizing friction with liberals.

The few remaining conservative career lawyers in the division today have told me they're being harassed and treated with the same hostility I encountered -- indeed, that it's only worsened under the current administration.

The liberal career lawyers saw it as their duty to do everything possible, directly and indirectly, to thwart any Bush administration policies. Today, they see it as their duty to do everything they can to help the Obama administration politicize law enforcement decisions, including imposing a racial double standard. That, in fact, has become the hallmark of the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder.

These employees also had an attitude I had never seen before -- a complete disdain for any limits on the power of the federal government -- and an utter contempt for the sovereignty of state and local governments.

From the Justice Department to the Environmental Protection Agency, President Obama has increased the size and power of federal agencies, giving the growing ranks of mostly very liberal civil servants even greater power. The budget cutters need to keep that in mind. All of these agencies need major cuts in their budgets: 10, 20, even 30 percent, as an absolute minimum.

Cutting the civil service is a two-for-one deal: Not only will it help bring our financial house in order, it will help preserve our liberties and reduce the government's interference in our lives and our economy.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former career counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former career counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.

About the Author

Hans A. von Spakovsky Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow
Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

Related Issues: Legal Issues, Rule of Law

First appeared in The Examiner