Everything You (Don't!) Want to Know About Scott J. Bloch


When you take as a given that the point of the Bush administration was to undo government, to actually ungovern, really to take apart the management of the country through a combination of basic inaction and also to remake the country’s huge network of social services through the funneling of massive amounts of money to religious organizations-well, only then do stories like the exquisitely odd tale of Scott J. Bloch begin to make sense. Employed as the head of the Office of Special Counsel since late 2003, he was initially put under investigation because coworkers said he “tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases to reduce the office backlog.” Bloch was formerly of the Justice Department’s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, so he has been at the very heart of the administration’s efforts: both unworking and also helping to fund a Christian network throughout the country. He also infamously issued a memo to the staff that advised women to not wear tight pants and “before choosing a skirt to wear, sit down in it facing a mirror.” The memo, it would turn out, was plagiarized, from “student Web sites.”

When Bloch resigned, he wrote to the President and claimed that he had eliminated backlogs and presided over an uptick of 400% in “substantiated whistleblower disclosures.”

Here are some of his accomplishments:

An investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has concluded that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen L. Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act when he appeared at a 2006 fundraising event for a candidate for U.S. Congress. Mr. Johnson attended and made remarks at a March 9, 2006 fundraiser at a Denver, Colorado law firm for Mr. Rick O’Donnell, a Republican candidate for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District. …. OSC’s investigation found that while Mr. Johnson’s official title was used in an e-mail invitation for the fundraiser, the invitation was sent by an organizer of the event, who was not covered by the Hatch Act.

You see? While the Hatch Act prevents fundraising by use of political titles, it doesn’t count if someone does it for you, Bloch’s office found. Dismissed!

That is one of 11 press releases issued by the OSC in the year 2008, and one of them was Bloch’s resignation. In previous years, most of the OSC victories were minor transgressions of the Hatch Act. In 2006, the OSC won a stunning victory against “quota politics.” What are quota politics?

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel reached a settlement that secured a faculty position at the Air Force Academy for a candidate originally chosen unanimously as the number one selection by a review board before quota politics intervened…. In this highly unusual case, the serviceman alleged that the U.S. Air Force Academy did not select him for a civilian faculty position because the he was a retired career service member…. The Superintendent of the Academy did not approve the hiring of claimant solely because the claimant was retired career service member and, by hiring him, the Academy would have exceeded its 33% target for retired career service members in the civilian faculty.

Quota politics!

In May of 2005, a year-and-a-half after Bloch took over, Congress commended the OSC. They had made three site visits. Their letter of commendation read: “At the end of this period of review, one previously critical Senate staffer informed us ‘we have satisfied ourselves that they did not throw any folders into the Potomac.’”

High standards.

This rating was based on such exciting investigations as this one in 2004:

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has filed a complaint for disciplinary action against Bonnie Cannan, a state employee with the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Service Office (FLDDSO) in Rochester, New York. The OSC’s complaint, filed July 13, 2004 with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), charges Ms. Cannan with violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition against being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election.

Small potatoes? Perhaps. Bonnie Cannan, unsurprisingly, is a labor organizer and a member of the Green Party.

And early on, Bloch began his most famous act of weird, legal windmill-tilting. Bloch ordered a review of what the agency recognized as discrimination or retaliation characteristics under the law, and removed sexual orientation from the list of enforceables; he was forced to put it back, after complaint, but in fact refused to pursue complaints where sexual orientation was involved-for instance when a whistleblower at the Forest Service was hung out to dry after complaining about a coworker using the office to run a private business. Following this, Bloch’s chief deputy and at least nine others resigned; two gay employees were 86’d from the office.

And now, Bloch will plead guilty to a minor charge, for deleting all the work material on his computer, evading far more substantial charges. Amazingly? “Bloch told the House investigative staff that the data wipe was done to protect government and personal information on the computer, not to destroy it.” The Office of Personnel Management has an extensive report, yet to be released, which is sure to be a remarkable account of a remarkable time.