Bush policies questioned

A watchdog group has charged the Bush administration and conservative allies with trying to limit the free speech and advocacy of some nonprofits.

Targets of the crackdown include many nonprofits involved with reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, international development or other issues at odds with the administration, says OMB Watch in Washington, D.C.

In a new paper, OMB Watch cites examples of several proposals or actions against a small number of nonprofits that, taken together, suggest a disturbing trend.

In May, for example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Head Start grantees implying that, because they receive federal funds, they could not lobby against the Bush-backed Head Start bill.

The bill, criticized by Head Start advocates but narrowly approved by the U.S. House on July 25, makes several significant changes to the Head Start program, such as allowing several states to take control of their local programs.

The National Head Start Association won a lawsuit in early July that forced the Department of Health and Human Services to send a new letter to Head Start grantees that does not say they cannot lobby.

Based on its analysis of that and similar incidents, OMB Watch says “the Bush administration and some conservatives appear to be moving towards closing off debate on important issues, from the structure of the social safety net, involving programs like Head Start and education for disabled children, to health and safety regulation, impacting how scientific research and knowledge is used by government.”

“It is to be expected that a president will push his or her policy agenda and use the tools at hand to do so,” the OMB Watch paper says.  “However, it is not appropriate for a president to attempt to silence those that disagree with him.”

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