Issa Investigates New White House Political Office

Image: Issa Investigates New White House Political Office

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 11:04 PM

By Cathy Burke

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House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is investigating the comeback of a controversial White House political office, concerned that tax dollars may wind up being spent on Democratic candidates before the midterm elections, two reports said Monday.

The White House announced in January that it would reopen the office it closed in 2011, and renamed it the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.

But in a letter dated Monday, the California Republican lawmaker asked the Office of Special Counsel to produce all records of contacts with the White House about the decision.

"So the committee can effectively consider whether taxpayer money is being used to advance the interests of Democratic congressional candidates and the Democratic Party, please produce . . . all documents and communications, including emails, between the OSC and the White House referring or relating to the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach or the reopening of the Office of Political Affairs," Issa wrote.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Issa's letter, which was first reported by Politico.

The White House announced it was resurrecting the shuttered political office to handle coordination with local officeholders and Democratic Party committees, Politico reported.

The office is no stranger to controversy.

In 2011, after the White House closed the office, the Office of the Special Counsel released a report finding that the Bush administration had violated federal laws against political activities, The Hill noted.

"The rebranded version of OPA appears to be undertaking precisely the same political activities with which OSC found fault in its 2011 report," Issa wrote.

"Re-establishing [the Office of Political Affairs] raises serious concerns about the illegal use of taxpayer funds to support congressional campaigns during the 2014 midterm elections," he wrote.

Issa also called out the political office in 2011, The Hill reported, noting that he told the Washington Times at that time that an investigation into the filming of a campaign commercial at the White House was "theater" designed to embarrass the Obama team.

"The sad truth is, the most we can do on our committee is the equivalent of a pitcher who gets tired of a batter crowding the plate. Our hearings can maybe brush him [the president] back a little," Issa later told USA Today, The Hill reported.

The Hill said a senior administration official stressed the new office would undertake "official functions under well-established standards" and simply coordinate "existing political strategy and outreach activities."

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