Email Flap Raises Stir in USDA

Media outlet says politically tinged internal email raises questions.

Published on: Apr 10, 2012

With all the budget-cutting talk running around Washington, including the Republican-driven House budget plan that would cut at least $33 billion from USDA (though the bill will not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate), and other moves to trim agency spending, talking about future issues could cause a stir. And it has.

According to a story filed in the e-paper The Daily Caller, questions are being asked about an internal memo from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that is being called political by some observers. The Daily Caller quotes the email noting that Vilsack says that the House budget resolution hits USDA spending "in a very hard way."

INFERNAL COMMUNICATION? An internal memo from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is raising claims of "politicking" in USDA by some.
INFERNAL COMMUNICATION? An internal memo from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is raising claims of "politicking" in USDA by some.

The concerned raised is whether Vilsack is actually "campaigning" to employees and if so, would he be against the Republicans. If so, that could be violation of the Hatch Act, which bans campaign activity by federal employees. In the internal memo, Vilsack reportedly compared the House plan to Obama's suggested budget, noting the latter is more supportive.

Responding to the Caller, a USDA staffer says the Vilsack has made it "a priority to communicate regularly with employees" about the federal budget, and other actions that could impact employees' day-to-day lives.

Check out the memo link, which the Caller published. whether readers can see any political slant to the content may be in the eye of the beholder. In the memo, Vilsack notes that the Obama budget includes "a slight increase" for the agency's discretionary budget and while more than the previous year is still $3 billion below 2010 fiscal year. He also points out several points, including the implied cuts of the House budget and what they might mean for USDA.