WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department (search) directed career employees to analyze tax ideas proposed by presidential candidate John Kerry (search) and other Democrats after a request from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), R-Texas, officials said Wednesday.
The Republican National Committee (search) posted an interactive feature on its Web site that attaches the largest of those cost estimates to Kerry's plan to raise taxes paid by the wealthiest taxpayers.
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan (search) said he was not aware of anyone at the White House approving the Treasury's decision to analyze Kerry's tax plan.
Although federal law prohibits civil servants from working on political campaigns while on duty, Treasury Department attorneys concluded the work was appropriate, Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said.
"That's a core functionality of the department," Nichols said. "Doing the analysis is proper, it's prudent, it's appropriate. It's our obligation to do it."
The Treasury Department posted the analysis on its Web site March 22, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
DeLay requested the cost analysis to better counter Democratic attempts to amend budget and tax legislation with tax increases on higher-income taxpayers, DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said. A group of Republicans had also considered using the results to assemble a "Kerry budget" for debate during last week's budget deliberations, he said.
"If you get a specific number on what those proposals actually bring in, then you can hold the Democrats accountable for their spending," Roy said.
The Office of Special Counsel advises that federal employees cannot "use official authority or influence to interfere with an election" or "engage in political activity while on duty." The office is an independent agency charged with investigating and prosecuting violations of federal personnel laws.
The Treasury Department analyzed the effect of three tax increases on individuals and couples who earn $200,000 or more. Kerry has pledged to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for those earning $200,000 or more.
The first would repeal a tax cut that reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 36 percent. The second would repeal dividend and capital gains tax cuts for taxpayers earning $200,000 or more. The third would prevent taxpayers earning $200,000 or more from claiming full personal exemptions and itemized deductions.
The analysis concluded that "hardworking individuals and married couples could have their taxes raised" by amounts that ranged from $201 billion to $477 billion.
The RNC's "John Kerry Spendometer" states on its Web site: "Tax Plan: $658 billion over 10 years! Raising taxes on the top income bracket: $477 billion over 10 years."