Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another Good Reason ONDCP Should Be Shuttered

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, an overt propaganda arm of the government, was used to assist GOP political candidates during the 2006 election season.

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.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said documents obtained by his panel suggest that the appearances by the drug control officials were part of a larger White House effort to politicize the work of federal agencies that "may be more widespread than previously known."

Waxman cited a memo written by former White House political director Sara M. Taylor showing that John P. Walters, director of the drug control office, and his deputies traveled at taxpayer expense to about 20 events with vulnerable GOP members of Congress in the three months leading up to the elections. ...

(A) 1994 law bars the agency's officials from engaging in political activities even on their own time. ...

In Waxman's letter to Taylor yesterday, he asked Taylor to voluntarily appear at a deposition July 24 and possibly testify before his committee the following week. He said the panel wants her to explain a memo she wrote indicating that Walters and his deputies made trips at the behest of the White House political office in the months prior to the crucial midterm elections.

"I recognize that federal political appointees have traveled to events with members of Congress in prior administrations," Waxman wrote in his letter to Taylor. "What is striking about your memo to ONDCP is the degree of White House control, the number of trips and the agency involved." ...

(I)n the three months immediately leading up to the 2006 election, Walters or his deputies held events almost exclusively with GOP officials, many of whom were embroiled in tough reelection campaigns.

Two were held with then- Sen. James M. Talent of Missouri, who was defeated last November. At one of those stops, Walters announced that four Missouri counties had been designated part of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which brings $500,000 in federal funding to help local law enforcement efforts, Waxman said. It was one of several grant announcements made while drug policy officials were appearing with GOP candidates.

Appearances also were held with Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio in Columbus and with then-Rep. Chris Chocola of Indiana in South Bend. Pryce narrowly won reelection, while Chocola lost in November.

"You included no Democrats or Independents in your memo of suggested travel for director Walters," Waxman said in his letter to Taylor.

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