the los angeles times is
reporting this morning that
the office of special counsel
[h/t thinkprogress.org for this],
a usually low-key federal office
charged chiefly with monitoring
complaince with the hatch act
[yep -- we knew it was coming!],
has opened a unified, wide-ranging, and
now-independent federal investigation
of karl rove's activities in, and
on behalf of, the bush white house,
over the past six and a half years.
scott j. bloch, the chief of the
office of special counsel, is reportedly
especially concerned with power-point
presentations mr. rove made to various
cabinet-level agencies. [presentations
not-at-all-unlike the one that had lurita
doan answering questions, under oath (and
badly, too!), before henry waxman's house
oversight committee last month. her less-
than-credible-testimony has led to wide-
spread calls for her ouster on this score.]
the key question, in each of these investi-
gations, is whether these "infor-
mational briefings" crossed the line -- and
were, in fact, political activity, or
political management [PDF], on government
property, or on government time, each
of which would be a violation of the
hatch act. . . let's read a little:
". . .The new investigation, which will examine
the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing
White House e-mails, and White House efforts to
keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican
political priorities, could create a substantial
new problem for the Bush White House.
First, the inquiry comes from inside the admin-
istration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second,
unlike the splintered inquiries being pressed on
Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified inves-
tigation covering many facets of the political
operation in which Rove played a leading part. . .
Rove and his top aides met each year with presi-
dential appointees throughout the govern-
ment, using PowerPoint presentations
to review polling data and describe high-
priority congressional and other campaigns
around the country. . .
Some officials have said they understood that
they were expected to seek opportunities to
help Republicans in these races, through
federal grants, policy decisions or in other ways.
A former Interior Department official, Wayne R.
Smith, who sat through briefings from Rove and
his then-deputy Ken Mehlman, said that during
President Bush's first term, he and other
appointees were frequently briefed on political
'We were constantly being reminded about how
our decisions could affect electoral results,' Smith said. . ."
if these allegations turn out to be
well-founded (and there would seem to
be scant reason for a former interior
department official to lie about such
matters), then karl rove has repeatedly
committed direct violations of the
hatch act -- and "rove's shop" was
part of a systemic pattern of such
violations. . . okay -- the upshot?
repeated, intentional, pattern violations of
the hatch act are federal crimes -- felonies.
uh-huh. . .
in passing -- i will admit to being slightly
skeptical of the office of special counsel
(given that mr. bloch has allegedly refused
to enforce federal laws prohibiting gay/lesbian
discrimination in the not-too-distant-past),
here. . . if his big idea is to slow the cong-
ressional investigations by asserting some
form of exclusive jurisdiction over these
matters, senators leahy, schumer, and
whitehouse, and representatives conyers,
waxman and sanchez should forcefully assert
their CONCURRENT right -- and obligation -- to
continue their independent investigations.
but perhaps i am being paranoid -- just
because the OSP chief was a bush appointee,
does not mean he won't do his job faithfully.