Rove and the (Escape) Hatch Act

When Michael Mukasey announced in 2008 no one would be charged for politicizing DOJ, I had this to say.

Understand: Mukasey has turned into a terrible shill for the Administration. But it has been clear for over a year that the Administration would escape criminal charges for having committed massive violations of the Hatch Act. But that has more to do with the Hatch Act than with Michael Mukasey. Even a Democratic AG would have a hard time charging this stuff, given the stated penalties for civil Hatch Act violations.

The Hatch Act gives citizens no real recourse for the politicization of our government. And the loyal Bushies know this. After all, by all appearances, they’re still committing Hatch Act violations.

And when Karl Rove resigned in 2007, I noted that it would make the ongoing Office of Special Counsel investigation into Hatch Act violations meaningless. And for good measure, here’s where I predicted that investigation would last into the next decade.

Welcome to the next decade, when we finally get the report telling us what we knew back in 2007 when this investigation started, that Rove politicized the government.

Note that footnote 3 of the report says what these reports almost always say (the one exception was Lurita Doan), that since everyone who violated the Hatch Act has moved on now, they cannot be punished for doing so.

Because all of the officials who were involved in Hatch Act violations described in this report are no longer employed by the federal government, OSC cannot bring disciplinary actions against these employees.

As I said last decade, no one will be held accountable for the abuses described in the report. So forgive me for being underwhelmed by the release of the report that does no more than catalog what we already knew.

The report shows that under Bush, agency heads required agency political appointees  to attend briefings at which they’d get an overview (40-60% of the content) of the Republican prospects for the next election.It described how these briefings explained the importance of the Republican 72-hour plan to get out turnout. And it described how at least some agencies tracked the participation of employees in GOTV activities.

One Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Peace Corps testified that she maintained a spreadsheet showing the agency’s political appointees and when and where they were deploying to be campaign volunteers. The witness explained that OPA wanted to know the level of participation by political appointees as a group, and that she believed OPA expected all appointees to volunteer. She also understood that supervisors were expected to permit political appointees to take leave so they could “go off and do 72-hour campaigns.”

The most interesting finding of the report–though again, we knew this–is that the Office of Public Affairs became a mere extension of the RNC leading up to the 2006 election.

Specifically, OSC’s investigation revealed that OPA was essentially an extension of the RNC in the White House. Thus, OPA:

  • Worked with the RNC to develop a “target list” consisting of those Republican candidates involved in close races.
  • Encouraged high-level agency political appointees to attend events with targeted Republican candidates in order to attract positive media attention to their campaigns, a practice called “asset deployment.”
  • Utilized the services of several RNC Desk Coordinators – who worked inside the White House – to help coordinate high-level political appointees’ travel to both political and official events with Republican candidates.
  • Kept track of Republican candidates’ fundraising efforts as well as high-level agency political appointees’ attendance at events with targeted candidates.
  • Encouraged political appointees, on behalf of the RNC, to participate in 72-hour deployment efforts.

As explained below, OSC has concluded that all of these activities constituted “political activity” because they were directed at the electoral success of Republican candidates and the Republican Party as a whole. These activities took place in federal buildings and during normal business hours in violation of the Hatch Act. And although the OPA Director and Deputy Director, at whose direction these activities occurred, were exempt from the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or in a federal workplace, the regulations require that the costs associated with the political activity of exempt employees be reimbursed to the U.S. Treasury when the activity is more than incidental. Here, the entire OPA staff was enlisted in pursuit of Republican success at the polls and many OPA employees believed that effort was part of their official job duties. Based on the extent of the activities described below, OSC concludes that the political activities of OPA employees were not incidental to their official functions, and thus U.S. Treasury funds were unlawfully used to finance efforts to pursue Republican victories at the polls in 2006.[my emphasis]

In short, taxpayers paid for a big chunk of the Republican 2006 campaign.

Hey! That was the campaign where we took back both houses and Rove’s math was proven to be faulty, right? Suckers!!

Other than that, the report is mostly interesting for a description of how the Republicans ran their campaign in 2006.

One of the by far most interesting details associated with this report came before it was released, four days ago, when Obama announced he was shutting the entire Office of Political Affairs and moving it to Chicago.

President Obama will close the office of political affairs at the White House in preparation for the establishment of his re-election headquarters, which will open its doors in Chicago by late March to concentrate on building a national fund-raising and grass-roots operation to rival his first campaign, aides said.

The president has signed off on the plan to set up his campaign headquarters away from Washington, a first for a modern-day presidential re-election campaign. To avoid turf battles, chaotic communications and duplicated efforts, aides said, a significant realignment is under way in the West Wing, with the duties of the political office being taken up by the Democratic National Committee. [my emphasis]

Now, I criticized him for deciding that getting re-elected matters more at this point than governance (and I still wish he seemed more serious about solving the job crisis in this country). But assuming he made this move with some forewarning of the content of the OSC report, he deserves some credit for eliminating the OPA office altogether. While Rove’s politicization of the government was particularly egregious, I think having an OPA right there in the White House fosters this kind of abuse. And, frankly, had Obama not done this, I can assure you that Darrell Issa, now in the same role as Henry Waxman was when he first initiated this investigation, would be subpoenaing every PowerPoint the Obama Administration used in agency presentations in the last two years.

  1. jdmckay0 says:

    (…) it would make the ongoing Office of Special Counsel investigation into Hatch Act violations meaningless. And for good measure, here’s where I predicted that investigation would last into the next decade.

    Welcome to the next decade, when we finally get the report telling us what we knew back in 2007 when this investigation started, that Rove politicized the government.

    Isn’t that the case, though, w/just about everything they did? Iraq, taxes and tax breaks, incentives for offshoring, politicization of nearly every fed agency (labor, environment, voting (Diebold etc.), civil rights, DOJ… Oh my God, it’s rather breathtaking in scope.

    Almost makes Thunder Dome look like a model of law and order.

    How many times did we hear “self regulation” from SEC, TREASURY, HHS… just about everywhere BushCo donors co-opted various Fed Agencies? The discussions we had here regarding systematic destruction of WH email records system… Brenda Payton being asked if she was “running out the clock”, well she ran out the clock. And most of WH political email hosted/archived by RNC crony, untouchable.

    BushCo dismantled everything sensibly intended to oversee malfeasance, and fed steroids to crooks who ran through those open gates to plunder.

    Wide, saturating, comprehensive, destructive.

    We’re in big, big trouble here. And current wave of Fed lawmakers poised to ramp up the malfeasance another notch.

    Maybe we ought’a be talking about a 100m person march, for days/weeks.

    China is executing public officials for corruption. If we did that here, those left breathing could be counted on one had.

    • crowinghen says:

      Even though the perpetrators can’t be punished under the Hatch Act since they no longer work for the government, is there any way they can be pursued in a civil case for unauthorized use of property…they used computers, servers, offices, phones, etc owned by us…the taxpayers.

      I vaguely remember some law that allowed someone (usually an employee) who found waste or fraud that cheated the govt of money to bring a case on behalf of the govt and keep part of the proceeds if there was a judgment against the person/company that had cheated the govt. (I’m remembering this from what may have been an old 60 Minutes segment years ago where I think it was an employee of the Bureau of Mines who found a company had been grossly underpaying royalties owed to the govt. As I recall, he had to take the case to DoJ and they could choose to pursue it but if they chose not to, he could do it himself.

      Any chance that attorneys could file a class action lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers–maybe even RICO?–against the RNC and the employees performing political tasks while on the govt payroll using govt time and assets?

      I realize it’s a long shot, but–like so many other things–they should not get away with it by just leaving the govt–and if they still worked there, the worst that would happen is they would get fired. Little risk, big reward for violating the Hatch Act.

  2. BlueFloridian says:

    Take and keep names. The cretins will no doubt be recycled for another administration. At that time, violation of the Hatch Act should prevent any future confirmation.

  3. jdmckay0 says:

    Transcript of Sy Hersh speech in Doha, Qatar: 1/17/2011. He’e mostly talking about generalities from a book he will soon publish.

    Seems to ramble a bit I think, but a few snippets…

    Topic: “The Obama/Bush Foreign Policies: Why Can’t America Change?”

    (…) Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn’t get one. He has a nice dog.

    (…)I would argue that, what I’m really writing about is, about how eight or nine neoconservative whackos, if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over. And it’s not only that. It’s not only that the neocons took it over, it’s how easily they did it — how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced.

    (…)but for every terrorist we capture, how many more do we make?

    So, but in the Cheney shop — I can write about it in ways I could not then, because I didn’t want expose anybody who was there — in the Cheney shop the attitude was, “What’s this? What? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? And wait a second, Sunnis don’t like Shia? And there’s no WMD? And there’s no democracy? Don’t they get it? We’re going to change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get hold of all the oil, nobody’ s going to give a damn.” That’s the attitude: “We’re going to change mosques into cathedrals.”

    Almost reads like a brief history of the BushCo decade of plunder.

  4. JTMinIA says:

    The 2006 Republican campaign was run out of gov’t offices. In 2006, the Republicans got trounced in the election. Ergo, Republicans are correct: gov’t can’t do anything right.


  5. lsls says:

    The talking point about this today is: What’s the big deal, they all do it, and they’ve always done it. Move along…sheeple

  6. canadianbeaver says:

    Honestly, how does anybody actually know how many laws are broken in any election? How do you know that your vote is counted one way or another? You don’t.

  7. Palli says:

    Sorry- to place this here at the Rovian Criminal Activities Thread but the contact us has a pfishing warning and went straight to a qmail ad.

    Marcy and friends, I just received the following alert:

    On January 25 (today), nine antiwar activists are scheduled to appear before a Grand Jury in Chicago. They are among a total of 23 activists around the country who have had their homes raided by the FBI and have been served with Grand Jury subpoenas.
    In the tradition of McCarthy era witch-hunting, these twenty-three victims of FBI/government repression have been called to testify regarding their political activities and associations. All have said they will refuse to participate in the Grand Jury proceedings, and may well be facing years in prison as a result.

    January 25 has been called as a day of national protest in solidarity with these victims of an assault on freedom of political expression, and demonstrations have been announced in many cities around the US.

    For information on protests being planned around the US – and around the world in solidarity, please visit this website:

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Nice Nazi like catch 22? The “Great Inquisition! The Grand Jury roots! Having sat on a Grand Jury I have no respect for the process! TO much power in to few hands. Grand jury members not capable of understanding the law, voting on emotion. No rebuttals. A contrived system designed in such a manner, ripe for political garbage. Anything done behind close doors, is garbage, and permits microbial cluster-fucks to develop. Our purpose was to determine to charge people. To determine if a set of facts relative to an alleged crime warranted a charge, and to investigate via the grand jury’s subpoena power to see if a crime was committed. Even if we felt and knew “probable cause” did not exist for the arrest, that the stop or what not was illegal and that the police where clearly lying, we could not raise the issue. “Canned Horse’s Shit” So an indictment handed down, moves to trial, then dismissed for lack of “probable cause” with the initial arrest. What a waste of time and money! Too bad the grand jury process could not be put to better use prosecuting corporate criminals, and law breaking lawmakers, instead of people opposed to war? Most people who testified before the grand jury did not have their homes raided and property seized. Hell the potentially accused person was not even present! What a system!

  8. JMLagain says:

    Marcy – Could you please explain “the exception being Lurita Doan”?
    Doan sits on the Board of Trustees of a prestigious “liberal” (so called) liberal arts college. My husband was attending a dinner at the college president’s house recently where Doan was seated at the high table. When he mentioned Doan’s notoriety to the the faculty and college administrators seated at his next-to-the-backdoor table, questioning why she had not been asked to resign as a trustee, not one person, including those who consider themselves politically engaged, was aware of her illegal activities. My mild mannered but sardonic husband was all but forcibly restrained from being allowed to talk to her during the after dinner coffee time when guests usually wander from table to table for conversation. This is the state of political awareness by the East coast establishment intelligentsia

  9. timr says:

    Back when I was in the FedGov we got a briefing on the Hatch Act every year. And the damn law was enforced in both republician-Reagan, Bush I, and Democratic-Clinton- administrations. Until Bush II came along the law had been enforced ever since it was written.

    Damn but I am glad I was forced into retirement in 1998! I know damn well I would have been in very hot water during bush II. Most likely to the point of being fired.

  10. Palli says:

    Yes, the political criminals (indicted or not) have just blended back into out too-polite civil society. Torturers also.

    • JMLagain says:

      It’s my understanding that her personal fortune is now based on her and her husband’s business of supplying high security fences to government intallations and U.S. embassies.

  11. JMLagain says:

    How does this compare to the estimated $50 million in free advertising to political candidates by Fox News? Could someone qualify it dollars and cents as defrauding the taxpayers?

  12. crowinghen says:

    If Legal Schnauzer’s speculation about what’s in Assange’s ‘insurance file’ turns out to be true (documents obtained when they piggybacked off the Chinese hacking about stolen elections particularly if it gave a glimpse of the parallel servers for election night running through the TN company), might that provide some evidence of additional fraud against the taxpayers to pursue in a civil case?

    If those documents exist and would tie back to Rove, (which would provide reasons for him to use his connections to the head of the Swedish govt, and Sweden’s efforts to extradite Assange to turn him over to the USG)….would that be another chance to pursue the perpetrators civilly on behalf of the taxpayers?

    As a previous commenter noted, what price could be placed on stolen elections? Maybe enough to take the ill-gotten fortunes of a few….at least it would be a (very) minor consolation for what we’ve lost.

    Yeah, I know, way way too many “if”s there….but it’s a shame that it ends with violations of the Hatch Act and no penalties.

  13. Citizen92 says:

    @ 22

    If only there were the political will, then…

    I’d recommend they start by marching over to the RNC and re-claiming all government work product sent using the email domain. We know that govermnent salaried workers used that system exclusively to communicate. But the RNC kept all workproduct. That workproduct is stolen.

    @ 25

    Karl in Sweden. Wasn’t he conveniently over there when HJC or Oversight subpoenaed him? His gloating is captured on Swedish TV at .

  14. JohnLopresti says:

    Since the thread addresses a rondelay of OSC matters, perhaps relevant background and foreground materials could include the additions to the record of a complainant who filed for redress of ostensible inequities in OSC procedure in an FAA related matter originating in late 2009, there. The gist appears to be complainant*s contention that OSC*s autonomy was compromised based on aftereffects of Bloch*s tenure. Scott Bloch*s sentencing currently evidently is docketed for next month, February 2011. The complaint*s setting concerns FAA circumvention of public comment regarding fatigue matters. I recalled Sullenberger*s echoing similar overextension concerns in congressional testimony earlier in 2009 likely fairly unrelated to the OSC matter, which the complaint cited dates to late 2009 ff. NB: for some reason, probably the bitmapped 2 pp included in the 9 pp complaint, the download filesize is >5MB. The link is to complainant*s ~samizdat site.

    In a separate extinguished matter in an office which examines many internally controversial performance issues, one person who filed a personnel grievance against events and persons from Bloch*s reign, was denied compensation in judge Leon*s court last autumn, descriptive article there.