Bad Medicine: Weaponizing Government Resources for Partisan Politics

It doesn’t matter who you vote for or what political party you do or don’t belong to, when it comes to funding government it’s taxpayers of all stripes who pick up the tab. Now, at both the national and state level, the new, nefarious, and open weaponization of government resources for partisan political purposes has emerged in full force. If we want to end democracy in the U.S. — this will do it.

Those who keep a close eye and report on politics at the national level are aghast at Trump’s blatant use of the White House, Rose Garden and National Mall for Republican Convention activities for his re-election campaign. Those are federal properties that belong to all the people in this nation, not a handful of Republicans who daily evince less respect for and increasing abuse of the laws we are all expected to follow.

The Hatch Act prohibits exactly these kinds of activities where federal employees use their official positions and assets for political purposes. Yet, we have surreal spectacle of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, having used government resources and being paid to fly to Jerusalem on government “business” giving a speech for Trump that is nationally-broadcast as part of the Republican National Convention.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new for the corrupt and lawless Trump administration. It doesn’t take a long memory to recall Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner proclaiming that the national stockpile of emergency medical equipment was “ours” — not for use by the states — during the early days of the on-going pandemic. This view of who owns and gets to abuse public resources is endemic in the Trump administration. And as he has done his entire life through more than 3,500 lawsuits, Trump and his corrupt cronies’ response is always the same “sue us.”

Even worse, last week the White House announced it was creating a “very large dossier” on a Washington Post reporter who had the gall to research and report on $900,000 the federal government has now spent on Trump properties. Mind you, this is the White House attacking the press, not the Trump campaign — and the White House belongs to all the citizens of this country, not Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, Trump’s blatant disregard for legal and ethical boundaries has set the example for Montana’s Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to likewise use public resources for partisan political purposes. In his latest blunder in the public positions he has occupied, Stapleton continues to defend a slimy ploy whereby the Republican Party paid signature gatherers to put the Green Party on the ballot to draw voters from Democrats. When the Green Party denied having any role in the signature gathering, and those who had been deceived by the Republicans’ perfidy asked to remove their names, Stapleton refused to do so.

Then the District Court ruled against him. So he took the issue to the Montana Supreme Court, squandering yet more public dollars for a partisan political scam. He lost there, too. And now he has filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — all while being paid by Montanans’ taxpayer dollars regardless of their political affiliation. Stapleton’s squalid performance in office was documented by a stunning Billings Gazette editorial last week that concluded “he is unfit for any office.”

The outcome of the egregious misuse of public government resources leads to one inescapable conclusion: The governed will begin to widely distrust its own government, never knowing if they are receiving the truth or a partisan political ploy. And that, fellow citizens, is very bad medicine for our democracy.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.