WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new report about improper political activity at the U.S. Justice Department — which led to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's resignation last year and the naming of a special prosecutor last week — sheds light on the role played by a young man helping to run the re-election campaign of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.
Kentucky native Jeffrey Scott Jennings, 30, served two years under Karl Rove in the White House Office of Political Affairs before returning to Louisville last fall. Jennings is on leave from his job at Peritus Public Relations in order to advise and speak for McConnell's campaign.
During his Washington stint, Jennings was ensnared in multiple scandals, including the controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys, some of whom were not considered partisan enough by Republican politicians; the selection of immigration judges based on their political loyalty; and political briefings that he personally delivered to federal officials in various government buildings.
Last week, the Justice Department's inspector general issued a detailed report that said the 2006 firing of the U.S. attorneys was "fundamentally flawed."
E-mails and interviews show that Jennings was a White House contact for Republican leaders who had a political interest in the U.S. attorneys and in immigration judgeships, and he worked with the Justice Department to fill those posts, according to the report.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he agreed with the report's findings and called the department's actions "haphazard, arbitrary and unprofessional." He appointed U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy of Connecticut to investigate for possible criminal prosecutions.
Jennings, like his mentor Rove, did not care that most of the federal government is supposed to be removed from partisan politics, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that closely followed the scandals.
"Scott Jennings is one those people who believes that everything is political, that everything in day-to-day government is fair game for his own political maneuvering," Sloan said. "Ultimately, that means that we, the people, don't get the best government."
Jennings joined Rove, Gonzalez and others tied to the scandals who resigned in the face of congressional and media scrutiny.
On Friday, Jennings referred questions to Mark Paoletta, his attorney in Washington.
In a prepared statement, Paoletta wrote: "Scott has cooperated to the best of his ability with every investigation. He is proud of his service on the White House staff, where he conducted himself in an honest and ethical manner. Scott will continue to cooperate with any investigation."
McConnell campaign spokesman Justin Brasell did not return calls Friday seeking comment on Jennings, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition, and on its Website.
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