Federal Drug Office To Face Questions Over Politicization

They might be known best for their anti-marijuana television ads, but the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has gained additional attention from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, amid questions of the office stumping for vulnerable Republican candidates before the 2006 election.

According to a release from the committee today, former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor requested that ONDCP head John Walters and deputies travel to 20 different events with GOP candidates. These trips were also paid for by federal tax dollars, along with federal grants that benefited the visited Republican districts. Taylor and Walters have been asked to appear before the committee at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the panel.

The ONDCP also has a district history in Colorado, where federal officials have made numerous appearances to campaign against proposals to legalize marijuana for adults in Denver and throughout the state.

In September of last year, former ONDCP officials joined then Lt. Governor Jane Norton (Republican) to speak out against the state legalization initiative. Walters himself traveled to Colorado Springs to announce his opposition to legalization, while ONDCP Deputy Director Scott Burns joined Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (Republican) at a Regional Meth Conference held in Grand Junction.

Even before the investigation. questions lingered over the use of taxpayer money to campaign against such measures. Colorado law prevents government employees from spending more than $50 to express opinions on ballot issues, and a Freedom of Information Act filed by this reporter turned up nothing regarding local legalization campaigns and the ONDCP.

But with a brand new monocle being held above the ONDCP and White House officials, more information may be just around the corner regarding federal funds and politicization.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.