Federal law known as the Hatch Act prohibits staffers with salaries paid by taxpayers from engaging in partisan political activity on the public's dime. White House aides to George W. Bush broke these laws, Politicos's Josh Gerstein reports. Not only was the entire White House Office of Political Affairs staffed engaged in helping Republican candidates during the 2006 midterm elections, the Office of Special Counsel finds, but the OPA staffers actually thought the electioneering was part of their official duties.The aides tracked how much cash came in at fundraisers for national and local GOP events. Seven Cabinet secretaries claimed to be traveling on official business when they were actually taking trips for political work.
The results of the 18-month investigation come only a couple days after President Obama shut down his administration's Office of Political Affairs so some staffers could be freed to do campaign work on the Democratic National Committee's payroll, Politico's Gerstein explains. The report says OPA-based violations of the Hatch Act have been going on for decades. Some responses from the blogosphere, where left-leaning voices have been particularly active in response to this story:
- The Most Corrupt Administration, The Washington Monthly's liberal Steve Benen writes. "When we think of the Bush/Cheney White House we tend to think of policy failures, incompetence, comically flawed judgment, and systemic mismanagement. But the failed Republican administration was also corrupt, routinely ignoring laws that interfered with its agenda. ... Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) recent claim -- he called President Obama's team 'one of the most corrupt administrations' in recent memory -- is looking increasingly ridiculous all the time."
- Repay the Taxpayers, Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis writes. "Even if there aren't criminal prosecutions, it would seem clear that the RNC, the NRCC, the NRSC, or the individual campaigns should reimburse the Federal Government for the costs the taxpayers paid that they shouldn't have."
- Good Timing for Obama, Emptywheel writes at FireDogLake. "[A]ssuming he made this move with some forewarning of the content of the OSC report, he deserves some credit for eliminating the OPA office altogether. While Rove’s politicization of the government was particularly egregious, I think having an OPA right there in the White House fosters this kind of abuse."
- Where Will The Story Go? Joe Gandelman wonders at The Moderate Voice. "GOPers will likely not mention it or find a way to try and downplay or discredit it. Some Democrats may not press it too aggressively since it does refer to an administration out of power and some Dems may have aspirations to cut the same corners in the future. On the other hand, there could be some big surprise and it could lead to some repercussions or reforms. But don’t hold your breath."
- No Consequences, Attaturk shrugs at FireDogLake. "And just like Iraq, GITMO, and a wide variety of authorized tortures, there will be no further prosecutions, I’m sure."