Asks About Mentions of 'Elections or Candidates Provided by White House Officials'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/26/2007, 4:46pm PT  

This just in from Henry Waxman's House Oversight Committee office...

Following media reports that at least 20 political briefings were given to officials of at least 15 federal agencies, Chairman Waxman writes to government agencies requesting further information and documents about any briefings mentioning elections or candidates provided to agency employees by officials in the White House. For a list of all agencies, please visit http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1272.

A sample of one of Waxman's letters is posted in full at the end of this article.

TPMMuckraker has WH spokesperson Dana Perino's amusing response to questions on the issue, including video. To the point, her most impressive talking point laden response: "There’s nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working."

Waxman's letter follows in full...

April 26, 2007

The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez
Secretary
Department of Commerce
Fourteenth Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to request information about political briefings given by White House officials to federal agency officials.

On March 28, 2007, the Committee held a hearing during which Lurita Doan, the head of the General Services Administration, testified that White House officials in the Office of Political Affairs conducted a political briefing at GSA headquarters on January 26, 2007. The briefing slides, which the Committee reviewed, identified the Republican Party's top electoral targets in the 2008 elections. After the presentation, Lurita Doan asked her staff to discuss how GSA resources could be used to help "our candidates" in the next election.

An article in today's Washington Post reports that White House officials now confirm that, in the past year alone, at least 20 similar briefings were given to officials of at least 15 federal agencies, including the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Commerce Department, among others.[1]

To assist with the Committee's continuing investigation of this issue, I request that you provide information about any briefing mentioning elections or candidates provided to agency employees by officials in the White House between January 20, 2001, and April 26, 2007. Please provide the dates, times, attendees, and locations of these briefings, as well as any communications and documents relating to the briefings. Please provide these materials to the Committee by May 18, 2007.

I wrote to you earlier this month requesting that your agency preserve and inventory all e-mails sent between White House officials and agency employees through accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee or other nongovernmental entities. At the request of the White House Counsel, I am postponing temporarily the deadline for responding to the Committee's request. This postponement will last for two weeks, extending the deadline for response to the letter to May 18, 2007. The Committee's postponement does not apply to the request that you take steps to preserve such e-mails.

Please note that you should not review or search the e-mails of the Office of the Inspector General in responding to the Committee's request regarding RNC and other nongovernmental e-mails. Such action would be inappropriate because it would impinge on the statutory independence of the Inspectors General and the confidentiality of investigative communications. All copies of documents previously collected from the Office of the Inspector General pursuant to the Committee's request should be returned to that office immediately.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee in the House of Representatives and has broad oversight jurisdiction as set forth in House Rule X. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about how to respond to the Committee's request.

I would appreciate your cooperation with this request. If your staff has any questions about this request, they should contact David Rapallo and Anna Laitin with the Committee staff at (202) 225-5420.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman
Chairman

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[1] Political Briefings at Agencies Disclosed, Washington Post (Apr. 26, 2007).