| WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Members of former U.S. President George W. Bush's White House improperly conducted political briefings, breaking electioneering laws, a federal report said.
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Among other things, the independent Office of Special Counsel said Monday taxpayers footed the bill for at least seven Cabinet secretaries in the Bush administration who took politically motivated trips claimed as official business, The Washington Post reported.
The agency, which conducted a three-year investigation into the allegations that first came to light near the end of Bush's presidency, criticized what it said were widespread violations of a law that restricts federal workers' political activities and improperly using federal funds for electioneering.
The abuses mainly occurred in 2005 and 2006 during midterm elections when Bush's advisers were concerned about losses that could flip control of the House of Representatives to Democrats, the Post said.
The report indicated the White House improperly coordinated a government-wide effort to assist congressional allies, including arranging more than 100 supposedly official visits by high-profile White House personnel to battleground states. The federally funded travel, including the use of government aircraft, was organized, approved and tracked by Bush's political office, leading to the illegal diversion of federal funds and workers' time, the office found.
White House officials can legally pursue political contact with outsiders, the report said, but "the systematic, partisan political activity described in this report, including strategically supplying targeted candidates with administration support to secure electoral gains, goes far beyond a need for political information (meant) to effectively advise the president."
"It is, in fact, the type of electioneering proscribed by the Hatch Act", the Office of Special Counsel said, referring to the 1939 law that limits federal workers' overt efforts to sway the electoral process.
While not enough information was available to conclude "whether these events should have been classified as political and reimbursement should have been sought", the report said another investigation has begun "due to the seriousness of using government aircraft to attend political events." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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