Watchdog groups oppose more money for special counsel

Government watchdog groups are pushing key lawmakers not to provide extra funds next year to the Office of Special Counsel, which has said it needs more money to complete a high-profile investigation into improper politicking at federal agencies.

OSC should not receive an additional $2.9 million it requested from the Office of Management and Budget until a separate investigation of Special Counsel Scott Bloch is completed, officials from the Government Accountability Project, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Project on Government Oversight wrote in a letter Wednesday.

Bloch in April launched an investigation into whether PowerPoint briefings on electoral strategy given by White House political operatives to political appointees at agencies across government resulted in violations of the Hatch Act, which bars the use of federal resources for partisan politics.

OSC, which reviews federal whistleblower claims and allegations of improper personnel practices, is charged with investigating Hatch Act violations. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee started a similar probe.

OSC officials have said the broader Hatch Act investigation exceeds the means of the agency's 105 employees. The agency last spring asked OMB for a budget amendment boosting its fiscal 2008 budget from $16.4 million to $19.2 million so it could add investigators.

The watchdog groups have been vociferous critics of Bloch due to his decisions not to pursue cases by federal employees who say they suffered discrimination due to their sexual orientation and what they say is his failure to investigate enough whistleblower cases.

They argue the Hatch Act probe, which has made Bloch an adversary of the White House, is a ploy to win support from congressional Democrats. The Office of Personnel Management Inspector General for two years has been investigating allegations by former OSC employees who say Bloch retaliated against them for opposing his policies. A recommendation to discipline Bloch would require White House action.

"Mr. Bloch cannot be trusted with any investigation, much less a sensitive investigation of alleged Hatch Act violations by high-level political appointees," the groups wrote in the letter to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and heads of other key oversight and legislative committees.

The groups charge Bloch with delaying the OPM investigation through tactics like telling his political staff to refuse to answer questions about his actions due to questionable claims of attorney-client privilege. In another letter, sent Tuesday to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Deborah Katz, an attorney for the former OSC employees, demanded the OPM IG release an interim report on its investigation into Bloch.

Last month, an OSC spokesman said it appeared OMB would not grant the agency's request for more money. Though the House and the Senate Appropriations committees have already passed bills funding OSC at the same level requested by OMB, lawmakers including Lieberman have since indicated they would consider supporting efforts to add funds through an amendment to the Senate bill or in conference.

The spokesman had no comment on the recent letters.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.