House Oversight Committee calls ex-Rove aide Taylor back to Hill
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has asked Sara Taylor, the former top aide to Karl Rove in the White House, to return to Capitol Hill for a deposition next week.
Taylor complied with a Congressional subpoena and appeared last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in the investigation of the firing of 8 US Attorneys. Now, Waxman is suggesting that Taylor might be implicated in politicizing government programs that Waxman has called 'historically nonpartisan.'
Waxman, the Oversight Committee's chair, was particularly critical of the White House appearing to deploy the nation's 'drug control czar' and his staff in the Office of National Drug Control Policy to Republican Congressional campaign events.
"As the nation's drug czar, Director [John] Walters has the responsibility to oversee the federal government's domestic and international drug control efforts," he wrote in the Tuesday letter. "It is hard to understand how his ability to perform this essential function would be enhanced by extensive taxpayer-funded travel to 'god awful places' to appear with vulnerable Republican members."
Waxman's reference to 'god awful places' pointed to an e-mail written by Douglas Simon, the White House's drug control liaison, who praised the ONDCP for helping out on Congressional campaigns.
The California Democrat went on to suggest that the trips might not be completely in keeping with existing laws.
"In the case of ONDCP, in particular, the politicization described in the documents appears inconsistent with the agency's tradition of nonpartisanship," he argued. "In 1994, Congress passed legislation to insulate the drug czar and the agency's Senate-confirmed deputies from political pressures by prohibiting them from engaging in political activities even on their own time."
In the letter, four Republican Congressmembers are identified as having received campaign-related visits from the ONDCP: Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada; Senator Jim Talent of Missouri; Jon Porter, also of Nevada; and, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Talent was defeated in his 2006 re-election campaign. Gibbons now serves as Nevada Governor, and is reportedly under federal investigation for bribery accusations.
The letter went on to suggest that the White House was attempting to use government machinery for purely political ends.
"Evidence is mounting that White House efforts to inject political considerations into official government business extend beyond the Department of Justice and the General Services Administration," Waxman wrote to Taylor. "Your memo to ONDCP details an extensive
itinerary of pre-election travel, including 20 events with vulnerable Republican members. It appears that even historically nonpartisan federal agencies like ONDCP were expected to use federal resources to assist endangered Republican members."
Waxman asked Taylor to voluntarily appear before the committee's staff for a July 24 deposition. He also suggested that additional topics might be raised in the deposition.
"You may also be asked questions at the deposition about other subjects being investigated by the Committee, including the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials and White House political briefings to federal agency officials," he noted, adding that the committee was planning a July 30 hearing.