Review of the Propriety of White House and Executive Agency Expenditures for Selected Travel, Entertainment and Personnel Costs

FGMSD-81-12: Published: Oct 20, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1980.

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GAO reviewed selected expenditures of the White House and other Federal agencies to determine if appropriated funds are being used improperly to advance the political candidacy of the incumbent President. The review concentrated on: (1) the policies and procedures for handling travel and entertainment by the White House and Federal agency officials; (2) whether specific events were improperly charged to appropriated funds; (3) the guidelines provided to Federal agencies; and (4) the allocation of personnel and overtime costs for entertainment.

GAO found that, starting prior to the primary and general election campaign periods, the White House counsel issued a series of written guidelines. The guidelines provide that: (1) the costs of campaign-related or other political travel by Administration officials may not be paid from appropriated funds, nor may Government credit be used for this purpose; and (2) only those Administration officials who are not "hatched" may engage in campaign or other political activity. During the primary period, the applicable law and regulations did not provide a specific method for allocating the costs of mixed official and political travel by individuals other than candidates. They did not then, nor do they now, suggest a precise definition for distinguishing between official and political functions. The guidelines deal primarily with travel and related expenses incurred by Cabinet members and other agency officials. The agencies are cautioned not to use appropriated funds or other Government resources for political purposes, and they are advised of factors to be considered in determining whether an activity is official. Formulas are also provided for allocating the cost of trips combining both official and political activities between appropriated and campaign funds. The accounting procedures used by the White House for events paid from other than appropriated funds provide not only for the allocation of direct costs including overtime, but also for overhead items such as utilities, glasses, linen, and associated labor.

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