HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html White House Had Drug Officials Appear With GOP Candidates
Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jul 2007
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A08
Copyright: 2007 The Washington Post Company
Author: Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post Staff Writer
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


White House officials arranged for top officials at the Office of 
National Drug Control Policy to help as many as 18 vulnerable 
Republican congressmen by making appearances and sometimes announcing 
new federal grants in the lawmakers' districts in the months leading 
up to the November 2006 elections, a Democratic lawmaker said yesterday.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and 
Government Reform Committee, said documents obtained by his panel 
suggest that the appearances by the drug control officials were part 
of a larger White House effort to politicize the work of federal 
agencies that "may be more widespread than previously known."

Waxman cited a memo written by former White House political director 
Sara M. Taylor showing that John P. Walters, director of the drug 
control office, and his deputies traveled at taxpayer expense to 
about 20 events with vulnerable GOP members of Congress in the three 
months leading up to the elections.

In a letter to Taylor, Waxman also pointed to an e-mail by an 
official in the drug policy office describing President Bush's top 
political adviser, Karl Rove, as being pleased that the office, along 
with the Commerce, Transportation and Agriculture departments, went 
"above and beyond" the call of duty in arranging appearances by 
Cabinet members at campaign events.

"This recognition is not something we hear every day and we should 
feel confident that our hard work is noticed," said the e-mail, 
written by Douglas Simon, the drug policy office's White House 
liaison. "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."

The drug control office has had a history of being nonpartisan, and a 
1994 law bars the agency's officials from engaging in political 
activities even on their own time.

Waxman's investigation is part of a broad effort by Congress to look 
into White House political involvement in federal agencies. So far, 
Democratic lawmakers have found evidence that White House officials 
were involved with the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and that Rove 
deputies made presentations to officials at the General Services 
Administration and other agencies about Democrats targeted for defeat 
by the GOP in 2008.

The new disclosure comes after former surgeon general Richard H. 
Carmona testified last week that the White House routinely blocked 
him from speaking out on politically sensitive public health matters 
such as stem cell research and abstinence-only sex education. Carmona 
also said he was asked to make appearances to help Republican 
candidates and discouraged from travel that might help a liberal politician.

In Waxman's letter to Taylor yesterday, he asked Taylor to 
voluntarily appear at a deposition July 24 and possibly testify 
before his committee the following week. He said the panel wants her 
to explain a memo she wrote indicating that Walters and his deputies 
made trips at the behest of the White House political office in the 
months prior to the crucial midterm elections.

"I recognize that federal political appointees have traveled to 
events with members of Congress in prior administrations," Waxman 
wrote in his letter to Taylor. "What is striking about your memo to 
ONDCP is the degree of White House control, the number of trips and 
the agency involved."

White House officials denied that Walters or other drug policy 
officials were directed to make appearances in an effort to prop up 
GOP candidates. Likewise, Taylor said through her attorney that she 
ran the White House political office no differently than her 
predecessors had under former presidents.

"Ms. Taylor believes she managed the Office of Political Affairs in a 
manner consistent with prior administrations, both Republican and 
Democratic," said lawyer W. Neil Eggleston, who added that he and his 
client "are considering" the committee's request that Taylor submit 
to a deposition.

"The information that Representative Waxman's committee posted today 
did not give any evidence that these anti-drug events were used to 
urge the election of any candidate," said Scott Stanzel, a White 
House spokesman. "Director John Walters has traveled the country to 
meet with Democratic and Republican elected officials in communities 
hit hard by the scourge of drugs."

Stanzel noted that Walters participated in numerous anti-drug meeting 
with Democratic elected officials earlier in 2006. Among them were 
March 2006 appearances with then-Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Oklahoma 
Gov. Brad Henry, and appearances with Rep. Dennis Cardoza of 
California in May and Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street in July 2006.

But in the three months immediately leading up to the 2006 election, 
Walters or his deputies held events almost exclusively with GOP 
officials, many of whom were embroiled in tough reelection campaigns.

Two were held with then- Sen. James M. Talent of Missouri, who was 
defeated last November. At one of those stops, Walters announced that 
four Missouri counties had been designated part of a High Intensity 
Drug Trafficking Area, which brings $500,000 in federal funding to 
help local law enforcement efforts, Waxman said. It was one of 
several grant announcements made while drug policy officials were 
appearing with GOP candidates.

Appearances also were held with Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio in 
Columbus and with then-Rep. Chris Chocola of Indiana in South Bend. 
Pryce narrowly won reelection, while Chocola lost in November.

"You included no Democrats or Independents in your memo of suggested 
travel for director Walters," Waxman said in his letter to Taylor.

The White House and drug policy officials, however, shrugged that off 
as a consequence of political reality.

"I don't think it is that surprising that during a campaign season 
when you're talking about events touting White House programs that 
Republicans are going to be more likely to appear with us than 
Democrats," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the drug policy office. 
"Teen drug use is down. There has been a lot of progress. We're very 
happy and eager to do events with anyone. But it is more likely that 
Republicans are going to stand up with White House officials to talk 
about those successes."
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