Bloch-ing Justice

In early October 2004, five Democratic members of Congress called on President Bush to “take the necessary action” in regards to Scott Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel.

Bloch had refused “to enforce anti-discrimination protections for federal workers contradict[ing] Bush Administration policy to uphold former President Clinton’s executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation,” the Washington Blade had reported.

The letter to the president was signed by gay House members Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), along with Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and George Miller (D-Calif.).

On Tuesday, May 6, McClathchy Newspapers reported that “FBI agents … searched the office and [Virginia] home of … Bloch … as part of an investigation into whether he obstructed an inquiry into allegations of his own misconduct.”

Since his appointment the relatively unknown Bloch has been wielding a heavy hand and been the source of a series of controversies.

Who is Scott Bloch and how did he wind up as head of the Office of Special Counsel?

Up from Kansas

After graduating from the Law School at the University of Kansas, Scott Bloch was a partner in a Kansas law firm specializing in civil rights law, employment law and legal ethics.

He came to the special counsel’s office after a stint as deputy director of the Justice Department’s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives. The Washington Blade pointed out that he is “a devout Catholic and staunch social conservative” who revealed on a Senate disclosure form that he had been the former Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right wing California-based think tank that vigorously opposes the gay rights movement.

Scott Bloch was born in New York City, where his father Walter wrote for Broadway and television programs, the Lawrence Journal-World — the hometown newspaper of the University of Kansas — pointed out in an April 2002 profile.

At age 3, Bloch moved to Los Angeles where his father contributed to such popular television programs as “Gilligan’s Island,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Bonanza,” and “The Flintstones.”

Bloch’s grandfather, Albert, a man of Jewish descent, was a noted abstract expressionist painter. Albert Bloch was “the only American member of ‘Der Blaue Reiter,’ (The Blue Rider), Germany’s most important group of artists in the 20th century,” Dan Hayes wrote in a January 1997 article.

An American Art Review piece by University of Kansas Art Professor David Cateforis pointed out that Albert Bloch’s paintings had religious themes, with striking renderings of biblical figures, including Jesus Christ and showed strong Christian leanings throughout his painting career.

Albert Bloch became head of the department of drawing and painting at KU, where he taught from 1923 to 1947, and worked in Lawrence until his death in 1961.

At some point, Bloch’s father changed his last name to Black for “professional reasons.” The Washington Blade speculated that the change may have “occurred in the 1950s, during the height of the Hollywood ‘red scare.'” By that time Sen. McCarthy’s investigations had spread to Hollywood’s film industry, and “anti-Semitism, as well as prejudice against perceived membership in liberal and ‘leftist’ groups, became a factor that prompted some writers and film industry workers to change their names to hide their Jewish ancestry.”

At age seventeen, Scott changed his name back to Bloch.

Converting Catholics in Kansas?

While at the University of Kansas, Bloch enrolled in the experimental Integrated Humanities Program — a controversial curriculum established in 1971 to counter the anti-war and women’s movements and a growing demand for greater multiculturalism on campus. Organized by three conservative English Department Professors, Dennis Quinn, John Senior, and Franklyn Nelick, the program was geared toward teaching the classics, and had a strong Catholic bent.

In a telephone interview, Professor Quinn insisted that the project “was apolitical,” although he admitted that “we talked about everything under the sun.” Some critics of the program “alleged that we were making Roman Catholics out of everyone,” Prof. Quinn said. “We talked about religions, but we had no specific point of view.”

(Disclosure: Nearly forty years ago, I was enrolled at the University of Kansas in Professor Quinn’s “Seventeenth Century Minor Poets,” a class that was not part of the IHP.)

The IHP ended in 1979 amidst charges of proselytizing and “cult-like” behavior. Professor Quinn, who has kept in contact with Bloch over the years, told me he believed “that sometime during the program he [Bloch] converted [from Judaism] to Catholicism,” a development which “didn’t surprise” him.

Although he hadn’t heard about Bloch’s earliest ttravails in the Special Counsel’s office, Professor Quinn allowed that Bloch is “brash, not in an offensive way, but he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought. And, he had strong views. He may,” the professor added, “be just a little imprudent.”

According to the Washington Blade, when assumed the Office, he hired at least two religious conservatives “and offered the No. 2 post at the OSC to a college professor from Wyoming who helped form an anti-gay campus group,” who turned him down.

On Tuesday, May 6, McClatchy Newspapers reported that “Agents are looking into whether Bloch deleted his agency’s computer files to hinder an outside investigation of his treatment of employees, the officials said.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. Read other articles by Bill.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Dennis Mick said on May 8th, 2008 at 11:02am #

    Good background. Thanks. I’m surprised that the FBI would have undertaken this investigation of Bloch, and I’m skeptical that DOJ will allow the investigation to reach logical conclusions.

    Bloch’s job is to protect Bush, and Mukasey would not find it difficult (nor wrong) to back burner and minimize the investigation almost out of existence. Although Bloch may have to resign, he will be protected.

    (NPR reported this morning that his physical person was searched yesterday as well, and thumb drives found)

    Also; Wasn’ t that woman who heads GSA the same one that gave political presentations to staff a few years ago?

  2. Gary said on May 9th, 2008 at 7:33am #

    Great post.

    Here’s a link to a little more background on Bloch