Home

 

 

 

Chopping Bloch
For 3 years, Bush's Special Counsel Has Made the Recent Firings of U.S. Attorneys
Look Like Child's Play


by Hans Johnson
Contributing Editor, In These Times
President, Progressive Victory

Imposition of partisan demands and reprisals against the corps of U.S. attorneys are just two symptoms of a more rampant rot within the White House.

For 3 years, a Bush-appointed lawyer with a pedigree in religious advocacy and now on the public payroll has been abusing his power over public servants. In addition to trying to make the administration safe for theocracy, he has undertaken a relentless attack on gay people and 30-year-old policies putting private behavior off-limits of consideration by government personnel operations.

His name is Scott Bloch, head of the federal Office of Special Counsel. The OSC was created in 1979 to enforce civil rights and later to protect whistleblowers in the federal workforce. In the past, the office has proved an important tool in reducing fraud and stopping discrimination inside the government.
 
The undue influence of partisan and ideological demands during this administration and the de facto removal of whistleblower protections have created an adverse climate for professional public servants. The recent firings of the U.S. attorneys highlight the premium on ideological control and retaliation during this administration. Scott Bloch and his mismanagement at the Office of Special Counsel are an integral part of these problems.

Bloch, a Kansas lawyer who earlier worked at the faith-based office of the Bush Justice Department, has infused the office with cronyism, secrecy, inefficiency, and bigotry. Under him, it has become a launching pad for attacks on civil and workers' rights. Its mission has been distorted and weakened.

Bloch took office in January 2004. Soon he removed anti-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian federal workers. Even Bloch's bosses in the Bush White House have said, "Longstanding federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work."
 
Bloch, however, has deigned himself superior to this instruction, past precedent, and the values of ordinary, hard-working Americans. His actions convey a staggering arrogance: that he has the power to ignore policies he dislikes and inject prejudice into official, taxpayer-funded duties.
 
But Bloch did not stop at defending anti-gay bias.
 
In an effort to appear productive and reduce a large backlog of whistleblower cases, Bloch has eliminated more than 600 cases without investigation. Whistleblower cases can uncover misuse of government funds and improper contracts awarded to private companies. Such complaints deserve investigation, not sweeping under the carpet.
 
Bloch has undermined the mission of the OSC by lashing out at agency workers.  He informed 12 members of the OSC's legal and investigative staff that they were to accept involuntary transfers to various branch offices. He gave them 10 days to decide if they wanted to move and keep their job or be unemployed. The actions of Scott Bloch set a horrible example to federal workers and all Americans of good conscience. Why would anyone contact the Office of the Special Counsel to pursue claims of wrongful retaliation, knowing that the director has punished his own employees on the flimsiest suspicions?
 
Bloch is already under investigation by the Office of Personnel Management. In a 2005 Senate hearing on his mismanagement, the chair of the oversight committee, Susan Collins (R-Maine), didn't even bother to show up. Now, with a new, less indulgent leadership in Congress taking the reins, Bloch may have to answer for his track record of partisanship and reprisal.

It is time to restore the Office of the Special Counsel to its mission. It is time to stop the damage that Bloch has inflicted on civil and workers' rights. It's time for Congress to demand that Bush give Bloch the boot.