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White House admits federal agency election briefings as Hatch Act probe continues

[JURIST] The White House admitted Thursday to holding about 20 briefings throughout 2006 and 2007 for federal agency employees to discuss the electability of Republican candidates, meetings similar to a January presentation that critics allege violated the Hatch Act [OSC materials]. The Hatch Act prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes, and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) [official website] has recently expanded ongoing investigations [JURIST report] into a broader probe of "illegal political activities across the executive branch." Similar meetings were also held prior to 2006. A White House spokesperson said that no records were kept of how many meetings were held, but she denied that any laws were broken [transcript], insisting "there is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the President's agenda. None." She added that the White House counsel's office had approved the meetings.

In January General Services Administration (GSA) [official website] Administrator Lurita Doan [official website] allegedly asked those present at a GSA briefing to consider how the GSA could help Republican candidates in the next round of elections. The OSC is examining whether similar presentations were given at other federal agencies [WashPost report]. The White House has also been criticized in the context of the US Attorney firings [JURIST news archive] after disclosing that at least 21 White House staffers used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts while at work to avoid liability under the Hatch Act. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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