CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published September 10, 2004, issue of September 10, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign are denying claims that they may have violated the law by distributing a White House-generated booklet hailing the president’s record on Jewish issues at a campaign event.

The taxpayer-funded booklet, titled “President George W. Bush: A Friend of the American Jewish Community,” was published by the White House Office of Public Liaison in 2002 and updated last month. The Bush campaign distributed the booklet August 31 at a campaign event for Orthodox Jews held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the Republican National Convention.

“They’re not supposed to use any public resources in campaigning,” said Larry Noble, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Having a White House publication be used for blatantly political purposes crosses the line. It may well violate the law. It would depend on the details. It’s clearly inappropriate.”

Democratic election and public ethics lawyer Joseph Sandler put it even more strongly. “It’s clearly illegal. There’s no question about that,” Sandler said. “It’s a violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents the use of U.S. public resources for campaigning.”

The Hatch Act applies to government employees, not to the campaign.

The White House has given assurances that the booklet was strictly a government outreach piece. When asked by the Forward two weeks ago to respond to Democratic allegations that the booklet was being updated for partisan purposes, White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri insisted that it was “not a campaign document” but “part of an outreach effort.” Federal rules limit an incumbent candidate from updating official publications or using the public frank for a certain period before an election, according to election lawyers.

Told Tuesday that the campaign had given out the booklet at its event, Tamburri said: “I’m not aware of that.” Later, she added: “This is a document that catalogs the president’s achievements on issues of importance to the Jewish community. It is also part of the outreach efforts of the Office of Public Liaison. It’s a public document available to anyone who would like to have a copy.” Asked if someone could get 200 copies — the approximate number given out at the campaign event — she said, “It could be available.”

The Bush-Cheney campaign insisted that it did nothing wrong. “There’s nothing illegal or inappropriate about distributing a document that’s public,” campaign spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said, noting that the booklet is available to anyone who asks for it. “We take great pride in upholding the law in everything we do.”

One Republican lawyer, who asked not to be identified, defended the Bush campaign, saying the situation would be analogous to the Kerry campaign distributing copies of the 9/11 Commission report.

The glossy, 23-page White House booklet was distributed on chairs at the August 31 campaign event. Released with fanfare by Noam Neusner, White House liaison to the Jewish community, last month, it contains pictures of Bush meeting with Jewish communal leaders, and laudatory quotes from such communal officials, along with a pastiche of pro-Israel selections from Bush’s speeches. There is nothing in it to indicate who published it, other than a bowdlerized presidential seal — the American eagle in a ring of stars, without the legend “Seal of the President of the United States” — on the front and back cover.

The Bush-Cheney event featured speeches by a campaign aide, Tevi Troy; an official of the White House Office of Public Liaison, Tim Goeglein, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. The Goeglein appearance also is raising eyebrows. The Washington Times reported August 24 that the White House had ordered its staffers “not to be within 50 miles of New York City during next week’s Republican National Convention — so as to avoid any appearance of ‘politicizing.’”

During his speech, Troy, who was the White House’s liaison to the Jewish community before joining the campaign, urged the crowd, mostly rabbis and communal leaders, to “use” the booklet to help motivate voters for Bush.






Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.