White House Politicization of Federal Agencies

In 2005, Mehlman Declared He Wanted To Create “The George Bush Empire.” “One of the things that can happen in Washington when you work in an agency is that you forget who sent you there,” Mehlman explained. “And it’s important to remind people you’re George Bush peopple. You work for the secretary, but you are George Bush people. And it’s very important becasue Washington becomes a town where it’s very easy for everyone to build their own little empries. If there’s one empire I want built, it’s the George Bush empire.” [One Party Country, p. 102]


Bush White House Sets Record for Politicization of Cabinet Agencies. “Never before has the White House inserted electoral priorities into Cabinet agencies with such regularity and deliberation. Before the 2002 midterm elections, for instance, Rove or Mehlman visited with the managers of many federal agencies to share polling information and discuss how policy decisions might affect key races,” state Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, who also wrote One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century. [LA Times, 6/25/06]

Between 2001 and 2003, Mehlman and Rove Visited Nearly Every Agency. “Over the past two years, Mr. Rove or his top aide, Kenneth Mehlman — now manager of Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign — have visited nearly every agency to outline White House campaign priorities, review polling data and, on occasion, call attention to tight House, Senate and gubernatorial races that could be affected by regulatory action.” [WSJ, 7/20/03]


Rove Briefed Interior Department Officials On How to Secure Sen. Gordon Smith’s Election. In 2002, Republican leaders in Oregon “wanted to support their agricultural base by diverting water from the river basin to nearby farms, and Mr. Rove signaled that the administration did, too.” Rove made a presentation to the Interior Department, complete with “poll results” and “critical constituencies.” Rove “visited the 50 Interior managers attending a department retreat at a Fish and Wildlife Service conference center in Shepherdstown, W.Va. In a PowerPoint presentation Mr. Rove also uses when soliciting Republican donors, he brought up the Klamath (River irrigation) and made clear that the administration was siding with agricultural interests.” [WSJ, 7/20/03]

Rove’s Presentation to Interior Department to Help Gordon Smith Resulted In Devastating Environmental Consequences. “In 2002, Rove told Interior Department officials of the importance of helping farmers in Oregon whose political support was crucial to Gordon Smith, a vulnerable Republican senator. Within months…the agency did just that, supporting the diversion of water from the environmentally important Klamath River for the sake of irrigating farmland. Thousands of salmon eventually died in the newly shallow waters. But the senator secured his reelection.” [LA Times, 6/25/06]

White House Held Political Briefings At Commerce Department. “At the Commerce Department, briefings by White House political officials were conducted in 2002, in March 2004, and in April 2006, according to department spokesman E. Richard Mills, who described them as ‘purely informational,’ legal and appropriate. More than 100 political appointees at the department were invited to each one, and they were held in the headquarters building’s main auditorium.” [Washington Post, 4/26/07]

Sec. Carlos Gutierrez Received Private Briefing from White House. “A smaller White House briefing was also conducted every two years for what Mills described as the department’s senior political staff, including Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez. He could not explain why that meeting was separate from the others.” [Washington Post, 4/26/07]

Twenty-Eight EPA Appointees Attended Briefing At White House in July 2006. “Twenty-eight political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency attended such a briefing last July 17 at the White House executive office complex, and an unknown number attended one at those offices the following month, according to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood. She said that Jennings gave the presentation at the first meeting and that Sara M. Taylor, who directs the White House Office of Political Affairs, gave the second one.” [Washington Post, 4/26/07]


Several Other Agencies Report Attending Political Briefings. “Spokesmen at the departments of Veterans Affairs and Transportation also confirmed that their political appointees received such briefings at their headquarters. Stanzel confirmed that they were also given at the departments of Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Education, Agriculture and Energy, as well as NASA, the Small Business Administration, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Agency for International Development…. all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter’s inquiries: They were, each official said, “informational briefings about the political landscape.” [Washington Post, 4/26/07]

Rove’s Politicization Was Unparalleled. A document review conducted by the Washington Post in August 2007 revealed that Rove “pursued the goal far more systematically than his predecessors.” Rove held a political briefing with federal officials as early as March 12, 2001, on “How We Can Work Together.” Even the Department of Justice, “traditionally considered to be above the elections,” sent representatives to the meetings. The subjects — which involved at least 18 agencies — ranged from “a political update” and “mid-term election trends” to “outreach” and “coalition activities/organization.” Rove’s outreach also helped embattled Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) win re-election, in part through visits from administration officials and “at least 25 new federal grants or projects totaling more than $46 million” between April and November 2006. [Washington Post, 8/19/07]

OTHER FORMS OF POLITICIZATIONUnder Bush Appointee, OSHA Constituencies Have Donated $650 Million to Republicans. “Under Edwin Foulke, a Republican Party operative, OSHA, responsible for worker safety, has shifted from enforcement to taking industries’ word that they will play nice. Perhaps not coincidentally, the three largest fields regulated by OSHA — agribusiness, construction and transportation — have off-loaded $630 million into GOP coffers during Bush’s run so far.” [Waco Tribune, 5/1/07]

Former Bush Appointee Alleges Mehlman Used Office of Faith Based Initiatives to Mobilize GOP Voters. David Kuo, [formerly of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman “knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly ‘nonpartisan’ events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.” [MSNBC, 10/13/06]