Oversight committee to revisit the Clinton years

Lawmakers will delve back into the Clinton years for some historical perspective on an issue of immediate concern to Congress and the Bush administration: the idea of White House aides delivering political briefings in agency offices.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, agreed Monday to request documents from the National Archives that might show how the Clinton administration approached giving political briefings in federal buildings, according to a letter Waxman sent to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who made the initial request earlier this year.

“It will be helpful background to learn whether the Office of Political Affairs in the Clinton administration gave similar political briefings to agencies and, if so, what rules governed those briefings,” Waxman wrote.

The current controversy landed Lurita Doan, the administrator of the General Services Administration, before Waxman’s committee earlier this year as well as a recommendation in May to President Bush by the Office of Special Counsel to remove her from her position as agency head.

The special counsel determined that, after a political presentation in the GSA headquarters by White House political aide J. Scott Jennings, Doan asked, “How can we help our candidates?” In so doing, the counsel found that Doan violated the Hatch Act, a law which forbids employees from engaging in political activity when on duty or in a government building.

Davis said the oversight committee would benefit from looking back to President Clinton’s White House.

“A little ‘compare and contrast’ is needed if we’re to fully understand how the White House political affairs shop operates, whether it’s under President Bush or under President Clinton,” Davis said in a statement.

He suggested that the committee seek Clinton administration documents to help lawmakers “better understand the practices of political officials in the previous administration…to provide bipartisan historical context.”

He added that the committee's investigation “lacked historical context, making it appear more partisan than constructive,” according to the statement.

Waxman wrote that his approach to investigating the Bush White House “is to be thorough but fair.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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