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Bangin’ The Gavel

gavel1.jpgI don’t visit Speaker Pelosi’s blog The Gavel as often as I should. Which is a mistake: It’s rapidly become a must-use resource for those of us who are looking for a way around the GOP/Media Complex’s filtering action.

For instance, it’s covering two major stories today. One of them, the one concerning the RNC’s wholesale destruction of e-mails sent by White House officials using RNC accounts, is big news at least here in the blogosphere and at the WaPo and among enlightened folk like Dan Froomkin, who touches on it in his column today.

But check this out too, which we all know full well won’t make it to the evening news:

GAO Report Shows Power Grab in Presidential Signing Statements

(Washington, DC)- Today, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report which found that in a limited number of Presidential signing statements examined, the Bush Administration failed to execute the law as instructed in over 30 percent of the cases. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) requested the report.

GAO researchers found signing statements in 11 of 12 appropriations acts in fiscal year 2006 and examined a sample of 19 provisions with which the President expressed concern in his signing statements. The President objected to, and federal agencies failed to execute, public law in six of those cases – 30 percent of the total sample.

The new GAO opinion underscores an April finding by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS). The April report found that President George W. Bush has raised objections in his signing statements far more than any of his predecessors. In fact, President Bush issued 149 signing statements, 127 (85 percent) of which raised some objection. The significant rise in the proportion of constitutional objections made by the President Bush is compounded by the fact that these statements are typified by multiple objections, resulting in over 700 challenges to distinct provisions of law.

In comparison, CRS found that President Reagan issued 276 signing statements, 71 of which (26%) contained provisions questioning the constitutionality of one or more of the statutory provisions signed into law. President Clinton issued 391 statements, 105 of which (27%) raised constitutional concerns or objections.

Neat, huh? But wait — there’s more:

GAO researchers also studied how federal courts view Presidential signing statements. They found that courts rarely rely on them as authoritative interpretations of the law.

Take THAT, David Addington!

And as I’ve already mentioned, there’s this piece, addressing today’s big scandal which Christy has already referenced, on BushCo’s RNC e-mails and the Presidential Records Act. Here’s the short version:

The number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts is higher than previously disclosed. (At first, Dana Perino would only ‘fess up to “a handful”; then the handful became fifty; now it’s at least 88 — so far.)

White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts. Karl Rove alone sent and recieved over 140,000 e-mails from his RNC account, over half of which were sent to or received from people with “.gov” e-mail extensions. Other heavy RNC e-mail account users included former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor (66,018 e-mails) and Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings (35,198 e-mails). Remember, these e-mail accounts were used by White House officials for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.

And the biggies:

There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials. Among the missing: Ken Mehlman, the former Director of Political Affairs (and former head of the RNC).

There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records. There is no evidence, however, that White House Counsel Gonzales initiated any action to ensure the preservation of the e-mail records that were destroyed by the RNC.

In response, the Oversight Committee recommends the following actions:

There are several next steps that should be pursued in the investigation into the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials. First, the records of federal agencies should be examined to assess whether they may contain some of the White House e-mails that have been destroyed by the RNC. The Committee has already written to 25 federal agencies to inquire about the e-mail records they may have retained from White House officials who used RNC and Bush Cheney ’04 e-mail accounts. Preliminary responses from the agencies indicate that they may have preserved official communications that were destroyed by the RNC.

Second, the Committee should investigate what former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales knew about the use of political e-mail accounts by White House officials. If Susan Ralston’s testimony to the Committee is accurate, there is evidence that Mr. Gonzales or counsels working in his office knew in 2001 that Karl Rove was using his RNC e-mail account to communicate about official business, but took no action to preserve Mr. Rove’s official communications.

Third, the Committee may need to issue compulsory process to obtain the cooperation of the Bush Cheney ’04 campaign. The campaign has informed the Committee that it provided e-mail accounts to 11 White House officials, but the campaign has unjustifiably refused to provide the Committee with basic information about these accounts, such as the identity of the White House officials and the number of e-mails that have been preserved.

Wham! The Gavel has spoken. Wake up and smell the oversight, Karl. You too, Alberto.

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