The Department of Health's commercial director has donated thousands of dollars to George Bush's Republican party over the past four years, HSJ can reveal.

American R Channing Wheeler, who was appointed last May to head the DoH's commercial directorate, is understood to be a staunch Republican supporter, and in the past four years has donated $11,600 (£5,500) to help fund both its presidential and congressional election campaigns (see list below).

His most recent donation was made last January to outspoken senator John McCain, to help fund his 2008 presidential campaign.

Last week Labour MP and former health secretary Frank Dobson tabled a parliamentary question asking the government to spell out the rules governing donations by senior civil servants to political parties in foreign countries.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said civil servants were 'required to conduct themselves in accordance with the Civil Service Code and the Civil Service Management Code', which she said included requirements relating to their involvement in political activities.

The code says civil servants must 'not act in a way that is determined by party political considerations' and must 'comply with any restrictions that have been laid down on your political activities'. However, it does not have specific rules governing civil servant donations to foreign political parties.

Questioned about Mr Wheeler's donations to the Republican party, a DoH spokeswoman said he had not 'engaged in any political activities which are inconsistent with his role as a senior civil servant'.

Mr Wheeler, a former US healthcare executive, was appointed earlier this year to replace Ken Anderson, who in December 2006 moved to investment bank UBS.

Channing Wheeler's donations

  • 2007: $1,000 to Senator John McCain - Republican

  • 2005: $2,100 to Christopher Shays for Congress committee - Republican

  • 2004: $1,500 to the National Republican senatorial committee

  • 2003: $7,000 to George Bush-Dick Cheney presidential campaign/US national senatorial committee