I don't think anyone's surprised about this. I just wonder if anything will happen as a result -- even if it's just that Karl Rove is no longer invited onto news shows as some shining example of political genius. It's not difficult to do most things if you're willing to ignore the rules:
WASHINGTON — The Bush White House, particularly before the 2006 midterm elections, routinely violated a federal law that prohibits use of federal tax dollars to pay for political activities by creating a “political boiler room” that coordinated Republican campaign activities nationwide, a report issued Monday by an independent federal agency concludes.
The report by the Office of Special Counsel finds that the Bush administration’s Office of Political Affairs — overseen by Karl Rove — served almost as an extension of the Republican National Committee, developing a “target list” of Congressional races, organizing dozens of briefings for political appointees to press them to work for party candidates, and sending cabinet officials out to help these campaigns.
The report, based on about 100,000 pages of documents and interviews with 80 Bush administration officials in an investigation of more than three years, documented how these political activities accelerated before the 2006 midterm elections.
This included helping coordinate fund-raising by Republican candidates and pressing Bush administration political appointees to help with Republican voter-turnout pitches, particularly in the 72 hours leading up to the election when Democrats took control of the House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years.
The Office of Special Counsel, a relatively obscure federal agency, is charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Certain members of the White House political staff — including the top aides at the Office of Political Affairs — are exempt, as are the president, vice president and members of the cabinet. But the law still prohibits the use of federal money, even by these officials, to support political causes.
There are some moments on TV that should just be sent to the cutting room floor before they ever hit the screen. This is one of them.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck proves that she doesn't listen, she doesn't think, and she's as much of a troll as Breitbart when she wants to be.
This is a classic example of what I keep ranting about. There's no issue here, and anyone with half a brain knows it. But Hasselbeck concern trolls over the Hatch Act (inapplicable to the speech and group Sherrod was speaking to) as if it is the NEXT HORRIBLE RACIST THING.
HASSELBECK: There's another bit from your speech that's actually raising a second wave of controversy.
[from clip, SHERROD:]I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as i've seen lately over this issue of health care. now we endured 8 years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black President.
HASSELBECK: So what about that epiphany, where is that epiphany where it's not about color and it's not about race. What do you then say?
SHERROD: You know, why is it that there's such opposition to something that's so important to poor people. Again, I'm coming at it from the angle of poor people. Poor people need health care!
HASSELBECK: And i hear you because I listened to your entire speech and I read the entire transcript but when someone listens to that they're thinking 'yeah, well all of a sudden it's back to black and white, why did we have to get there' .
And then is it also because being a civil servant are you not allowed to have such a partisan opinion? I thought --
-- I thought that was not okay.
SHERROD: Poor white people need health care too. You know, so I wasn't talking about health care for just black people. I'm talking about health care for poor people. I know what happens to folks who don't get a chance to go to doctors. I know what's happening to hospitals and their emergency rooms with all of the load of dealing with the person after it's too late.
WENTWORTH: It's too bad, and I know we're going to come back and talk with you again, but it's too bad everything has to immediately take the road of racism. It's poverty. Poverty.
GOLDBERG: Hang on a second -- this is going to be great. you won't forget it.
After the break and re-intro, Hasselbeck gets another chance at the well of the Concern Trolls:
HASSELBECK: You know, we had just shown a clip where the tail end of it you say "we endured 8 years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff the Republicans are doing because we have a black President." Second part of my question: Doesn't the Hatch Act prohibit civil servants from making partisan and political statements? SO isn't that reason enough to look into okay, is this something even legal going on?
Wow, isn't it really nice of Elisabeth Hasselbeck to be concerned that Shirley Sherrod might have violated the Hatch Act? And it certainly plays well to the Fox/Breitbart crowd out there who loves the "scary black person doing illegal and racist things" trope. Only, Elisabeth really didn't know what she was talking about, because the Hatch Act does not rob government employees of their First Amendment rights. It simply limits political activity while they are ON DUTY. Here's all you ever wanted to know about the Hatch Act from the Office of Special Counsel.
And once again, Shirley Sherrod puts Hasselbeck right back in her place:
SHERROD: You know, maybe the Hatch Act would have been meant only for me, because I don't know any government official who was gagged, especially during the Bush administration.
BEHAR: You know, I want to support what Shirley said before, which is that during the Bush administration you had tax cuts for the wealthiest and he did not -- that whole adminiistration did not give a damn about poor people and everybody knows it. That's why Obama was elected in the first place.
-- and even now, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment insurance but they're okay with tax cuts to the wealthy --
Let me finish. So now you have Obama in office, and he does give a damn about black people
HASSELBECK: Black/white or rich/poor? Which is it?
BEHAR: A lot of people are poor because they were black --
HASSELBECK We're supposed to be postracial here --
GOLDBERG: There is no postracial yet. this was a media idea that sounded great, that sounded wonderful, but the truth is that these issues, these questions of race have never come up this way before because there has never been a black president before, so people are now trying to figure out how they feel, how they deal how they talk. this is a new world for us.
WENTWORTH: Obama has a very fine line to walk. I mean, can you imagine being the first black president having to deal with all these issues?
Listen, I plead guilty to having raised money for Governor George W. Bush because I thought he was the best person to be President of the United States. And I did it in a completely appropriate fashion and enthusiastically for the President. And there's no mystery to the fact that I was appointed to this job because, in part, I had a relationship with the President of the United States.
Anybody who receives a political appointment -- I am a political appointee -- there's going to be some measure of politics involved with that appointment.
New Jersey Governor, polled by The New York Times, 10/9/09-10/14/09, Likely Voters, MoE +/- 4-5%
Jon Corzine (D) 40
Chris Christie (R) 37
Chris Daggett (I) 14
After a week in which Republican challenger Chris Christie has watched poll after poll showing a dwindling lead in the gubernatorial race in the Garden State, this poll is the first to show a Corzine lead of greater than a point.
What's more, among registered voters, the polls lead really expands:
New Jersey Governor, polled by The New York Times, 10/9/09-10/14/09, Registered Voters, MoE +/- 3%
Jon Corzine (D) 40
Chris Christie (R) 30
Chris Daggett (I) 13
That would seem to suggest that the pool of persuadable voters, who are not yet quite sold on voting, is even more anti-Christie than the corps of likely voters identified by the New York Times.
A Canadian newspaper reported Thursday that Friday's scheduled $100-a-plate luncheon speech by Sen. John McCain in Ottawa was organized in part by U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins, a former South Carolina lawmaker whom President Bush appointed in 2005.
Democrats pointed out the article late Thursday night, and alleged that Wilkins's actions could be construed as a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits many kinds of political activities by government employees.
This ties in nicely with Scott McClellan's testimony today. The main theme of his book is that this White House operates in a "permanent campaign mode," where every action they take is politically calculated to help GOP electoral prospects. We saw it with the clueless Lurita Doan and we see it now with David Wilkins: It doesn't matter if there are laws on the books prohibiting certain conduct; if it helps get Republicans elected, do it. And it appears that if it helps fill McCain's empty coffers, he doesn't have much of a problem with it either.
A Lafayette attorney who specializes in election law is seeking a Congressional investigation into whether the White House was involved in pushing a California ballot initiative to change the way the state allocates its electoral votes.
Barry Fadem, who is working for the group opposed to the initiative, also made a Freedom of Information Act request with the White House on Friday to reveal all contacts between Bush Administration officials, the Republican National Committee and other political operatives discussing potential changes to the state's electoral college laws.
"We want to know if the White House improperly discussed this on taxpayer time," said Fadem, a Democrat. "But we also want to make people aware that this is not some new idea, not some good public policy that proponents keep claiming. This is truly only about one thing: stealing the presidency."
GSA head Lurita Doan was a suspicious appointee to begin with. Her qualifications to head the nation's main federal contracting agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), seemed to have been primarily that she and her husband had given hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to Bush and other right wing politicians. Yesterday Bush's Office of Special Counsel recommended she be fired for engaging in "the most pernicious of political activity" banned by the 1939 Hatch Act and for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. ""Doan solicited the political activity of over 30 of her subordinate employees when she asked 'How can we help our [Republican] candidates?'" The recommendation points out that "Doan has shown no remorse and lacks an appreciation for the seriousness of her violation." Read more...
For those of you who missed the testimony of the "totally paranoid" Lurita Doan, you can see portions of it here. She has another date with Henry Waxman tomorrow...
When the Bush White House was confronted with questions about an unprecedented purge of eight U.S. Attorneys, one of the key responses was, “Clinton did it, too.” It was false, Bush aides knew it was false, but they used it anyway.
Now the same officials are confronted with questions about an unprecedented initiative from Karl Rove’s office to give blatantly partisan campaign briefings to 15 federal agencies, on government property, shortly before the 2006 elections, despite a federal law prohibiting these kinds of activities. What’s the new excuse? Take a wild guess.
When one reporter asked Perino whether the briefings were a “White House idea, initially, or was it the agencies,” Perino dodged the question and replied that “the Clinton administration had similar briefings.”
Perino’s “Clinton did it too” is wrong. Bush White House officials went to federal agencies on at least 20 occasions and conducted private briefings for large groups of political appointees. They gave presentations focusing on “Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election.” The Hatch Act explicitly prohibits the use of federal property for partisan political purposes.
ThinkProgress contacted Doug Sosnik, Clinton’s Director of Political Affairs, directly. Sosnik explained, “We never went to agencies and briefed political appointees.” In fact, no one in the Clinton administration — from Sosnik’s office or anywhere else — ever conducted similar briefings for federal employees.
It appears that, for the second time in as many weeks, Perino simply made it up, fabricating a story to get herself out of a jam. It's called "lying" -- and Perino has been doing it quite often lately.
The White House has acknowledged that many years' worth of official email--which is required by law to be preserved--has been "lost." The reason it was lost is because many White House staffers, most notably Karl Rove, have conducted much of their official business over the years on private RNC-sponsored email accounts that routinely purged old email. The White House has attempted to mitigate its culpability for this blatant violation of the Presidential Records Act by arguing that it was the byproduct of a good faith effort to comply with another law, the Hatch Act, which prohibits conducting certain partisan political activity on government time. As White House spokesperson Dana Perino put it:
What I know -- I checked into this -- is that certain White House officials and staff members who have responsibilities that straddle both worlds, that have responsibilities in communication, regular interface with political organizations, do have a separate email account for those political communications. That is entirely appropriate, especially when you think of it in this case, that the practice is in place and followed precisely to avoid any inadvertent violations of what is called the Hatch Act. And so there are some members of the administration that do straddle both worlds. And so under an abundance of caution so that they don't violate the Hatch Act, they have these separate emails.
The goal here is to portray these White House staffers as honest civil servants trying their best to comply with two contradictory sets of legal mandates. And the White House has actually been pretty successful at selling this line, as evidenced by this paragraph from a recent New York Times story:
At issue is how the White House complies with two seemingly competing laws. One is the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires the administration to ensure that its decisions and deliberations are “adequately documented” and that records flowing out of those decisions are preserved. The other is the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from engaging in political business on government time.
But here's the thing. It's just not true. The Hatch Act and the Presidential Records Act are not "competing" laws. It's remarkably easy to comply with both. All you have to do is preserve your official communications.