How politicized are federal investigations by the Justice Department? Check out the results of this new study:

A study of reported federal investigations of elected officials and candidates shows that the Bush administration's Justice Department pursues Democrats far more than Republicans. 79 percent of elected officials and candidates who've faced a federal investigation (a total of 379) between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, the study found--only 18 percent were Republicans.

During that period, Democrats made up 50 percent of elected officeholders and office seekers during the time period, and 41 percent were Republicans during that period, according to the study.

"The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000," according to the study's authors.

And it's about to get worse. Recently, seven federal attorneys were fired by the Bush administration before their terms had ended--including Carol Lam, who oversaw the prosecution of Duke Cunningham. One administration official told the Post that the pressure to replace the prosecutors came from outside the department. Hint, hint. And a week ago, McClatchy reported the following:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation's top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration's inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.

The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they've been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.

Sounds a little suspicious. So Chuck Schumer held a hearing yesterday entitled, "Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?" He asked a bunch of questions. And in response, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted that "a top federal prosecutor in Arkansas was removed to make room for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove." (He defended the removal of the other six attorneys, though.) John Ashcroft's tenure is starting to look better and better in comparison...

--Bradford Plumer