Issa Demands Communications on Obama's New Political Strategy Office

Image: Issa Demands Communications on Obama's New Political Strategy Office

Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 08:10 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa wants the White House to surrender all records concerning the president's decision to open a new Office of Political Strategy and Oversight, saying it raises concerns taxpayer money is being used to advance the Democratic Party.

On Tuesday, the California Republican sent a letter asking for all documents and communications about the new office, which opened in January, Politico reported.

He wants all documents submitted to his committee for review no later than April 1.

President Barack Obama shut down the Office of Political Affairs in 2011, just days before the watchdog Office of Special Counsel issued a report that found the office's basic structure was a violation of federal law and amounted to a "misuse of taxpayer funds."

Obama aides, however, said the decision was made to shift work to the Democratic National Committee and avoid duplicating efforts during the president's 2012 campaign.

According to Issa's letter, the old Office of Political Affairs was also brought under scrutiny in 2008 under former House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman. The committee documented in a report how the office, under President George W. Bush's administration, violated the Hatch Act for mixing politics and official business, Issa said in the letter.

In January, the office was reopened with a smaller staff and new name, and aides say it meets legal concerns while allowing coordination with lawmakers and Democratic Party officials during this election cycle, and to provide the president with political information.

Issa launched his investigation into the new office in February, and said in Tuesday's letter that the office is the same one Obama criticized when it was under the Bush administration.

"During the 2008 presidential election, then-Sen. Obama often criticized the political focus of the George W. Bush White House, stating that the 'days of using the White House as another arm of the Republican National Committee are over,'" Issa said in the letter. However, he points out, Obama still kept the office open for the first full two years of his presidency.

In a separate matter, Issa also on Tuesday asked the Office of Special Counsel, which is assigned to enforce the Hatch Act, to produce information about an allegation against former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

According to a Los Angeles Times report in January, the FBI is questioning Solis' involvement in an Obama fundraiser in March 2012, as the Hatch Act bans Cabinet members from directly raising campaign money, although they are approved to give speeches at fundraisers.

Solis, who resigned in January 2013, denies she did anything improper. She is now running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

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