Yet another Obama Administration scandal: former Labor Secretary accused of improper political activity
Nope, not a “smidgen of corruption” to be found in the Obama Administration, nosirree! Right after we see iron-clad evidence that an Obama-worshiping official of the Federal Elections Commission improperly conducted political activities from her office in violation of the Hatch Act (a.k.a. “THE SETTLED LAW OF THE LAND,” for you Democrats still unclear about how this whole “rule of law” thing works) we discover Obama’s Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, was breaking the very same law.
I suppose it would be more polite to say Solis stands accused of violating the Hatch Act, but the evidence introduced by House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa is hard to argue with:
In his opening statement, Chairman Issa played a recording of a message left on the phone of a Labor Department subordinate pressuring the employee to contribute to President Obama’s re-election campaign. The recording subsequently became the subject of a complaint made to the Office of Special Counsel. Then-Labor Secretary Solis says:
“Hi—this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off-the-record here—Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign on Friday at La Fonda at 6 p.m. Steven Smith, an attorney, and his staff are helping us [inaudible]. There are a lot of folks that we know that are coming but wanted to ask you if you might help contribute or get other folks to help out. I would encourage you to call this number, [inaudible]–that’s his assistant– at [phone number] and you can call [the attorney] yourself who’s a good friend, an attorney, good friend of mine, at [phone number]. And it’s for a Friday event at La Fonda [inaudible] we’re just trying to raise money to show that we have support here in [inaudible].”
This time, there won’t be conveniently “recycled” hard drives to shut down the investigation, so the Administration simply refused to cooperate with it. White House adviser David Simas was subpoenaed to testify before Issa’s committee to discuss the abuse of government resources for partisan political purposes, but the Obama regime simply ignored the subpoena. Business Insider reports:
Issa refused to lift the subpoena on Tuesday, despite a lengthy briefing Tuesday from White House staff that Issa did not attend. Issa said later in a statement it would be important to get on-the-record answers from Simas at the hearing.
Eggleston sent back a letter informing him Simas was “immune” from appearing before the Oversight Committee. Eggleston said the subpoena would “threaten the longstanding interests of the Executive Branch in preserving the president’s independence and autonomy.” Eggleston also wrote to Issa that it was “regrettable” he had chosen ton continue to pursue the subpoena instead of working privately with the White House to resolve his questions about oversight.
The White House has rejected Issa’s speculation and insists the political affairs office runs in line with the law, while pointing out Issa’s four letters to the White House on this issue haven’t contained a single specific allegation of wrongdoing. Democratic officials have also cited longstanding precedent of administrations of both parties typically shielding senior White House officials from testifying before Congress.
So Issa played a recording of Solis flagrantly violating the Hatch Act to kick off his hearing instead. There is nothing here that needs to be discussed in secret meetings with White House flacks. It’s a crime, and should be investigated as such, through public hearings. The Administration’s history of abusing power for partisan purposes is hardly a new or minor story. So are the outrageous stonewalling tactics it uses to delay investigation and oversight. As National Review reports, the White House’s refusal to respond to House Oversight’s subpoena sets us up for another interminable argument about whether “executive privilege” means the President and his Persons of Hench are above the law:
White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston says Issa has no power to compel Simas to testify at a hearing Wednesday morning about whether the office he runs has been engaged in improper political activity in violation of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from such activities as campaign fundraising and explicit political support. Eggleston cited a new opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that cited precedents going back to Presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon of executive privilege being asserted against testimony by White House aides.
Issa responds that in a case brought by congressional Democrats in 2008 against the Bush White House, a federal judge found that the idea of absolute immunity of a White House official from a congressional subpoena was “unprecedented” and held that presidential aides are “not absolutely immune from congressional process.”
“Flouting a federal judge’s opinion about our system of checks and balances is yet another attack on our nation’s Constitution by this president,” Issa said in a statement late Tuesday night. “This hearing seeks to examine a political office embedded within the White House which, under Democratic and Republican administrations, has had a controversial role of coordinating political campaign activity for the president at taxpayer expense.”
Solis, who currently sits on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, has denied wrongdoing, or at least her campaign adviser did, as related by the Washington Free Beacon: “Solis knows that the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from personally soliciting campaign donations. She believes that her participation in the (fundraiser) was proper and does not believe that she has done anything illegal or improper.”
It doesn’t matter a hill of beans what she “believes.” Either the voicemail message played by Chairman Issa came from a government phone, or it did not. If it did, she’s guilty. Taxpaying Americans are forced to live beneath the burden of far more complicated laws. It’s long past time we stopped giving our Ruling Class unlimited exemptions from even the simplest ones. There is nothing difficult to understand about the spirit or letter of a law designed to prevent officials from using the resources of their office for partisan political activities.
It happens behind the scenes anyway – everyone hit up by a Cabinet secretary for money or political support is well aware of the power dynamics at work – but we should have zero tolerance for the use of official resources in such activities. The government itself is not supposed to be a partisan player. But we’re inundated with stories from Obama’s re-election campaign of precisely such abuses, from the deeply disturbing use of the IRS as a political weapon, to inappropriate phone calls. And nothing much has been done about any of it so far, even when – as in the case of FEC official April Sands – the perpetrator admitted to her offense.
A great deal of the caterwauling over campaign “dark money” amounts to the assertion by Democrats that people essentially give up their right to participate in politics when they form a corporation. But they seem perfectly comfortable with people who work for the government conducting flagrantly partisan activity with public resources. That’s a precise inversion of the way it should work. Democrats spent last week trying to repeal the First Amendment, because it’s supposedly intolerable that uppity citizens can run around saying whatever they want about their rulers. But they’ll happily obstruct investigations into high officials transforming government itself into a partisan organization.