The Most Transparent Administration Ever? Not at DOJ

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Is the Department of Justice engaging in fraud, or is it simply trying to hide its propaganda? Those of you wondering how DOJ uses your tax dollars to enforce our nation’s laws might be interested to learn that Eric Holder has apparently hired former Democratic campaign bloggers to work at the department in what appears to be a secret propaganda unit. According to a story at The Muffled Oar website, the bloggers are housed in the Office of Public Affairs (the press office). Their job is to place “anonymous comments, or comments under pseudonyms, at newspaper websites with stories critical of the Department of Justice, Holder and President Obama.” One of the bloggers is former DNC and John Edwards staffer Tracy Russo, whose name was featured prominently on the department’s introduction of its new website on October 1.

At the same time that DOJ was refusing to answer questions about its outrageous dismissal of the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and apparently paying government employees to post anonymous or pseudonymous comments or comments under false names attacking critics of the administration, the department declared that it was launching its new website “to increase openness and transparency in government.” In fact, Russo claims it is “just the first step towards creating the most open, accessible, and transparent Justice Department possible.” If that is true, how can DOJ justify these anonymous/pseudonymous postings? The misrepresentation is clearly material or DOJ wouldn’t go to such lengths to engage in it.

I doubt that the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has received an ethics opinion from Justice’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office (PRAO) saying that it is acceptable for OPA employees to be harassing critics of the department through postings that deliberately hide their DOJ affiliation (a practice that is not very “open” or “transparent”). DOJ lawyers also ought to be aware of ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. If the report in The Muffled Oar is correct, tax dollars are being used directly for such dishonest, deceitful behavior.

This administration does not seem to understand the difference between the political campaign it waged to get into office and the entirely different responsibility it now has to enforce this nation’s laws in an objective, nonpartisan, nonpolitical manner.