- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The White House reinstated a program awarding large cash bonuses to political appointees, a practice that was stopped during the Clinton administration because of concerns about potential abuse.
The program was authorized early this year by White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., but was not disclosed previously, White House officials said.
The program, first reported by the New York Times, is taking place amid widespread frustration among career federal workers. Mr. Bush has denied them an expected raise and has given the private sector more power to compete for federal jobs.
The bonus program allows political employees to be given bonuses for superior work alongside career federal workers, who already are eligible for merit bonuses. Critics, including former Clinton administration officials who helped end the practice, said the program could be used to reward employees for their political activity.
In light of past concerns, Mr. Card's memo directs federal management to make sure that all bonuses are reviewed by high-ranking agency officials. "The purpose of the memo was to make sure political appointees do not receive any special treatment, be treated as all employees," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Under the program, Cabinet-level officials and agency chiefs are authorized for the first time in eight years to approve annual bonuses of up to $10,000 for the influential senior officials brought into the administration by Mr. Bush's team. Many of these employees have annual salaries of $115,000 to $140,000.
"All awards must be based on substantial work achievements that go well beyond the performance of routine duties," said the March 29 memo from Mr. Card. "Political employees should be judged and rewarded in the same manner as career employees."
The change makes about 2,100 political appointees eligible for bonuses.
Leon Panetta, chief of staff in the Clinton White House, prohibited the bonuses after negative publicity was raised about payments given in the last days of the George Bush White House.
President Bush exempted employees of the new Department of Homeland Security from many worker protections and announced last week that scheduled pay raises would be smaller than anticipated by Congress. He also has announced a program allowing the private sector to bid for jobs now held by federal employees.
The program is having its strongest effect on the Justice Department, which has a large number of political employees. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been the first to dole out bonuses. Officials said bonuses were paid to several Justice Department officials who played key roles in the September 11 investigation.

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