Government resources help promote Bush re-election campaign
The Associated Press
As past presidents have done, Bush is skillfully using the resources of the federal government to promote his re-election — at taxpayer expense. But some critics say the president is going far beyond his predecessors in using government means to accomplish political ends.
"What this administration has done is taken trends from the past and then projected them into the stratosphere," said Allan Lichtman, a presidential scholar at American University. "We've never seen a political operation like this White House does, and that includes the maximum use of government resources."
Bush is flying Air Force One to battleground states at a pace that eclipses even that of President Clinton, known as a particularly political president. Cabinet secretaries are covering additional ground to spread good news about the Bush administration. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, who insists "I don't do politics," has chimed in.
With the House and Senate both in Republican hands, Bush gets plenty of help from Congress, too.
Congressional committees have posted anti-Kerry commentary on their Web sites. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was out front in attacking the credibility of Richard Clarke, Bush's former counterterrorism adviser, who criticized the president. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., regularly uses his daily chats with reporters to critique "John Kerry & Co."
"This is the most say-anything, do-anything-to-get-re-elected administration in history," said Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.
Rep. Robert Matsui of California, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has complained that House Republicans abused taxpayer resources to attack Kerry on an official congressional Web site. Other Democrats tried to get the Medicare prescription-drug ads yanked from TV, and asked the General Accounting Office to examine whether that was proper use of taxpayer dollars.
Doug Sosnik, who was White House political director during Clinton's re-election campaign, says any incumbent president "would be crazy not to take advantage of all opportunities of incumbency to get re-elected, but these guys have gone off in areas that are way over the line. ... "
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond calls the whole issue "nonsense," especially the carping about the costs to taxpayers for White House travel to politically important states.
"Using federal government assets is unavoidable in terms of having contact with everyday people," he said.
Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said the campaign is careful to follow the law and "draw a bright line between our campaign activities and the absolutely important work the president does in serving the people. ... "
Paul Light, a professor at New York University, finds it ironic that Bush, who rarely passes up a chance to rail against government waste, is so adept at getting help from those on the federal payroll: "Few presidents in history have exploited government as much as President Bush to get re-elected, yet few presidents have made government more the object of derision."
In other campaign news:
• President Bush visited North Carolina yesterday to promote a new job-training initiative that would double the number of people receiving federal job-training assistance to 412,000 a year, from 206,000. The plan aims to free up $300 million by consolidating four training and employment grant programs. Bush proposed no new federal spending for the initiative.
Last year hundreds of laid-off workers in Washington couldn't get tuition help because the state's allotment was already allocated shortly after the program year began. Washington's share of federal job money dropped from a high of $126 million in 2002 to $86.4 million for this program year, which begins in July.
• Sen. John Kerry yesterday announced an economic package he said will create jobs, reduce the deficit and funnel money to financially strapped states.
Seeking to repeal parts of Bush's tax cuts, Kerry would create a $25 billion State Tax Relief and Education Fund. Under the plan, Washington would receive a one-time payment of $527 million.
"That money will make a huge difference to a lot of governors who have raised sales taxes and local communities that have raised property taxes," Kerry said.
Seattle Times staff reporters Alex Fryer and Shirleen Holt contributed to this report.
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