House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is demanding the Obama administration turn over documents as part of his investigation into whether the White House's recently relaunched political office is improperly using taxpayer money to help Democrats at the polls.
"Unfortunately, it appears the White House has determined it is appropriate to use taxpayer money in an effort to achieve political success," Issa writes in a letter. [READ THE LETTER.]
The document request is the latest bid by the California Republican to make political hay out of the office, which was closed in 2011 ahead of President Obama's reelection campaign.
Last month, Issa accused the White House of not properly vetting the bid to reopen the office after the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), an independent agency tasked with policing federal employees' political activities, told him it had not been consulted about the move.
Issa has also repeatedly noted that, during the Bush administration, the OSC found that officials in the White House violated federal laws prohibiting political activities.
Bush aides worked with the Republican National Committee to develop a "target list" of Republicans in tight congressional races, encouraging political appointees to appear at events with GOP candidates and tracking candidates' fundraising efforts, in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits political work by most federal employees.
"The rebranded version of OPA [Office of Political Activity] appears to be undertaking precisely the same political activities that have raised questions in the past," Issa tweeted Wednesday.
But so far, the California Republican has been unable to identify similar concrete violations by Obama's team. His broad document request suggests Issa is searching for internal communications that could be politically damaging, rather than investigating a specific incident of concern.
The White House has dismissed Issa's criticism, saying that the new office — headed by longtime Obama adviser David Simas — is an important clearinghouse for election data, providing a single point of contact for the Democratic National Committee and other political groups.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz noted in a statement Wednesday that the same OSC report that criticized systematic, campaign-related political activity in the White House also recognized the need for the president to get advice and political information.
"This White House recognized the need for a consolidated office to provide the President political information, which OSC has described as appropriate official activity," Schultz said.