Relieving taxpayers of political consulting fees

Henry Waxman's proposal to ban overtly political White House staffers probably isn't going anywhere. But he makes a good point.

Published July 10, 2008 12:34AM (EDT)

Rep. Henry Waxman hasn't gotten a lot of love for his proposal to ban taxpayer-funded political staff in the White House, an initiative clearly aimed at preventing the recurrance of a Karl Rove type at the top of the executive pyramid.

The White House has responded, predictably, with a so's-your-old-man argument that past White Houses had political staff as well.

That's true, but in past administrations the political staff were usually low-level personnel who dealt with constituent needs, and took their cues from policy folk and from the president himself.

In the Bush White House, according to a number of highly informed witnesses, political concerns have trumped all, and no policy considerations got a serious hearing if the political commissars, led by Rove, didn't first sign off.

You can't take the politics out of politics, but there's a lot to be said for an effort to make sure that uber-political staff are outside the formal White House policy process, and get paid not by taxpayers, but by the interest and advocacy groups that the Karl Roves of the future actually represent.

By Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is the managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and an online columnist for The New Republic.

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