Federal Federal File

House Panel Hits Election-Time Trips

By Alyson Klein — October 20, 2008 1 min read
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In the months leading up to the 2006 congressional and gubernatorial elections, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled 19 times to give a boost to Republican candidates, including lawmakers facing tough re-election bids, according to a draft report released last week by Democrats on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

Secretary Spellings wasn’t the only Bush administration official to make such trips. The report found that from Jan. 1 until Election Day on Nov. 7 of that year, such officials took part in 306 events with GOP contenders suggested by the White House political-affairs office. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez made the most appearances with Republican candidates, the report says, with 59 stops.

Republicans on the House committee contend that such appearances are routine, no matter which party controls the executive branch.

The Democrats’ report shows that Ms. Spellings found her way to at least three tight races in the final weeks of the campaign. (“Federal Officials Find Their Way to Tight Races,” Nov. 1, 2006.)

In October 2006, she visited Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, in his Cincinnati district. Ms. Spellings and Rep. Chabot toured the Cincinnati Zoo Academy, a charter school located at the city’s zoo, where the secretary talked about the need to bolster the rigor of mathematics and science courses. He retained his seat, taking 52 percent of the vote.

Secretary Spellings also visited Rep. Heather Wilson’s New Mexico district, where she highlighted new federal financial aid for students who have taken a rigorous high school curriculum. Rep. Wilson ended up keeping her seat, with just over 50 percent of the vote. Ms. Spellings also held a roundtable discussion on the No Child Left Behind Act in Rep. Chris Chocola’s Indiana district. He ultimately was defeated.

“Secretary Spellings participates in official events across the country with both Democratic and Republican leaders,” said Samara Yudof, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “There are long-standing rules on Cabinet members’ participation in political events,” she said, “and we follow those rules.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 22, 2008 edition of Education Week

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