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raid on special counsel
Washington, D.C.--The Bush administration official who handles whistleblower and discrimination claims by federal employees got in hot water four years ago for removing “sexual orientation” from his office’s website and complaint forms.
Now Special Counsel Scott Bloch is being investigated by the FBI, and it may have been an LGBT group that blew the whistle on him.
Twenty FBI agents raided Bloch’s office and home on May 6. The search warrant listed “obstruction of justice” as the reason for the investigation. Computers and documents were seized.
The new charge is believed to be linked to an earlier investigation involving LGBT federal employees.
That investigation was begun in 2005 by Office of Personnel Management Inspector General Patrick McFarland when members of Congress, watchdog groups and federal employee unions compiled a long list of legal and ethical violations. Bloch had dismissed 500 whistleblower cases without review, and removed “sexual orientation” from his office’s materials.
Office of Personnel Management investigators accompanied FBI agents on the raid.
Though no federal law specifically protects LGBT federal employees, a 1983 opinion written by then-associate attorney general Ted Olson says other laws cover it.
Olson’s opinion says, “It is improper to deny employment to or to terminate anyone on the basis of either sexual preference or conduct that does not adversely affect job performance.”
Bloch arbitrarily took that position “under review” and didn’t enforce it until a congressional delegation led by Barney Frank of Massachusetts started calling for his resignation in 2004. The members of Congress accused Bloch of targeting gays for harassment by refusing to look into their complaints.
According to the law authorizing the special counsel, Bloch can only be removed “for cause” before his term ends in 2009. The probes into his behavior include criminal charges. Both Democrats and Republicans have called on President Bush to remove Bloch.
Before he was appointed special counsel in 2004, Bloch worked at the Justice Department, heading its Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
LGBT groups led by Pride at Work, a constituent of the AFL-CIO, began to call for Bloch’s resignation. That call was backed up by Clay Johnson, the deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget.
According to Hans Johnson of Pride at Work, a former College of Wooster student, it was the LGBT groups that blew the whistle on Bloch in 2005 and continued to document his actions.
“We also added public visibility to what were otherwise insider rumblings,” Johnson said. “More than any other advocacy group, we got the word out.”
The Washington, D.C. Chapter of Pride at Work organized a campaign called “Blow the Whistle on Bloch” in 2004 for the purpose of documenting attacks on LGBT people and labor unions.
Johnson called it “irony” that what appears to be Bloch’s revenge on the administration for calling for his resignation may have been what finally brought executive branch resources to bear against Bloch.
That started in 2006 when Bloch discovered a PowerPoint presentation delivered by J. Scott Jennings, an aide to Bush political adviser Karl Rove, to employees of the General Services Administration that listed “Democrats the White House has targeted for defeat in 2008.” This was a likely violation of the 1939 Hatch Act that prohibits using government resources for partisan politics.
Johnson said the presentation also outlined how anti-LGBT initiatives would help Republican candidates.
California Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also opened an investigation, this time targeting Rove.
An August 2007 analysis in the liberal American Prospect magazine suggests that it was Bloch’s investigation of Rove that led to Rove’s resignation.
The Wall Street Journal reported November 28 that in the midst of the probes, Bloch charged $1,149 on a government credit card to hire Geeks on Call to erase data from his computer and those of former staff.
At press time, Bloch faces no charges.