House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa on Wednesday vowed to press ahead with his investigation of the White House's new political office, questioning whether appropriate steps were taken to ensure it did not clash with federal campaign laws.
The White House announced in January that it was reopening its political office -- now named the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach -- to coordinate with Democratic campaign committees on messaging and fundraising ahead of the November 2014 midterms.
In a letter Monday to Carolyn Lerner, head of the Office of the Special Counsel, Issa questioned if tax dollars would be used to aid Democrats through the White House office.
“Reestablishing OPA raises serious concerns about the illegal use of taxpayer funds to support congressional campaigns during the 2014 midterm elections,” Issa wrote.
The chairman called for “all documents and communications … between OSC and the White House referring or relating to the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach or the reopening of the Office of Political Affairs.”
The OSC, though, said in a letter to Issa that they had not discussed the new political office with the White House.
Issa on Wednesday said that response would only fuel questions about the White House decision.
“After Members on both sides of the aisle called for the Office of Political Affairs' closure, the American people are entitled to know what steps President Obama took to address past concerns when he decided to restart an openly partisan political effort within the White House, funded by the American taxpayers,” said the chairman in a written statement. “If the White House did not even consult with the agency charged with protecting taxpayer dollars from inappropriate use in political campaigns, what did they do?”
“When President Obama said, ‘the days of using the White House as another arm of the Republican National Committee are over,’ it is now clear that he was simply referring to a change of party control, not an end to the practice,” Issa added. “The Oversight Committee will continue to press for answers. ”
The political office is to be headed by David Simas, a longtime Obama adviser who helped develop the administration’s Obamacare message.
The new unit comes after congressional Democrats expressed concerns about their 2014 prospects after the botched rollout of the health law’s new insurance exchanges.