GOP lawmaker questions White House politics shop

By By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked the White House to turn over

records related to President Barack Obama's decision to reopen the White House political office earlier this year.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he is

concerned that the White House might be using taxpayer money improperly

to help Democratic

candidates for Congress and other offices.

In a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Issa asked for "all documents and communications, including emails"

about the January reopening of the political office, as well an update on its activities since then.

"The Hatch Act requires a clear dichotomy

between the constitutional and statutory duties of federal officials and

any political

or campaign-related activities in which they engage," Issa wrote,

referring to a federal law that prohibits federal employees

from engaging in some partisan political activities.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday that the political office coordinates political strategy and outreach and

serves as a contact point for national, state and local Democrats.

Administrations of both parties have maintained in-house political shops at the White House. A 2011 report by the independent

Office of Special Counsel criticized a longstanding practice by both parties of using the political office for systematic,

campaign-related activity.

As Obama's re-election campaign was ramping

up in 2011, Obama closed the political office and shifted his political

operation

to Chicago. Since the 2012 election, a handful of top White House

aides had been dealing with political matters on an ad hoc

basis before the political office was reopened in January. The

six-person team, led by David Simas, provides real-time communication

between the White House and myriad political groups working to

elect Democrats this year.

"This White House recognized the need for a consolidated office to provide the president political information," Schultz said,

adding that the Office of Special Counsel has described such activity as appropriate.