Republicans seem a bit investigation-shy these days, don’t they? Well, as you might remember from election season, that wasn’t always the case. During Bill Clinton’s administration, House Republicans even called for an inquiry into Socks, the First Cat.
Socks was a fairly normal cat, and by most accounts, he seemed to be a good and cute boy. Adopted by Chelsea Clinton as a lost kitten, he enjoyed the things that most cats do: catnip (which press photographers used to lure him closer on the White House lawn), skulking around the grounds, and loathing his canine counterpart, Buddy the dog.
So what was Socks’s crime? For Indiana GOP representative Dan Burton, Socks himself wasn’t the issue. The problem was that constituents liked Socks so much, in fact, that they were sending him mail. Of course, since most of the letter writers were children, the White House would respond from Socks.
And Burton wanted to know why taxpayers were fronting Socks’s postage.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter he sent to the Clintons:
As a member of the new Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, I would like to inquire what the standard practice is for the White House to respond to mail directed to ‘Socks,’ your cat. How many of these inquiries were responded to over the past two years? Who pays for the postage? If it comes out of the White House mail budget, why are the taxpayers being made to pay for your feline’s fan club?
Seems like a lot!
Burton also suggested that the Clintons follow the precedent of Barbara Bush, who wrote a White House book from the perspective of her dog Millie, then donated proceeds to pay for the cost of Millie’s personal correspondence.
Hillary Clinton did, in fact, compile a book of letters written to Socks and Buddy in 1998. However, proceeds from Dear Socks, Dear Buddy were donated to the National Park Foundation.
In the end, of course, nothing came of Burton’s inquiry. A completely unaware Socks got off scot-free and a lot of delighted kids received taxpayer-funded letters from their favorite cat.
Incidentally, an Arizona newspaper study ranked Burton the fifth-biggest user of free Congressional mail in 2007, which many considered to be abusing the privilege.
As far as we know, Socks the cat who was enjoying an idyllic Chesapeake Bay retirement at the time did not inquire into Burton’s $190,000 expenses.