The Politicization of Federal Workers, Continued? The Official Answer Is No.

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During the George W. Bush years, House Democrats went on a tear about the tendency of Karl Rove’s White House political shop to dispatch federal government employees to appear in the districts of vulnerable Republican members of Congress. Rep. Henry Waxman, then chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee bemoaned what he called “improperly politicized” federal employees.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, Waxman found that “White House officials arranged for top officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to help as many as 18 vulnerable Republican congressmen by making appearances and sometimes announcing new federal grants in the lawmakers’ districts in the months leading up to the November 2006 elections.” On Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s blog, the investigation was posted as part of the “Draining the Swamp” project.

Today, Elizabeth Warren, the White House’s “architect” for the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a non-political body, has traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to the 15th Congressional District, where she will address a public “consumer roundtable discussion” as part of her effort to stand up the new agency. Her travel was announced by the Treasury Department, and according to a Treasury official I spoke with, the public event is just a single detour on a longer trip which is focused on private meetings in preparation for the new agency. The Treasury official said the event is entirely non-political, and the local Democratic congresswoman, Mary Jo Kilroy, was not invited. The event is hosted by three left-leaning non-profit groups, Policy Matters, COHHIO and Americans for Financial Reform.

But Kilroy is not just any congresswoman, and Ohio-15 is not just any district. She is among the most endangered House members in the nation, and, as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, has been a major supporter of Warren and Wall Street reform. Her campaign message borrows heavily from Warren’s own work. “I’ll be a watchdog for your money like it’s my own,” Kilroy says in her latest ad, after a number of people praise her for taking on the banks and the credit card companies.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But if Republicans take control of Congress, my bet is that this is exactly the kind of thing Rep. Darrell Issa, who is set to take over the oversight committee, is likely to look into, with the same subpoena power that Waxman once enjoyed. As they say in tether ball, what goes around. . .