Interior Official Hit for On-Job Politics: Hill Panel Probes Partisan Activism

Article excerpt

An Interior Department official told his boss in a secret memo about his covert on-the-job political campaign aimed at unseating House Republican leaders in the 1998 election, according to a document obtained by The Washington Times.

In a 1997 memo, David North, policy director for the Office of Insular Affairs, asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for information on how to assist Democratic candidates, and sent a copy of the memo to his boss, Allen P. Stayman, then director of Insular Affairs.

Mr. North and other federal employees are under investigation by the House Resources Committee for using official equipment and time in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat at least four House Republicans and one GOP senator.

Mr. North drafted press releases for Democratic candidates, provided derogatory information about Republican members to campaigns and reporters, and wrote letters to the editor for constituents to submit to local newspapers, investigators say.

"We have been asked for the names and phone numbers of the Democratic candidate [sic] for Congress in these district [sic] if they have been identified for 1998," Mr. North said in the memo.

"Some friends have asked for this information because the incumbents (Armey, DeLay and Rohrabacher) have been giving the Clinton Administration a hard time," Mr. North said, referring to House Majority Leader Dick Armey and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both of Texas, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

Mr. North quietly retired as policy director of Insular Affairs 10 days after his office computer hard drive was subpoenaed by the House Resources Committee on July 13. Reached at his Virginia home, he declined to comment on the investigation or the timing of his retirement.

Mr. Stayman could not be reached for comment.

"Based on the wording of some of Mr. North's memos, the committee is extremely concerned that more members of the department were involved in the activities than just one person," said Steve Hansen, committee spokesman.

"The administration and its allies have committed a lot of crimes, but they usually know enough not to brag about it in print," Mr. Rohrabacher said.

"They're not going to get away with this," he added.

According to a confidential memo from committee Chairman Don Young to House leaders and other documents obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. North was actively campaigning against certain Republicans, working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

"As a one-time candidate . . ., I understand the utility to all hands of Administration-candidate communications on such matters," Mr. North said in the memo.

In another memo targeting California GOP Rep. …