This Time It's Not a Metaphor

Two federal bureaucrats have been snared in their own red tape.

The Department of Veterans Affairs workers were arrested in Murfreesboro, Tenn., this week and charged with taking kickbacks on the purchase of -- we are not making this up -- red tape.

The red tape, far from the familiar shorthand for cumbersome bureaucracy, was the real article, and was sold to the government for $6.95 a roll, a steep markup from the $2.50 normal price.

Joseph Haymond and Natalie Coker allegedly received kickbacks of $1 per roll when making purchases for the VA Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy in Murfreesboro between 1999 and 2001, the Associated Press reported. Haymond is the director of the pharmacy, which mails prescription medications to veterans. Coker was the assistant director of the program at the time.

The red tape, stamped with the word "security," is supposed to be used to deter tampering, according to the criminal complaint.

"The kickback scheme described in the complaint gives new meaning to criticisms of governmental red tape," U.S. Attorney James K. Vines said. "It is troubling when those who are charged with serving our nation's veterans choose to profit at their expense."

The VA Office of Inspector General and the FBI conducted the investigation that led to Tuesday's arrests.

Haymond and Coker could face as much as 15 years in prison each if convicted.

Politics Could Be Hazardous to Job

A lawyer with the Small Business Administration could soon be fired for violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty.

Jeffrey Eisinger, a lawyer in the agency's Fresno, Calif., office, used his government computer to receive, draft or send more than 100 e-mails related to his political activism as a member of the Green Party, an administrative-law judge found this month. The e-mails, which were sent from 2001 to 2004, involved such matters as party fundraising, drafts of party platforms and the planning of the Green Party's state political convention.

The judge, part of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, granted a petition by the Office of Special Counsel seeking to remove Eisinger from federal employment. Eisinger's dismissal will become final on Dec. 22 unless he petitions the full board to review his case.

Eisinger has said that other employees in his office displayed partisanship in the workplace without penalty and has accused Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch of grandstanding in going after him.

-- Christopher Lee