Limited review finds White House political office was within law

WASHINGTON Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:38pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama walks off Air Force One at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle, Washington, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama walks off Air Force One at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle, Washington, July 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A limited review found the White House's political office appears to be operating within the law, a federal oversight agency said amid a congressional probe into whether taxpayer money has been used by the Obama administration for political purposes.

The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel said it had reviewed correspondence about the establishment of the administration's Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO), and based on that review found OPSO appeared to be adhering to its guidance on the scope of the office's activities.

The OSC review looked at correspondence between the White House and Darrell Issa, head of the House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"To the extent that OPSO's activities are limited to thosedescribed in the White House correspondence, OPSO appears to be operating in a manner that is consistent with Hatch Act restrictions," the Office of the Special Counsel said in a letter dated July 24 and released on Friday.

It also said it has received no allegations of wrongdoing about any staffers in the White House's political unit, including by director David Simas.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing last week on how the political office has complied with the Hatch Act, which forbids most federal government employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

Issa has queried other administration activities, including the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and circumstances surrounding the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.

At the hearing last week, U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner testified that the administration's political office appeared to be following restrictions under the law.

In the letter released on Friday, Lerner also said her agency will investigate the issue if it is given "credible evidence that indicates a violation." The special counsel's office is charged with enforcing the Hatch Act.

The letter was released by Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House committee, who had sought more details following the hearing.

Issa had subpoenaed Simas to testify at the hearing, but the White House contested the summons and said he would not appear.

At the hearing, Issa accused Obama's former labor secretary, Hilda Solis, of breaking the law by seeking political donations for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said the letter was based on a cursory review and not a full investigation and that "there continue to be concerns" about the administration's political office.

The committee met on Friday to consider the next steps in the investigation.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jim Loney)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (12)
SunnyDaySam wrote:
Do-Nothing Republican’ts do nothing. Must be Friday.

Jul 25, 2014 2:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
astroz wrote: …’if he would undo his DACA executive order and the Democrats would simply agree to fix the 08 trafficing law…’

So, you’re saying the holdup is because of the Republican demands. Why don’t they just do something, anything, and sort out the 2008 law later? The cons always do this: pick one con thing and stonewall over that. Total obstruction all the time.

Jul 25, 2014 3:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
More ‘our way or nothing’ from the GOP. Enough obstruction! We have to dump ‘em all. vote anti_R!

Jul 25, 2014 3:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.