WASHINGTON - The White House Office of Political Affairs during the George W. Bush administration violated the law by giving briefings to political employees, concludes a government report issued Monday.
The report says the electoral success of the Republican Party and possible strategies for achieving it often were on the agenda at some 75 political briefings at 20 federal agencies from 2001 to 2007. Prohibited political activities were prevalent in the months running up to the 2006 midterm elections, according to the report.
The Office of Special Counsel concluded that such briefings should take place away from the federal workplace during nonbusiness hours and that attendance should be completely optional.
Those who gave the briefings said they were intended to boost morale among political appointees and provide an overview of the "political landscape."
However, witness testimony, e-mail messages and PowerPoint slides used at some of the briefings indicate that the meetings were more overtly political.
"Because most of the briefings took place during normal business hours and in government buildings, many of the briefings implicated the Hatch Act's prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or in a federal workplace," the report found.
The Office of Special Counsel oversees compliance with the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
Hatch Act penalties call for violators, at most, to be removed from their government positions, so the report would appear to have no impact now that the Bush administration has been out of office for two years.
A phone message left at the Office of Special Counsel was not immediately returned.
At the Justice Department, spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined immediate comment.