JANUARY 26, 2011
Members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet illegally used public funds to engage in political activities and lied to cover it up, according to a lengthy reportpublished by the independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes government wrongdoing.It marks the latest of many examples illustrating that government corruption is a bipartisan epidemic in which the offenders rarely get punished. At least half a dozen Bush cabinet secretaries took taxpayer-financed trips to participate in electioneering, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) determined after a three-year investigation. To cover it up, aides falsely claimed they were traveling on official business.Instead they made more than 100 appearances in 2005 and 2006 to help congressional allies get reelected in key battleground states such as Ohio,Kentucky, Connecticut, Indiana and New Mexico. The federally funded travel was, not only approved but also organized and monitored, by the Bush White House.Taken by the secretaries of education, agriculture, energy and health among others, the trips illegally diverted public funds and workers’ time because they violate a 1939 law (Hatch Act) that prohibits federal employees from participating in partisan political activities. Among them were visits by Veterans Administration Secretary James Nicholson to the Ohio and Washington districts of Republican congressional candidates and trips by Transportation Secretary Maria Cino and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to the Connecticut and Arizona districts of two other congressmen.Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman also racked up a $30,000 tab by using Department of Defense (DOD) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aircraft to attend six events with Republican incumbents considered top priorities by the White House.The OSC also determined that between 2001 and 2007 the Bush White House organized numerous political rallies during work hours at nearly two dozen agencies and attendance by top political appointees was mandatory. Investigators sorted through more than 100,000 pages of documentary evidence and interviewed more than 80 Bush political appointees.Incredibly, neither the OSC nor the Justice Department seems to have any plans to actually punish the offenders in this scandal. Perhaps the OSC’s verbose report, with exhausting paragraphs and detailed graphs and charts, can at least be put to use as a pooper scooper.
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