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Is Obama Using Taxpayer Funds Illegally?

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted January 30, 2014

obamafundWhen I worked as a Congressional press secretary, during campaign season I would  get calls from the media about our race.

There were some pretty tight laws in regards to conducting campaign business in the  Congressional building, and in fact the Congressman’s wife couldn’t have a desk at  the  office, even just to run her personal affairs. And she certainly wasn’t allowed to  conduct official business and be paid by Congress. The rules were set up to guard  against any hint of inappropriate use of public funds or nepotism.

So when I got these campaign calls, I would take part of my lunch break, and walk to the National Republican Congressional Committee to return a phone call. This was a pain, and cell phones weren’t something readily available then. I had a pager. And a couple of months before the election, I would go off the federal payroll for a temporary leave, and was paid by the campaign. I think all this is fair, because the taxpayers should not be paying for campaign staff.

President Obama has been in the news recently for opening an Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, to “coordinate the White House’s existing political strategy and outreach activities . . an aide told Time Magazine. “This office will serve as a single point of contact for the DNC and national, state and local political groups and it will be led by David Simas.”

Simas has been serving as the Deputy Senior Advisor for Communications and Strategy in the White House, and has been advising on the fallout from Obamacare. In addition to being point person for the DNC and local parties, his new role as director will include coordinating campaign appearances and dispensing counsel on political climate.

I wondered how such an overt political office could be legal, given the gymnastics I had to perform as a Congressional press secretary, who also acted as campaign spokeswoman. I called the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate the discrepancy.

The Taxpayer Dime

Federal employees are prohibited by the Hatch Act from conducting any campaign business while on the taxpayer dime. And according to the OSC website, “All civilian employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the President and the Vice-President, are covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.”

According to OSC Director of Communications Ann O’Hanlo “ . . . although the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace, it provides a narrow exemption for some individuals whose duties and responsibilities continue outside normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post and who are paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President. These exempt employees are permitted to engage in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace, provided the costs associated with that activity are not derived from the U.S. Treasury funds.

The OSC investigated George W. Bush for using a similar publicly funded office for political gain. OSC said Bush was guilty of a “gross abuse of public trust,” and “particularly during the 2006 midterm season, methodically coordinated administration support to aid the campaigns of Republican candidates.” This is exactly what Obama is shamelessly saying he will do with this new office. I asked OSC if they would compare the two situations, and they gave me a “no comment.” I hope they will do the same investigation on Obama as they did Bush.

Keep an Eye on that Guy

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said he is going to keep an eye on the new official office. “The White House’s announcement … again raises troubling concerns about the illegal use of taxpayer funds to support campaign-related initiatives.”

In 2012, four federal employees were disciplined for violating the Hatch Act. Three of the employees were reprimanded for campaigning for Obama on federal grounds, and using office computers for fundraising. The fourth person was caught campaigning on the office computer for a gubernatorial race.

Also in 2012, Human and Health Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was investigated for a violation of the Hatch Act. While speaking at the North Carolina Human Rights Campaign event in an official capacity, Sebelius told the crowd how important it was that Obama was re-elected, and went on to endorse a North Carolina Democratic candidate for governor, Walter Dalton.

A report filed in this case by the OSC said the White House should take “appropriate action” for the violation. But Sebelius said, “If there was a violation of the Hatch Act based on the use of my title, I believe the violation was technical and minor.” Sebelius has been called on in recent months to resign because of the failings of Obamacare, but said that was not her fault either. And unlike the average Americans who were punished for their violations, Sebelius was not.

It’s clear Obama will do what he wants, using his “pen and phone,” to bypass Congress on creating laws. His Executive Order privileges may allow him to largely bypass Congress, but he should not get away with arrogantly thumbing his nose at the law. Eyebrows have been raised, as this new office comes at the advent of plummeting poll numbers, and grumblings of a legion of worried Democrats who are tethered to Obama’s success. It’s thought this new office is designed to appease disgruntled Democrats, who feel Obama isn’t doing enough to secure seats on their side of the aisle in 2014.

The taxpayers should not be funding campaign strategists, and the only person who should be allowed to perform campaign work on the taxpayer’s dime is the scheduler. In fact, the president’s campaign should foot the bill for a portion of the scheduler as well.

America has $17 trillion in debt, and now we’re supposed to pay to further the careers of politicians? Make no mistake: This is outright abuse. And no amount of spin can change that.