WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department seemed to weigh in on the ongoing fight between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry over taxes when it issued a news release detailing how much the Massachusetts senator's proposals might cost.
The release did not name Kerry, but it described in detail how much his programs would cost "hard-working individuals and married couples." Its estimates ranged from $201 billion to $476 billion, depending on what would be changed.
The Kerry campaign blasted the release, calling it a violation of the Hatch Act, which bars most government employees from participating in partisan politics while on the job.
"Whether it's using Treasury officials to analyze John Kerry's plan to create 10 million jobs or CIA officials to help smear Richard Clarke, this White House is the most political White House the nation has ever seen," spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement.
"They will say and do anything to get reelected."
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the agency, defended the analysis, saying that it was requested by House majority leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, and that the department often scores legislative proposals. "This is so that policy makers, as they engage in a debate on changes in the tax code, will have facts at their disposal," he said.
Nevertheless, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, asked the Treasury's inspector general yesterday to look into the matter.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said she had another idea. She wants the Treasury Department to do an analysis of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which that Democrats have been requesting for months.