Monday, December 8, 2008

Congressman Henry Waxman calls for Hatch Act reforms

U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, D-CA, recommended elimination of the Office of White House Political Affairs in light of staff findings that the Bush Administration used the office and taxpayer dollars to pay for Cabinet secretaries and other officials' travel to Republican Campaign events in 2006.

Rep. Waxman, the House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman, is requesting changes to the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of "federal resources for partisan politics, so taxpayers aren’t paying for White House staffers’ salaries while they engage in political activities."

“Officials were directed to make hundreds of trips — most at taxpayer expense — for the purpose of increasing the electability of Republicans,” Waxman said in a draft report, released Wednesday." quote from an article printed in the Federal Times by Rebecca Neal.

Background info about that obscure, rascally law known as the Hatch Act:

Federal Times Article:

The History of the Hatch Act (an excerpt from the report posted above)

"Efforts to restrict the political activities of executive branch employees date back almost to the beginning of the Republic. President Thomas Jefferson first articulated the doctrine of political neutrality for federal government employees in 1801.1

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order that provided:
No person in the Executive civil service shall use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the result thereof.

Persons who by the provisions of these rules are in the competitive classified service, while retaining the right to vote as they please and to express privately their opinions on all political subjects, shall take no active part in political management or in political campaigns.2

In 1939, Congress passed the original Hatch Act, codifying longstanding executive branch practice. A coalition of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats passed the legislation to ensure that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not use the expanding civil service as an army of campaign workers if he sought a third term in 1940.3

Under the modern day Hatch Act, all executive branch employees, except for the President and the Vice President, must follow certain rules concerning their involvement in partisan political activity. Executive branch employees other than the President and the Vice President are prohibited from using their "official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election."4

The Hatch Act also prohibits an executive branch employee from engaging in "political activity … while the employee is on duty [or] in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the Government of the United States."5

An exemption to this provision applies to officials "the duties and responsibilities of whose position continue outside normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post; and [who are] … paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President; or ... an employee appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."

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