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Probe: Bush Officials Violated Hatch Act

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The Office of Special Counsel issued a report Monday concluding that White House officials and political appointees were guilty of numerous violations of the Hatch Act.

The report, OSC said in a press release, "revealed that White House Office of Political Affairs employees, as well as high-level agency political appointees, violated the Hatch Act through a number of practices that were prevalent during the months leading up to the 2006 midterm elections."

The Hatch Act establishes standards for what level and type of political activity is appropriate for federal employees.

OSC's report focused on "the transformation of OPA from an advisory office to the president into a campaign organization that worked directly with the Republican National Committee to achieve electoral success for Republican candidates" and "the improper use of U.S. Treasury funds to support Republican campaign activity."

POLITICO noted Monday that the OSC findings were "released just a few days after the Obama White House announced that it plans to shutter its administration's Office of Political Affairs and move some of the staffers there to the payrolls of the Democratic National Committee and a still-to-be-formed presidential re-election committee in Chicago."

The OSC report has a long history. It originated with a probe of a January 2007 meeting involving then-General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Doan, several of the agency's political appointees and former White House political aide Scott Jennings.

As GovExec reported in April 2008:

After Jennings showed a PowerPoint slide show detailing Republican electoral plans Doan asked, "How can we help our candidates?"

Doan has consistently said she does not remember making such a comment.

But the OSC, citing multiple witnesses, concluded the statement was tantamount to instructing subordinates to use their offices to assist Republican candidates. "Doan solicited the political activity of over 30 of her subordinate employees," Special Counsel Scott Bloch wrote in a June 8 summary of his office's investigation.

At that time, OSC officials pledged to expand the probe into other White House political activities. But POLITICO reports their efforts may have been sidetracked by Bloch's own legal troubles.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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