How Much Will Bloch Tackle?

1 comment April 25th, 2007at 07:47am Posted by Eli

Okay, so, here’s the good news:

Most of the time, an obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel confines itself to monitoring the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.

First, the inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the splintered inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.

“We will take the evidence where it leads us,” Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday. “We will not leave any stone unturned.”


The 106-person Office of Special Counsel has never conducted such a broad and high-profile inquiry in its history. One of its primary missions has been to enforce the Hatch Act, a law enacted in 1939 to preserve the integrity of the civil service.

Bloch said the new investigation grew from two narrower inquiries his staff had begun in recent weeks.

One involved the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David C. Iglesias.

The other centered on a PowerPoint presentation that a Rove aide, J. Scott Jennings, made at the General Services Administration this year.

That presentation listed recent polls and the outlook for battleground House and Senate races in 2008. After the presentation, GSA Administrator Lorita Doan encouraged agency managers to “support our candidates,” according to half a dozen witnesses. Doan said she could not recall making such comments.


In the course of investigating the U.S. attorney matter and the PowerPoint presentations, Democratic congressional investigators discovered e-mails written by White House personnel using accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, Bloch sounds like a real piece of work, and he has a history of protecting the administration from whistleblowers rather than the other way ’round. So some of my liberal blogobrethren are suggesting that this whole investigation is some kind of strategic whitewash/smokescreen/inoculation against less congenial investigations by big ol’ meanies like Waxman and Conyers and Leahy. I can buy this only partially, and I don’t think it will work.

Yes, given Bloch’s history, there’s a very good chance that the investigation will be a whitewash, but I don’t believe that it was the plan all along. The investigation was at least partially initiated by fired US Attorney David Iglesias, who appears to be a genuinely straight arrow. And because his situation is part of the much larger story of the Attorney firings, the administration politically cannot afford to ignore or bury his complaint. The best they can do is to have the OSC go through the motions of an investigation and then claim to have found nothing improper. And as far as using this investigation to somehow shield the administration from congressional investigations, my legal counsel in the FDL comments don’t think that will fly (largely because the OSC’s investigations are administrative rather than criminal), although they certainly can and will use the can’t-comment-on-an-ongoing-investigation dodge with the media.

Whether or not a whitewash will be successful really depends on your definition of success. If your definition of success is “conduct an investigation that doesn’t end with a recommendation to fire Karl Rove,” then sure, there’s an excellent chance of success. If your definition of success is “salvage the reputation of the Bush administration and the Republican Party as a whole,” I really don’t see it working. If anything, I think it’ll make things worse.

First of all, the very existence of an internal (i.e., not Democrat-driven) investigation of an overall pattern of political tampering with the basic nuts-and-bolts of government calls attention to that pattern and gives it added legitimacy; ironically, in much the same way partisan US Attorneys’ investigations can damage the reputation of opposition party members, even if they’re never indicted or convicted. In short, this is simply not a conversation the Republicans want to be having.

Second of all, and even more ironically, declaring that the governmental investigation into the improper politicization of government found no wrongdoing will, in fact, only reinforce the idea that the government is improperly politicized.

And all the while, Waxman et al. can continue with their own investigations if it doesn’t look like this one is being pursued aggressively. And in 2008, Democratic candidates for House, Senate, and President can remind voters that all of this politicization, and all of the unethical (and probably illegal) activities that took place, were all enabled by the Republican (Enablican?) Congress’ refusal to live up to its oversight responsibilities. They can hammer home that the Republicans cheat on a scale never before seen in American history, and that they will always party over country, Every. Single. Time, without fail.

I can live without Rove’s scalp, if the tradeoff is the destruction of Republican credibility for the next 20-30 years.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Rove

1 Comment

  • 1. Multi Medium » Chop&hellip  |  April 25th, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    […] Well, this is an interesting tidbit from Novak about Fearless OSC Crusader Bloch… The beginning of this investigation marks an unlikely course of events in a long-running saga in which President Bush has been trying to purge Special Counsel Bloch, his own appointee. Just a year ago, Bloch looked like he was the one sinking, about to be removed from office, maligned among prospective employers, and perhaps even prosecuted. But all of the sudden, it is the White House in hot water, and Bloch may be untouchable. […]

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