Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., ranking member and former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said today he was "deeply disappointed" in a report put out by the committee's present majority on the White House Political Office.
"They were handed the easiest of tasks - to identify political behavior in the White House Political Office," Davis said of the report's authors. "And they couldn't even do that. What they did find was that cabinet members travel the country touting their programs and usually invite political leaders of the same party - as well as the opposition party - to join them at these events. They found out the White House keeps its political appointees up to date on the policy initiatives of the president. And they found out the Hatch Act does not offer sound guidance in a number of relevant areas.
"We have offered to join the majority to strengthen the Hatch Act. We offered to join the majority in efforts to reform or even eliminate the White House Political Office. But these efforts have been rebuffed. Rather than attempt to address these issues, the majority apparently prefers to release a report that is itself hopelessly political and that serves as an indictment only of its own politically biased investigative proclivities."
The campaign's true aims became apparent in its document requests and continued right through its final report. The majority requested 70,000 documents from the current White House, 29 federal agencies and the Republican National Committee. The RNC was forced to spend thousands of dollars complying with these requests that could've been used in campaigns in Republican House races - an unprecedented use of majority authority to, in effect, defund the opposition.
And by neglecting to look at documents from previous administrations, there is no way to determine that, as the report claims, "the extent of political activity by the current White House and its deep and systematic reach into the federal agencies appears unprecedented." It states the administration officials participated in 326 events suggested by the political office from January 2006 to the mid-term election that November. It helpfully points out that this means more than one per day. But how many such events occurred during a similar period of the Clinton administration? Was it 100? Or 500? Or somewhere in between?
"It's like reporting the score of a baseball game and giving the score of only one side. How does this appear unprecedented? And where is the mention of events at which administration officials appeared jointly with Democrats even with elections looming? Incredibly, this question is never asked."
Indeed, minority staff determined that, during the same period, these so-called "political events" teamed Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy with Brad Henry, the Democratic governor of Oklahoma, and Mark Mallory, the Democratic mayor of Cincinnati. At another event the majority considered political in nature, Walters appeared with Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona. Also on the agenda was Arizona's Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano. Left unexplained is how this "benefitted" Kyl.
"If the majority wants to discuss eliminating the political office in the White House, we stand ready to have that conversation," said Davis. "If it wants to argue that politics receive too much consideration in policy decisions, we can have that conversation, too. But the accusation here is that the White House has "deployed its assets" - cabinet secretaries, agency directors and others - to help its candidates and to play politics with policy and funding decisions. And that case has not been made. Indeed, it's fair to ask who truly is playing politics here."