It’s time for another round of “Which Office or Agency is the White House Politicizing Now?”
House oversight committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), having recently brought to light the politicization of the surgeon general’s office, is shining a light on the nation’s drug czar. The czar, John Walters, and his deputies traveled on the taxpayers’ dime to 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections, according to a committee press release. Not only that, but several of the trips were “combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members.” If government officials were using government funds to help elect Republicans, that would be a violation of the Hatch Act.
You can guess who was behind all that GOP-boosting travel: Karl Rove. Waxman says that Rove’s former top aide Sara Taylor was the point person, and so he wants her to testify before his committee. He’s requested that she appear for a deposition July 24th and raises the possibility of a hearing on July 30th. Taylor, you’ll remember, just testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about the U.S. attorney firings.Taylor, like Rove and his other aides, gave briefings to a number of agencies throughout the government about which Republican candidates were in danger of losing reelection. When questioned about those briefings last week, she was evasive. The White House has claimed that the briefings were only “informational” and that agency employees were not directed to take actions to benefit GOP candidates.
Waxman has uncovered emails, however, that show the White House’s enthusiasm for using agency heads as political props. Among them is an email (pdf) that describes a proud Karl Rove boasting after the 2006 election that the drug czar’s office and officials from the departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture had gone “above and beyond the call of duty” in making “surrogate appearances.”