Bush Officials Illegally Used Taxpayer Dollars to Engage in Electioneering

According to a report by the Office of Special Counsel cited in the Washington Post, at least seven officials who served during the George W. Bush presidency are guilty of having used taxpayer money to take politically-motivated trips, in violation of the federal Hatch Act. The officials reportedly lied about the purpose of those trips, claiming they were for official business.

Most of the abuses occurred in 2005 and 2006, as "Bush's advisers were anxious about the looming midterm electoral losses that would hand control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats," according to the Post. Conveniently, around that time, officials all of a sudden needed to take a lot of official business trips to key battleground states such as Ohio and Connecticut. What a coincidence.

This federally funded travel was organized, approved and closely tracked by Bush's political office, the Office of Special Counsel found, describing the activity as leading to the illegal diversion of federal funds and workers' time.

At one point in 2006, it disclosed, operatives employed by the Republican National Committee moved into White House quarters where they worked in tandem with the political-office staff to coordinate the campaign.

While White House officials may legally pursue close political contact with outsiders, the report said, "the systematic, partisan political activity described in this report, including strategically supplying targeted candidates with administration support to secure electoral gains, goes far beyond a need for political information [meant] to effectively advise the president."

Enacted in 1939, the Hatch Act is "meant to limit federal workers' explicit efforts to influence the electoral process" -- a worthy goal to keep our muddied electoral system from getting any worse. The Bush officials seemed to know, but not care, that what they were doing was wrong. The report found that the officials would occasionally note that their travel expenses would need to be reimbursed with political funds, but then "no evidence could be found that they were."

None of this is terribly surprising from an administration that got the country a couple of illegal wars, among other serious troubles. But it is disconcerting.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at January 25, 2011, 3:49am

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