Interior to Probe On-Job Campaign: 2 Former Officials May Be Targeted

Article excerpt

The Interior Department's inspector general and special counsel are being called in to investigate whether top department officials linked to on-the-job campaigning against House Republicans broke the law, The Washington Times has learned.

An Interior Department spokesman would not confirm the names of employees under investigation, but other congressional sources identified them as Allen P. Stayman, former director of the Office of Insular Affairs, and Policy Director David North, who resigned after a congressional inquiry began.

"We initiated that investigation to root out waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency," said spokesman John Wright, adding that the probe is not "targeted at any specific person."

Interior Solicitor John Leshy also wrote the inspector general and Office of Insular Affairs last month requesting they investigate possible violations of the Hatch Act, which limits political activities of federal employees.

The House Resources Committee began investigating Mr. Stayman and other Insular Affairs employees last month for conducting illegal on-the-job campaigns against House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, as well as three other congressmen.

The Insular Affairs officials were at odds with the Republicans over President Clinton's plan to apply immigration and wage laws to the Northern Mariana Islands, acquired by the United States during World War II.

Documents show 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 papers.

Mr. Stayman also plotted to oust the islands' Democratic governor, Froilan Tenorio, during the 1997 campaign.

In a memo addressed to the director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Mr. Stayman asked him to "repudiate" Mr. Tenorio one month before Election Day for "scorning" Mr. Clinton and his efforts to federalize the islands.

"Largely out of sight, there is a nominal Democrat, a Governor running for re-election, who scorns our president, who is in Washington this week playing footsie with the Republican House leadership, and who should be repudiated - in writing - by the nation's Democrats," Mr. Stayman wrote.

"Those of us who are politicals here at Interior want the DNC to repudiate these scoundrels," he said in the memo obtained by The Washington Times. …