This is a fairly complex story, and to my great sadness I doubt it'll get much play, but my hope is that someone will pay attention, for a couple of reasons. One, it is (yet another) perfect, sickening example of how this abjectly political administration will cynically manipulate anyone and anything for gain, and two, I used to work in the Drug Czar's office under the Clinton Administration, so it hits home for me.
What makes it all the worse is that -- at least according to the quote of their spokesman in today's Post -- they will just go ahead and "shrug off" the Hatch Act.
According to the Washington Post:
White House officials arranged for top officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to help as many as 18 vulnerable Republican congressmen by making appearances and sometimes announcing new federal grants in the lawmakers' districts in the months leading up to the November 2006 elections, a Democratic lawmaker said yesterday.
Well, I guess we can at least say it's not surprising, right? I understand Chairman Waxman is looking into this, and I applaud his efforts. I would also applaud Swampland at Time.com for pinging the story as well.
Something is still missing for me, though. Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers and of course Karl Rove should all be run out of town at best, no question. And probably more of them. But where were our high-ranking Executive Branch officials on this (at the USDA, Transportation, and Commerce Department, too, apparently)? Look, I get that they're all Bush appointees, I know how the process works. But do any of these people harbor any sense that they're public servants? Or are they really just the GOP's servants? Or, God help us, George Bush's servants?
The White House and drug policy officials, however, shrugged that off as a consequence of political reality.
No big shocker there, I guess. But don't you think they could bother to at least try to cover it up? At least a little?
"I don't think it is that surprising that during a campaign season when you're talking about events touting White House programs that Republicans are going to be more likely to appear with us than Democrats," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the drug policy office. "Teen drug use is down. There has been a lot of progress. We're very happy and eager to do events with anyone. But it is more likely that Republicans are going to stand up with White House officials to talk about those successes."
Bold is mine.
So, okay, Tom Riley, you're admitting that the Bush Administration has essentially transformed non-political offices into overt GOP campaign tools.
I worked for ONDCP Director Lee Brown, and then later Barry McCaffrey in administrative capacities from 1993 through 1998, through the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign. And I didn't lift a finger to help him get re-elected. Neither did Brown or McCaffrey. I was a member of the Arlington (VA) Young Democrats, and aside from attending a few meetings, I didn't do anything else. I had a good job, a Schedule C political appointment in the government and I was putting myself through school at night. I didn't want to jeopardize that, not even with the appearance of impropriety.
The current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mr. Walters, a previous Deputy Director of that office under the first George Bush, is a well known political hack. And this proves it, as if proof were somehow needed. Somebody ought to start by asking the careless (at best) Tom Riley to resign, and work their way up to Walters from there.
cross posted at dailykos