House Criticizes Bush Office's Political Activity; Trips Funded for Officials to Campaign

Article excerpt

Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration's political affairs office orchestrated an aggressive strategy to use taxpayer-funded trips to help elect Republican candidates, says a draft House report that recommends eliminating the office in future administrations or revamping laws to prevent such activity.

The office coordinated travel to 326 Republican campaign events in the 10-month run-up to the 2006 elections - more than one per day. It included trips to 35 states by officials from 12 Cabinet agencies and three independent offices, despite Hatch Act prohibitions on political activity by members of the executive branch other than the president and vice president, the report said.

That's a gross abuse of the public trust, said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that produced the report. I hope the next administration, whether it is an Obama or McCain administration, will abolish the White House Office of Political Affairs.

Republicans said the report itself was steeped in partisan politics.

The Democratic investigation did find evidence that the Clinton administration abused the office and noted that controversy and allegations of misuse surrounded the office since its creation by President Reagan. But the report said, The extent of political activity by the current White House and its deep and systematic reach into the federal agencies is unprecedented.

The White House called the report an attempt to score political points fewer than three weeks before Election Day, noting that for years, presidents from both parties used the office of political affairs to assist the president in his role as head of his party.

Waxman endeavors tend to be a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money, White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel said. "This one is no different. ... Rather than spend time focusing on Congressman Waxman's transparent attempt to make political

hay with his draft press report, we'll continue to center our attention on more important matters like stabilizing the economy, keeping America safe and working with state and local officials in California to respond to the raging wildfires"

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, ranking member of the committee, said he was deeply skeptical about the methodology and seriousness of the findings.

They set out to find banned political activity in the White House. …