Recently, Cause of Action sent a letter to Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. In it, we address specific questions that we have about the efficacy and efficiency of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

Over the past few months, Cause of Action has been investigating the events leading up to and surrounding the Hatch Act violation by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Though OSC’s investigation concluded that Secretary Sebelius was guilty of a Hatch Act violation, Cause of Action was concerned that not enough had been done. We were concerned that Sebelius, who was the highest ranking executive branch employee ever to have been found guilty of violating the Hatch Act, had been essentially let off the hook without any real form of punishment and curious about how that had come about.

In essence, OSC is an independent arm of the executive branch that acts as a watchdog for federal employees through investigations and prosecution. Among many other things, the OSC investigates allegations of Prohibited Personnel Practices such as waste of funds, mismanagement, and abusive practices by those in power, as well as Hatch Act violations.

What we found over the course of our investigation was that aside from providing gross misinformation in their report, that OSC ignored other potential violations of the law by both Sebelius and her aide, and that they also failed to report FEC violations—all things that should have been easily uncovered during the course of their investigation.

Our investigation also found that when Sebelius attended a function for Senator Sherrod Brown, she was prepped by HHS staffers and also used HHS funds for her travel. Even though the funds were ultimately reimbursed by the Brown campaign, this raises serious questions not only about Sebelius’ use of taxpayer funds, but also about the efficacy of an OSC investigation.

The HHS debacle aside, OSC also failed to investigate an event at the White House, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, despite receipt of a letter sent from Chairman Issa to the OSC.

The question is: how effective is the OSC at dissuading employees of the federal government from engaging in Prohibited Personnel Practices if they never conduct thorough investigations? Further, when violations are found, what message does it send to federal employees when investigations do not yield meaningful punishment?

The culture of waste, fraud, cronyism and corruption that seems to have permeated the federal government needs to stop, and without a proper watchdog, who is there to do it?

See the letter to Congressman Issa and our press release for more information.