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Tilting at Windmills

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April 26, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BANANA REPUBLICANS....CONTINUED....The Washington Post reports today that White House political officials conducted "20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies." The only one of these briefings we know anything about is one given at the GSA last year:

In the GSA briefing — conducted like all the others by a deputy to chief White House political adviser Karl Rove — two slides were presented showing 20 House Democrats targeted for defeat and several dozen vulnerable Republicans.

At its completion, GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan asked how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates," according to half a dozen witnesses. The briefer, J. Scott Jennings, said that topic should be discussed "off-line," the witnesses said. Doan then replied, "Oh, good, at least as long as we are going to follow up," according to an account given by former GSA chief acquisition officer Emily Murphy to House investigators, according to a copy of the transcript.

And what about all the other briefings? The Post reports the Stepford-like answer: "By the end of yesterday afternoon, all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter's inquiries: They were, each official said, 'informational briefings about the political landscape.'"

Informational briefings! With specific information about, among other things, which particular Republicans in which particular districts in which particular states were in the most trouble. Right before an election. You betcha.

But you never know. Maybe it's just a wild coincidence that the only meeting we actually know anything about included conversations about how to help "our candidates." Maybe the rest of them really were just "informational." And maybe OJ really is innocent.

Kevin Drum 12:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Can we please start indicting some of these miscreants already?

Posted by: jimBOB on April 26, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

And when were the "informational briefings" where Democratic political operatives came in and discussed how to "defend" Democratic legistlators? Hmm?

Posted by: Steven Jong on April 26, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, there may be Republicans who are disgusted by these "informational briefings" -- especially those tagged as "vulnerable."

Rep. Don Young, for one, says he has no intention of retiring, as Rove's powerpoint suggested. Young went on to say that if Rove knew what he was talking about, Republicans wouldn't have lost in 2006. Poor Karl is running out of friends.

Posted by: Grumpy on April 26, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

If the government isn't committed to making sure the Democrats lose elections, then how is it supposed to govern? It obviously doesn't care to govern for the benefit of the people, and the Democrats are traitors, so why not govern for the benefit of the Republicans?

Posted by: if I were Al on April 26, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the key question to ask is this: If the purpose of these presentations was not to encourage employees of these agencies to take official actions in support of Republican candidates and to give these employees useful information to assist them in such activities, what could possibly have been the purpose? Why would members of the White House staff take up a considerable amount of their valuable time, as well as the valuable time of agency employees in all of these presentations, solely for theoretical "informational" purposes? Do they really expect people to believe that Rove's staff is running some kind of adult education program for executive branch employees?

On some level it doesn't really matter whether or not there was any explicit discussion of political activities, since there just can't be any other reason for these presentations.

Posted by: Don on April 26, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Cue Al noting that Dana Perino said it's all OK, so it must therefore be okay...

Posted by: Gregory on April 26, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

From the Dallas Morning News, September 21, 2006

HUD Secretary urged favoritism in awarding of contracts

By Christine Perez

“Top aides to Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson testified that they and other senior staff members were advised to take political leanings into consideration when awarding discretionary contracts, according to an internal report issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general.

Despite Jackson's edict, there is no evidence that "information regarding political affiliation was routinely or generally received, maintained or applied to the contracting process; however, there were some limited instances where political affiliation may have been a factor in contract issues involving Jackson," the report found. “

The findings led Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., to call Thursday for Jackson's resignation.

"If this report is accurate, Secretary Jackson should resign immediately," Waxman said. "We must not allow taxpayer-funded contracts to be handed out to political allies as rewards for loyalty."

The inspector general's investigation was launched following an exclusive Dallas Business Journal report on comments Jackson made at an April 28 real estate gathering in Dallas. At the private event, Jackson, former president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, told attendees he canceled a contract with a contractor who had criticized President Bush.

"Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use the funds to try to campaign against the president?" Jackson said at the event. "Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

The secretary's comments set off a political firestorm, with several Democratic lawmakers calling for an investigation or Jackson's resignation, and with Jackson issuing a formal apology.”

In an executive summary of the inspector general's report, investigators found that "the substance of the remarks by Secretary Jackson were partly true." Based on testimony by Jackson and others, such an encounter took place in the lobby of HUD headquarters between an African-American male and then-Deputy Secretary Jackson, and this incident formed the basis of the story Jackson relayed to attendees at the Dallas real estate event. However, the investigation found no evidence that a contract was canceled as a result, and the contractor in question said he had not been, or did not recall being, involved in the encounter, according to the summary report.

Jackson told investigators the contract-canceling part of his comments in Dallas were not true and were an exaggeration. "I lied and I regret having done that," he said.

In a statement commenting on the inspector general's findings, Jackson said, "As I stated previously, during my tenure, no contract has been canceled, rescinded, terminated, awarded or not awarded due to the personal or political benefits of the recipient."

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 26, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Click the link, Kevin. Always Click the link.

Doan, appearing before the oversight committee on March 28, said, "I believe that all around government, there are non-career employees who meet to discuss different ways to advance policies and programs of the administration." But she added that it "is not the same as asking federal employees to engage in partisan political activities in the workplace," a request she said she did not recall making.

There are undoubtedly groups of liberals in the civil service looking for ways to undermine the administration too - else why the steady stream of alleged wrongdoings? But naturally you only focus on conservatives who take their beliefs seriously.

Posted by: Al on April 26, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a glove we can make Rove try on?...oh wait, on second thought...

Posted by: none on April 26, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

a request she said she did not recall making

Can anyone in this administration recall anything?

Posted by: tomeck on April 26, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

There is a law called the Hatch Act. This morning Dana Perino announced that the Hatch Act doesn't prohibit political appointees from engaging in political briefings with other political appointees. Well, she is flat wrong. The Hatch Act does prohibit the political appointees from engaging in political activities while using governmnet facilities or are acting on government time.

I guess that Perino might be arguing that the "briefings" were not "political activities." In what universe? Political activities are not limited to filling out absentee ballots or calling people for campaign contributions. Obviously purely partisan political briefings are activities. They are by definition political. Logically they are political activities.

I hope Dana took a shower after this mornings act of prostitution.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 26, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

else why the steady stream of alleged wrongdoings?

Because the alleged is consistently being revealed as an underestimation of the actual depth and breadth of wrongdoing.

Next.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 26, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you Ron Byers. We now have twenty very good reasons for impeachment.

Posted by: Brojo on April 26, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Dana wants us to buy the notion that these political briefings were merely informational. Query, what difference does that make? They were by definition political in nature. They were activities. Logically they were political activities. Even if they were just as innocent as Dana alleges, they were violations of the Hatch Act.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 26, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you Ron Byers. We now have twenty very good reasons for impeachment.

Not really. Everything changed on 9/11, and now anything the president or his staff does is by definition legal. At least that's the way it's been explained to me.

Posted by: Lemming on April 26, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

' "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use the funds to try to campaign against the president?" Jackson said at the event. '

I just love this quote. Notice how this ReThug appointee just ASSUMES that government contract money will be used for political purposes.

'Doesn't everybody?' seems to be the attitude.

I also loved La Perino's "no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing" type response. She has this DOWN.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 26, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

If you want to read a very good memo on this precise topic I would suggest linking to http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070328154603-20874.pdf . The memo was written by Jack Maskell of the Congressional Research Service for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Waxman's committee). It is very well written and thought out. Look for some nuances involving the definition of PAS employees, but keep in mind that most of the attendees of these meetings, while political appointees, were not confirmed by the Senate. The bottom line is that Perino is just wrong.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 26, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Uh...what about the fact that there was an expenditure of government funds for partisan purposes that were not authorized by any law?

Posted by: parrot on April 26, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Parrot, you are right. The expenditure had to be reimbursed by the party within a reasonable time. Question, was there any such reimbursement. If you want a link to all kinds of information, including the video of Doan's hearing, you might want to wander over the Blue Girl's Watching Those We Chose site. I'd link here, but as you can tell from my effort above, I don't know how.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 26, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

The greatest damage the Bush administration is doing to our country is not the war in Iraq. Instead it's the fact that their overt politicization of executive branch to promote Republican hegemony over the good of the country is forever eroding public trust in the federal government.

Posted by: mfw13 on April 26, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

mfw13, I am not sure which is worse, but you are right about the effect of politicization of the executive branch on America's trust in their government. I don't think that is a problem for loyal Bushies. I think it is a feature. Remember they want to drown the Federal Government like a baby in a bathtub. God I have always considered that Grover Norquist comment to be sick.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 26, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

you are right about the effect of politicization of the executive branch on America's trust in their government

P.J. O'Rourke said during the Reagan years that the Republican Party says that government doesn't work, then gets elected and proves it.

As you said, to them it's a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Gregory on April 26, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "But naturally you only focus on conservatives who take their beliefs seriously."

Yeah, Kevin -- they had to do break the law, because they're committed. So there.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 26, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Judith Regan's new publishing imprint has its first new title: "If I Did It" by Karl Rove.

Posted by: Henry on April 26, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

a little humorous reference to one of my favorite movie characters:

Pris (to room full of Republicans): "Then we're stupid and we'll die."

Posted by: MarkH on April 26, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin,

Why must you compare a fine upstanding person of color like Lurita Doan to Democrat wife-killer and anti-semite Orenthal James Simpson? You are worse than Al Sharpton. As Hugh Hewitt has explained, Republicans must surpress minority votes to ensure that the less human don't steal elections from their rightful winners. Surely you don't expect these public servants to perform this important work on their free time?

Posted by: smegbert on April 26, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

This has been a puscht by stealth by any other name.

These guys crap on on the Constitution and individual rights, tear up any treaty or agreement they disagree with, involve us in an illegal war, use any tool -- from K street recruitment arm-twisting to faking science to using any part of government in any way they see as an advantage to them -- with complete disregard to the law, morality, or patriotism.

Just effing investigate everything and start charging these people. Demand resignations. Strip the effing White House bare. Replace the heads of all 20 departments with near-neutral professionals.

Take the effing gloves off already!

Posted by: notthere on April 26, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

These guys have read their copies of Alice in Wonderland, 1984, and All the President's Men very well.

Posted by: gregor on April 26, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Applicant for Dog-catcher: Hi... I'd like to apply for a job!

Interviewer: Do you have any skills?

Applicant: Yes. I am a Republican dog owner!

Interviewer: That's great. But I am afraid we need more than just that. What's your opinion on abortion?

Applicant: It is a sin. It is murder. I feel so strongly about it I am willing to die for my cause.

Interviewer: Your cause?

Applicant: Oh forgive please! I meant my Lord's cause!

Interviewer: Wow. That's fantastic! But your credentials and skill set! They are so grand! How would you like a job at FEMA or the NRC instead? Also... we need someone to oversee endangered species at EPA. Are you interested? Pick one. Better yet: How would you like to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?


Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 26, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

jimBOB nailed it.

In order for the Dem POTUS to have a fresh start at governing in Jan 2009, we need to start cleaning the Augean Stables of the GWB admin *now*, and the best way to do that is to investigate, indict, and incarcerate.

Posted by: Disputo on April 26, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a glove we can make Rove try on?

Yes, and its name is George.
(Someone had to say it.)

Posted by: beavis on April 26, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Remember they want to drown the Federal Government like a baby in a bathtub.

Next up: hiring someone who hates cars to do my brakes.

Posted by: thersites on April 26, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I honestly am quite suprised that the Democrats are not trying to hammer the Republicans on the trust issue:

Can you trust a Republican to tell you the truth about the war? NO

Can you trust a Republican to not abuse government authority for political gain? NO

Can you trust a Republican to enforce the laws passed by Congress? NO

Can you trust a Republican not to respect your civil rights? NO

Can you trust a Republican to uphold the Constitution? NO

Can you trust a Republican to repsect treaties with foreign countries? NO

Democrats need to go beyond the ineptness of the Bush administration and the losing of the war and attack the Republicans on the trust issue.

Posted by: mfw13 on April 26, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The hell with the unitary executive. This administration is a poster child for the value of checks and balances and regulation. It has the ethics of a corporation run by sociopaths.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on April 26, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats need to go beyond the ineptness of the Bush administration and the losing of the war and attack the Republicans on the trust issue.

All in good time, mfw13.

The American people already don't trust Republicans; there's no reason for the Democrats not to keep their powder relatively dry until the election season gets under way in earnest. For now, pointing out Republican incompetnece and corruption -- which Congress is in fact doing, don't forget -- will in fact continue to erode the people's trust in a party that really doesn't deserve it.

Posted by: Gregory on April 26, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Look out! Don't drag me into this!

Posted by: O.J. Simpson on April 26, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

In order for the Dem POTUS to have a fresh start at governing in Jan 2009, we need to start cleaning the Augean Stables of the GWB admin *now*, and the best way to do that is to investigate, indict, and incarcerate.

We have a situation now where the ranks of career employees have been hired for their political views more than their capabilities. Unless we establish a legal reason for cleaning the stables, those people will be actively working to subvert the next administration. I shudder to think that this will set off a chain reaction where we need to reset governement every new administration...


Posted by: kis on April 26, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I say let's clap our hands and say nothing wrong here.When the Dem's Take the presidency in 08 and a stronger Majority in the house and Senate,We could do what the R's couldn't do.A permanent Dem Majority.They almost pulled it off.If they hadn't been so arogant they would have had the permanent Majority,But thanks to Karl Rove and W they screwed the Republican party so bad for the next two decades the Dems can have the Majority for years and with all the new twists and turns they made in the whitehouse i don't see r's comming to power any too soon.

Posted by: john john on April 26, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want a permanent majority of any party. I recall a bloated complacent congress that got so bad we had 1994 and the aftermath that will take years to set right.

I'm perfectly cool with two-party rule and shifting control. It's necessary. What I'm not okay with is the perfidy and authoritarianism of the current incarnation of the Republican party.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 26, 2007 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

a request she said she did not recall making"
Can anyone in this administration recall anything?" Posted by: tomeck on April 26, 2007 at 12:49 PM

not when it's working, even under subpoena.

Posted by: Zit on April 26, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK
I don't want a permanent majority of any party.

I'll go further: I don't want a majority of any one party. One of the reasons I support multimember districts and other systems to increase participation and the number of viable parties is to force individual policy issues to be debated rather all issues but the ones that get the most media attention being quietly decided by which big-tent party has the majority, or which interest group offers the most campaign donations. More parties means someone is questioning every policy, and there are no automatic majorities.

But, given the system we have, I prefer a majority of the least-worst party in the interim.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe party affillation should be secret.Do we even really need parties.My post from above was just a jab at the current reidents at 1600 penn ave.But anyway why do we need to be with a dem or rep. green, independent or anything else.Seems most corruption has always been with the pary in power lets just get rid of party affilation.

Posted by: john john on April 26, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm perfectly cool with two-party rule and shifting control. It's necessary.

Amen to that. One party rule always corrupts, absolutely. The best mix at this point would be to go back to a Dem POTUS and a GOP Congress, assuming the GOP can elect folks who are serious, and not the knuckleheads that came in in 94.

Of course, I'd prefer to see control go back and forth between the Dems and the Greens.

Posted by: Disputo on April 26, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

During Lorita Doan's hearing on capitol hill, the slides shown were clearly partisan and goal-directed. No way can even a casual observer say it wasn't political. It was blatant.

Posted by: consider wisely always on April 26, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

From TPM: Employees were supposed to get the "not-so-subtle" message. But unfortunately for Jennings, GSA chief Lurita Doan doesn't do "not-so-subtle."

Independent of my political feelings, I almost feel sorry for Mr. Rove when I think of all the Republican hacks that he has to work with. Then again, if they installed people with actual independence....

Posted by: jhm on April 26, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, I'd prefer to see control go back and forth between the Dems and the Greens.

Posted by: Disputo on April 26, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

The Greens! Good one! I'm gonna use that joke.

Posted by: Pat on April 26, 2007 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bad analogy Kevin - I think the chances of OJ being innocent are considerably higher than the likelihood of these meetings being non-political. I mean that in all seriousness. Not that I DO think OJ is innocent, just that I find it possible to imagine that he is whereas I cannot imagine a world in which these people would not act in that manner.

Posted by: Karin Robinson on April 27, 2007 at 7:05 AM | PERMALINK

Pity for poor Karl Rove - Both he and his compatriot, Martin Borrman, have and had to work with such political hacks. Schade.

Why don't the Repugs simply start wearing their armbands?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 27, 2007 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

It has the ethics of a corporation run by sociopaths.
Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08!

Like there's any other kind?


“Ours is a system of corporate socialism, where companies capitalize their profits and socialize their losses...in effect, they tax you for their accidents, bungling, boondoggles, and mismanagement, just like a government. We should be able to dis-elect them.” - Ralph Nader

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 27, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

By the end of yesterday afternoon, all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter's inquiries: They were, each official said, "informational briefings about the political landscape."

"It's a good life," they all added.

Posted by: Peter Principle on April 27, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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