Republicans want information on timing, scope of Bush-era Cabinet probe
Updated 6:02 p.m. ET
Congressional Republicans are asking the federal government's independent watchdog office to explain why it took almost four years to release a report alleging that at least seven Cabinet secretaries from George W. Bush's administration violated federal law restricting the political activities of top government officials.
The Office of Special Counsel report released in January highlighted widespread violations of the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activities of career federal employees and top political appointees. The violations occurred mostly in 2005 and 2006 as the Bush White House deployed top officials to campaign for vulnerable Republican congressional candidates, according to the report.
The White House orchestrated the travel through its political affairs office, the report said. The findings were published days after President Obama announced plans to move his political operations outside of the West Wing to his new reelection headquarters in Chicago and to Democratic National Committee offices in Washington. The White House had no knowledge of the report's impending publication, according to administration officials.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, first sought information on the report last July, but never received an answer, his office said. The chairman sent another request for information on Jan. 27, according to a letter obtained by The Post on Monday (but first obtained by Dan Friedman National Journal Daily.)
"Nearly four years passed between the start of the investigation and the issuance of the report," Issa said in a letter to Acting Special Counsel William E. Reukauf. "I have requested an explanation for this long delay in making your work public. You have ignored my request."
The report also failed to explore potential Hatch Act violations from the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, Issa said.
Darshan Sheth, an OSC spokesman, said the office soon plans to share details of the investigation with Issa's office. "The report was released when it was completed," Sheth said in an e-mail. "It took as long as it did because, as the report noted, we conducted over 80 interviews and reviewed over 100,000 documents. That's a big task for a small agency."
OSC, which enforces federal workplace rules and investigates allegations of potential violations, employs about 120 people, Sheth said.
The release of the report "was not coordinated with anyone," Sheth said. "We did not provide advance copies of our report or advance notice of our findings to anyone."
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who served as Bush's second agriculture secretary, asked OSC to correct its report, which he said incorrectly characterized visits he made to Arizona and Minnesota in 2006.
He provided OSC with reimbursement records from the campaign of former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) for two campaign appearances in Minnesota and travel records showing that he attended USDA-sponsored meetings in addition to political events during a similar trip to Arizona.
"With the stroke of a pen you have the ability to destroy the livelihoods of committed public servants," Johanns said. "I find your apparent indifference to factual errors and simple fact checking to be shocking."
OSC issued a corrected report after obtaining the information from Johanns, Sheth said.
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| February 7, 2011; 4:40 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Oversight
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