Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Rovian Political Skullduggery

One should probably keep in mind the fact that these ambassadors were political appointees who didn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming to attend these talks.

That's why nobody blew the whistle on these violations of the Hatch Act earlier.

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a "general political briefing" at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.

The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The documents show for the first time how the White House sought to ensure that even its appointees involved in foreign policy were kept attuned to the administration's election goals. Such briefings occurred semi-regularly over the past six years for staffers dealing with domestic policy, White House officials have previously acknowledged.

In one instance, State Department aides attended a White House meeting at which political officials examined the 55 most critical House races for 2002 and the media markets most critical to battleground states for President Bush's reelection fight in 2004, according to documents the department provided to the Senate committee.

On Jan. 4, just after the 2006 elections tossed the Republicans out of congressional power, Rove met at the White House with six U.S. ambassadors to key European missions and the consul general to Bermuda while the diplomats were in Washington for a State Department conference.

According to a department letter to the Senate panel, Rove explained the White House views on the electoral disaster while Sara M. Taylor, then the director of White House political affairs, showed a PowerPoint presentation that pinned most of the electoral blame on "corrupt" GOP lawmakers and "complacent incumbents." One chart in Taylor's presentation highlighted the GOP's top 36 targets among House Democrats for the 2008 election.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, asked whether the briefings inappropriately politicized the diplomatic agencies or violated prohibitions against political work by most federal employees.

"I do not understand why ambassadors, in Washington on official duty, would be briefed by White House officials on which Democratic House members are considered top targets by the Republican party for defeat in 2008. Nor do I understand why department employees would need to be briefed on 'key media markets' in states that are 'competitive' for the president," Biden wrote. ...

The Hatch Act insulates virtually all federal workers from partisan politics and bars the use of federal resources -- including office buildings, phones and computers -- for partisan purposes. ...

The ambassadors included in the Rove briefing were Eduardo Aguirre Jr. of Spain, James P. Cain of Denmark, Alfred Hoffman Jr. of Portugal, Ronald Spogli of Italy, Craig Stapleton of France and Robert Tuttle of Britain. Gregory Slayton, the consul general to Bermuda, also attended.

In total, the seven diplomats donated more than $1.6 million to Republican causes from 2000 through 2006, according to a Center for Responsive Politics report on large Bush donors who were named ambassadors.

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