teisipäev, mai 18, 2004

Does the Line Even Exist Anymore?

From Dana Milbank's Washington Post column:

The line between politics and official White House business continues to blur.

On May 3, Vice President Cheney delivered a speech to the employees of the Wal-Mart distribution center in Bentonville, Ark. According to local newspapers, both Wal-Mart and the Bush-Cheney campaign described the speech as official -- taxpayer-funded -- White House business.

For all anyone around here knew, it was an official visit," columnist Brenda Blagg wrote in the Morning News of northwest Arkansas. "The Arkansas office for Bush-Cheney '04 certainly thought so and was appropriately 'hands off,' as a spokesperson put it. . . . The visit came about, according to a Wal-Mart spokesman, because the White House called the company's Washington office and said the vice president wanted to come tour the distribution center, meet the company's associates and 'say good things about Wal-Mart.' "

But at the speech, Cheney did more than say good things about the retailer. He said a lot of bad things about John F. Kerry.

"This November, the American people will have a clear choice on the economy," he said. "President Bush has stood firmly by his conviction that lower taxes are critical to growth and jobs. The president's opponent takes a somewhat different view." After more than 600 words picking apart Kerry's record, Cheney said: "I am confident that six months from now, with a clear choice before them, the American people will choose the confident, steady, principled leadership of President George W. Bush."

Democrats say the trip, if official, would have violated campaign finance rules. Rep. John W. Olver (Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee governing White House expenses, wrote to the White House seeking an explanation. But Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems said that the trip was, from the start, a campaign event, and that those who said otherwise were misinformed.

Among the misinformed was Wal-Mart's chief spokesman, Jay Allen. "I was under the impression it was initially a White House event," Allen said. "I was told in the last few days it was a campaign event."

So either it was an official event and Cheney violated the law by campaigning or it was a campaign event and Cheney violated the law by charging it to taxpayers. I'm not sure which is worse, really.

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