Tuesday, June 11, 2013
I searched the Federal Election Commission database for contributors with the term "lawyer" or "attorney" in thee occupation field. I then sorted the results by government agency (including the many permutations of agency names in the database). This produced a list of 20 federal agencies with at least 20 employees contributing to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
The results for the IRS were striking. Of the IRS lawyers who made contributions in the 2012 election, 95% contributed to Obama rather than to Romney. So among IRS lawyers, the ratio of Obama contributors to Romney contributors was not merely 4-to-1 at previously reported, but more like 20-to-1. The ratio of funds to Obama was even more lopsided, with about 32 times as much money going to Obama as to Romney from IRS lawyers.
So has the IRS gone off the rails into hyper-partisanship, leaving behind other more balanced federal agencies? ... The data show, however, that the partisanship of the lawyers in the IRS is not unusual or even particularly extreme among federal agencies. In fact, the lawyers in every single federal government agency--from the Department of Education [100%] to the Department of Defense [68%] -- contributed overwhelmingly to Obama compared to Romney. The table below shows the results for all agencies with at least 20 employees who contributed to either Obama or Romney. ...
NUMBER OF LAWYERS CONTRIBUTING TO
DEPT. OF EDUCATION
DEPT. OF LABOR
FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER
FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMM.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
... The IRS is near the top in terms of partisanship, but does not stand out as being markedly different from the other agencies. Some agencies, such as the Department of Education and the NLRB, did not have a single lawyer who contributed to Mitt Romney, even though dozens contributed to Barack Obama. The Department of Justice had the largest number of lawyer contributors of any federal agency, and 84% of those employees contributed to Obama. ...
The political contribution numbers of government lawyers show that the IRS controversy is really a symptom of a larger disease -- the rule by career bureaucrat lawyers. Lawyers as a group are not politically representative of the country as a whole, and neither are government employees, so the combination of the two of them creates a dramatic mismatch with the bulk of America. The result of the mismatch is that government agencies lack the political diversity that is necessary to effectively represent the American people. The idea that the Department of Justice, on which we depend for fair and impartial enforcement of the law, is so overwhelmingly tilted to one side should make everyone uneasy regardless of political viewpoint. Whatever the reason for the disparity,the numbers reveal a severely dysfunctional culture in government agencies, one that does not serve the country well.
The media and Congress have understandably focused on the IRS specifically in sorting out the controversy. The numbers, however, suggest that the problem is not with the IRS in particular, but with the federal government as a whole (and indeed, with state governments as well). The root of the problem is the rule by a class of career government employee lawyers who lack the diversity of opinion that is found in the non-lawyer private sector. The IRS inquiry, rather than focusing narrowly on "who knew what" within the agency, should lead to a top-to-bottom rethinking of who's doing the administration in the modern bureaucratic administrative state.