The OSC is headed by a presidential appointee with a five-year term named Scott J. Bloch. That he has been somnolent in this job is beyond dispute. That he has been positively active in sabotaging investigations that might annoy the Bush administration has been repeatedly alleged, and has even led to a formal complaint charging sabotage of investigations and retaliation against those who sought to pursue them.
Thus, it's a shock to discover the news that the OSC is launching a “high-profile inquiry” into Karl Rove and others — indeed into a number of the scandals that are currently being investigated by Henry Waxman and others in Congress.
One's first reaction might to think, “about time”.
I wonder, though, if one might think again.
As the LA Times notes,
The 106-person Office of Special Counsel has never conducted such a broad and high-profile inquiry in its history. One of its primary missions has been to enforce the Hatch Act, a law enacted in 1939 to preserve the integrity of the civil service.
Back in 2005, the Government Accountability Project was noting serious problems in Bloch's OSC including,
a torrent of criticism over wholesale dismissal of hundreds of whistleblower cases, gag orders he has issued to his own staff, a wave of forced resignations as part of an ill-fated effort to open a Mid-Western Field Office in Detroit, and cronyism in his hiring practices.
I wonder if the purpose of this move isn't to insulate Rove and others. Now, they have an excuse not to answer any questions. If Congress calls, they all take the 5th — “Would love to talk but I'm being investigated by the OSC.” Ditto for the White House press office — “we never comment on pending investigations” (afterwards they say, “we already dealt with that,” but I'm getting ahead of myself).
Is it too paranoid to expect a memo saying that they failed to prove anything beyond reasonable doubt — in Dec 2008? Or maybe just before the Nov 2008 election? After all, the OSC has a record of just closing cases without review in order to be able to report a lower number of backlogged cases.
So far, everything about this administration has been worse than anyone might reasonably have expected. Why should this be any different?
I can see Rove chuckling now, 'Please OSC, don't throw me in that briar patch!'