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Union charges Bush campaign violates Hatch Act

The Washington Post reports: Military and civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque received an unusual e-mail inviting them to attend an Aug. 26 campaign rally for President Bush.

"The White House has extended an invitation to TEAM KIRTLAND to attend President Bush's speech downtown at the Convention Center," read the message, sent by Deborah Mercurio, the director of public affairs for the 377th Air Base Wing. "Doors open at 12:00 p.m. and no one is to arrive later than 2:00 p.m. For those interested, please stop by the Wing PA office for tickets." ...

To federal employee unions, it represented the latest attempt by the Bush administration and its supporters to transform what is supposed to be a politically neutral federal bureaucracy into an arm of the president's reelection campaign. Bush spent the day touting his record in three cities across the battleground state, which he lost by 366 votes four years ago. ...

At the same time, federal bosses have tried to restrict their employees from volunteering on their own time for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry and issued guidelines on campaigning on federal property that favor Bush, the administration's critics say. ...

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy dismissed as unfounded the union's allegations that officials have trampled the spirit -- and at times the letter -- of the Hatch Act, a decades-old law that restricts partisan political activities in the federal workplace. -- Partisan Politics at Work Criticized (washingtonpost.com)