U.S. OFFICE OF INSULAR AFFAIRS OFFICIAL NORTH HIT FOR ON-THE-JOB POLITICS

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By Audrey Hudson

WASHINGTON, D. C. (August 3, 1999 – The Washington Times)---An Interior Department official told his boss in a secret memo about his on-the-job covert political campaign aimed at unseating House Republican leaders in the 1998 election, according to a document obtained by The Washington Times.

In a 1997 memo, David North, policy director for the Office of Insular Affairs, asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for information on how to assist Democratic candidates, and sent a copy of the memo to his boss, Allen P. Stayman, then director of Insular Affairs.

Mr. North and other federal employees are under investigation by the House Resources Committee for using official equipment and time in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat at least four House Republicans and one GOP senator.

Mr. North drafted press releases for Democratic candidates, provided derogatory information about Republican members to campaigns and reporters, and wrote letters to the editor for constituents to submit to local newspapers, investigators say.

"We have been asked for the names and phone numbers of the Democratic candidate [sic] for Congress in these district [sic] if they have been identified for 1998," Mr. North said in the memo.

"Some friends have asked for this information because the incumbents (Armey, DeLay and Rohrabacher) have been giving the Clinton Administration a hard time," Mr. North said, referring to House Majority Leader Dick Armey and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both of Texas, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

Mr. North quietly retired as policy director of Insular Affairs 10 days after his office computer hard drive was subpoenaed by the House Resources Committee on July 13. Reached at his Virginia home, he declined to comment on the investigation or the timing of his retirement.

Mr. Stayman could not be reached for comment.

"Based on the wording of some of Mr. North's memos, the committee is extremely concerned that more members of the department were involved in the activities than just one person," said Steve Hansen, committee spokesman.

"The administration and its allies have committed a lot of crimes, but they usually know enough not to brag about it in print," Mr. Rohrabacher said.

"They're not going to get away with this," he added.

According to a confidential memo from committee Chairman Don Young to House leaders and other documents obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. North was actively campaigning against certain Republicans, working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

"As a one-time candidate, I understand the utility to all hands of Administration-candidate communications on such matters," Mr. North said in the memo.

In another memo targeting California GOP Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, Mr. North wrote, "My motivations are: to elect Democrats to the House and to punish the handful of obvious GOP sweatshop allies, such as Mr. Bilbray. My long-term reward, Mr. Bilbray's defeat."

"I look forward to working (very quietly) with you," he said.

Mr. Bilbray said, "This smacks of the enemies list used during the Watergate period. This is dirty politics at its worst. This poor man was so blinded by partisan hatred, he was shooting at anyone with an 'R' next to their name.

"It is sad that some people in this town are willing to officially put this on a government computer and is willing to break the law and put himself in jeopardy," he said.

The committee has subpoenaed all of Mr. North's files, in addition to his computer hard drive.

Those materials show Mr. North spent a significant amount of time on political and lobbying activities.

He asked one Democratic campaign aide specifically to contact him at his Interior Department office, rather than at home.

Mr. North targeted four House members and Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican, because of their positions on trade and immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Insular Affairs office is responsible for coordinating federal policy in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

"Federal employees should not feel free to use their offices to punish members of Congress whose views they disagree with," Mr. Young said in a memo last week to his committee members.

"Regardless of your views on the Marianas dispute, this committee must ensure that the process has not been tainted by improper political and lobbying use of federal resources, targeting certain members in retaliation for their beliefs," the Alaska Republican said.

The committee is investigating whether Mr. North's activities violated the Hatch Act, the Anti-Federal Lobbying Act or the Privacy Act.

Records from the DCCC pertaining to Mr. North also have been subpoenaed by the committee.

The DCCC initially refused to cooperate. Mr. Young threatened to hold David Plouffe, executive director, in contempt of Congress if the DCCC does not comply. The two sides met yesterday and a committee staffer said they hoped to reach a compromise, but that a contempt vote is still scheduled for tomorrow.

"I fail to see why the DCCC cannot follow the example set by their fellow Democrats in the Interior Department on this issue, and help us fulfill our obligations to ensure that federal resources… are not misused for illegal or improper purposes," Mr. Young said.

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