More on tax-funded politics

A congressional report has faulted the Bush administration’s use of tax dollars to pay for political campaigning in Nevada and other states.

At issue is White House drug “czar” John Walters and his campaign trips to Nevada, Utah and Missouri to campaign against local ballot measures in 2006.

The report by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that White House aide Karl Rove’s office requested special help for Republican congressional candidates who were in election trouble in the months before the 2006 elections, and Walters leaped at the chance to campaign, being called a “superstar” by a Rove aide. Walters called news conferences in the states at which he doled out half-million-dollar grants with the congressmembers—two U.S. House members and a senator—at his side, the grants serving as the pretext for his campaigning.

Walters’ uses of tax funds in Nevada were previously criticized not just in 2006 but in earlier campaigns. Walters refused a demand from Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller that he file the required campaign disclosure forms for his political trips in 2002. Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval criticized Walters’ behavior, but no accounting of taxpayer dollars expended in Nevada by Walters was ever made. The White House also ignored an order for an explanation from the Nevada Supreme Court, and the court ultimately declined to act.

Last week, the House report called the White House conduct “a gross abuse of the public trust.”

The report was issued by the committee majority, but in the earlier Nevada case, Heller and Sandoval are both Republicans. George Bush’s spokesperson called the report “an attempt to score political points.”

In a similar and local vein, the Washoe Regional Transportation Commission has sent out a second political mailing to sell the voters on a ballot initiative. Where the previous mailing, costing an estimated $20,000 in tax funds, attempted to sell the public on two tax hike initiatives, the new mailing promotes only one, RTC 5, which would allow subsequent tax increases without a public vote. The RTC says these mailings are solely designed to inform the public, but they are not sent to all households, only to those with registered voters.