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EDITORIAL: Taxes paying for politics

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

White House political operatives have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Specifically, the Obama administration is using taxpayer funds for a political campaign to push government health care. There are clear lines that define appropriate behavior in politics. This is over the line.

It's a basic precept that federal politicians can't use public resources to directly pay private organizations to engage in political campaigns. However, the Obama administration is doing just that. According to Fox News, the White House used taxpayer money to pay a private communications firm to send mass e-mails in support of the president's health care plan.

Contrary to Mr. Obama's promises of greater transparency, the White House has not released information about how much taxpayer money is being spent on these political e-mail blasts. The White House and the president's political organization, Organizing for America, also have refused to answer questions about who is getting these unsolicited e-mails and how the administration got their names.

Hundreds of people who received the e-mails have contacted Fox about them. The large number of recipients who contacted the network suggests that the pool of those who were sent the e-mails is very large. The e-mails were sent under senior presidential adviser David Axelrod's name and asked recipients to help challenge criticism of Mr. Obama's health care plan.

Most of the e-mail recipients have shown interest in the health care debate but apparently have not previously contacted the administration about the issue. This raises serious questions about why and how the government is collecting names of citizens based on their political interests.

The administration has had a rough August. Mr. Obama's approval rating dipped below 50 percent, and public anger over his health care plan is reaching the boiling point. It's understandable that Democrats are desperate and scrambling for ways to reverse their growing unpopularity. Using taxpayer dollars to push unwanted legislation will only further alienate voters.