“I took an oath to the president, and I take that oath very seriously.” So said former White House political director Sara Taylor during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, a statement she later retracted after Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out that she had actually sworn on oath to the Constitution, not to the commander-in-chief. Yet Taylor’s gaffe was actually quite revealing—another sign that the Bush administration’s political appointees often place loyalty to president and party above all else, which goes a long way toward explaining why partisan politics has permeated even the most remote corners of the federal bureaucracy.
While there’s already a sizable body of evidence to suggest that the White House has presided over an unprecedented wave of politicization, Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported today that the adminstration’s “efforts to politicize the activities of federal agencies may be more widespread than previously known.”
The documents Waxman’s staff turned up speak for themselves. Among them is a November 20, 2006 memo from Taylor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s White House liaison, Doug Simon, detailing events that drug czar John Walters attended (apparently at Taylor’s direction) in the months before the mid-term elections. At most of these events Walters appeared alongside embattled—and in some cases allegedly corrupt—members of Congress, including Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, and Conrad Burns. According to Waxman, some of these events “were combined with the announcement of federal grants to the states or districts of vulnerable Republican members.”
If there was any doubt that Walters, along with other Cabinet-level officials, were stumping for Republican candidates on the sly (and at taxpayer expense), that was cleared up by a post-election email from Doug Simon, which is worth reprinting in its entirety.
I just wanted to give you all a summary of a post November 7th update I received the other night. Presidential Personnel pulled together a meeting of all of the Administration’s White House Liaison’s and the WH Political Affairs office. Karl Rove opened the meeting with a thank you for all of the work that went into the surrogate appearances by Cabinet members and for the 72 Hour deployment. He specifically thanked, for going above and beyond the call of duty, the Dept. of Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture, AND the WH Drug Policy Office. This recognition is not something we hear everyday and we should feel confident that our hard work is noticed. All of this is due to our efforts preparing the Director and the Deputies for their trips and events. Director Walters and the Deputies covered thousands of miles to attend numerous official events all across the country. The Director and the Deputies deserve the most recognition because they actually had to give up time with their families for the god awful places we sent them. I attached the final list of all of the official events that the Director and Deputies attended.
Karl also launched into a feisty discussion about the plans for the final two years of this administration. ln no uncertain terms, he said he is not going to let the last quarter of this presidency be dictated to by the Capitol Hill. There are a number of things this administration and more specifically ONDCP have to accomplish before the time is up. lt is time to regroup and move forward.
In the next 2-3 weeks I am going to set up one on one meetings will all political appointees to get a sense your plans for the next two years. lt will just be informational for planning purposes.
Needless to say, Sara Taylor, who worked closely with Rove, may soon be making another uncomfortable appearance on the Hill, where Waxman has requested her to sit for a deposition by July 24 and a possible hearing on July 30.