Common Cause questions use of White House and Treasury Department as campaign tools

Common Cause on Wednesday condemned the Treasury Department for using government resources and taxpayer money to promote President Bush’s re-election bid and supported calls for an investigation into the matter.

“It’s outrageous that a federal agency is pushing a partisan political agenda on the public,” said Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause. “We depend on federal agencies to be objective and unbiased and they should never become politicized. What’s more, government employees shouldn’t be put in the position of having to carry water for a presidential campaign.”

The latest incident involves an April 9 Treasury Department press release reminding citizens to file their income taxes. The agency included the following sentence in the release: “America has a choice. It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the President’s policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation.”

“Clearly the implication is that if you don’t vote for President Bush, taxes will go up,” Pingree said.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) said he would ask the Treasury’s inspector general to investigate. This isn’t the first time Treasury has been charged with illegally using government workers for partisan political purposes. That IG’s office is already considering whether to investigate a similar incident last month when Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) reportedly requested Treasury civil servants to prepare an analysis of a tax proposal similar to one by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

The analysis, posted on Treasury’s website, concluded that such a proposal would mean a tax increase of $477 billion over 10 years for “hardworking individuals and married couples.” The same day the analysis was posted, the Republican National Committee used the same numbers in literature to challenge Kerry’s proposal.

What’s more, the exact same language used on the Treasury April 9 press release promoting President Bush’s election-year economic policies also appears simultaneously on both the websites of the White House and the Republican National Committee.

“This raises serious questions about the president using the White House and the Treasury Department as campaign tools,” Pingree said. “When the GOP, Oval Office and Treasury Department websites are coordinated and interchangeable, you’ve got a serious problem.”

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