Dems accuse Bush of politicizing audits

The ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee accused the Bush administration of politicizing inspectors general.

To ensure the independence and objectivity of IGs, the Inspector General Act specifically mandates that the president should appoint IGs "without regard to political affiliation" and "solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability" in fields such as accounting, auditing, financial analysis or investigations.

But a report prepared last month for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) states that although President Clinton typically appointed nonpartisan career public servants as IGs, President Bush has repeatedly chosen individuals with Republican political backgrounds.

According to the report, more than half of the inspectors general appointed by Bush had made contributions to his campaign or other Republican candidates, while only 25 percent of inspectors general appointed by Clinton had made any federal campaign contributions. Only 18 percent of Bush's appointments had previous audit experience, compared to 66 percent for Clinton's appointments.

Prior political connections do not mean that an individual appointed as an IG will act unfairly, the report states. However, it says some IGs made questionable decisions, such as not releasing a Florida pension system audit until after Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election. Another IG concluded that widely publicized abuses at an Iraqi prison run by the Army were the fault of a few individuals rather than top military officials.

More than one-third of the IG appointed by President Bush worked in a Republican administration prior to their IG appointments, while none of the Clinton appointments had executive branch experience. For example, Janet Rehnquist, an IG for the Department of Health and Human Services is the daughter of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and worked in the George H.W. Bush Administration for three years as associate counsel to the president.

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