updated 4/6/2004 8:22:58 PM ET 2004-04-07T00:22:58

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is looking into the agency’s decision to analyze the tax proposals of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

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“We’re going to do a preliminary inquiry into what was produced,” Richard Delmar, counsel in the Office of Inspector General, said Tuesday.

“We’re trying to determine the facts of what happened,” Delmar said. “Depending on the facts we learn, something else may happen or not,” he said.

The inquiry will look into allegations first reported by The Wall Street Journal that civil servants were used to calculate the costs of Kerry’s tax plan, Delmar said. Federal law bars civil servants from working on political campaigns while on duty.

The department posted the analysis of Kerry’s tax plan on its Web site March 22.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, did not comment on the inspector general’s decision to look into the analysis of Kerry’s tax plan, but he defended the agency’s action in a statement.

“It is proper for the for the Treasury Department to analyze tax proposals so that members of Congress and the administration can be informed,” Nichols said.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, had requested that the Treasury Department conduct the cost analysis.

The department’s analysis of Kerry’s plan ignited criticism from some Democrats, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who wanted its inspector general to determine whether any laws were broken.

“This ‘preliminary inquiry’ should be a full-blown investigation into whether or not administration officials violated laws by using federal property and taxpayer dollars to finance the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign,” Lautenberg said Tuesday.

Kerry’s campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, welcomed the inquiry. “The use of government employees to analyze John Kerry’s economic plan is an illegal use of resources,” she said.

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