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Witnesses say GSA chief mixed politics, work

Old 03-28-07, 03:26 PM
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Witnesses say GSA chief mixed politics, work

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...&feed=rss.news



Witnesses have told congressional investigators that the chief of the General Services Administration and a deputy in Karl Rove's political affairs office at the White House joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates.

With GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan and up to 40 regional administrators on hand, J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, gave a presentation on Jan. 26 of polling data about the 2006 elections.

When Jennings concluded his presentation to the GSA appointees, Doan allegedly asked them how they could "help 'our candidates' in the next elections," according to a March 6 letter to Doan from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman said in the letter that one method suggested was using "targeted public events, such as the opening of federal facilities around the country."

On Wednesday, Doan is scheduled to appear before Waxman's committee to answer questions about the videoconference and other issues. The committee is investigating whether remarks made during the videoconference violated a federal law that restricts executive-branch employees from using their positions for political purposes.

Waxman said in the letter that the remarks made during the videoconference have been confirmed by "multiple sources." Congressional investigators have taken statements from GSA employees and others in recent weeks.

The planned hearing is part of an expanding examination by Waxman's committee of Doan's tumultuous 10-month tenure as administrator of the GSA, which handles about $56 billion worth of federal contracts annually.

The committee is also expected to question Doan about her attempt to give a no-bid job to a friend and professional associate last summer. In addition, the committee plans to look at Waxman's charge that Doan "intervened" in a troubled contract with Sun Microsystems of Santa Clara that could cost taxpayers millions more than necessary. In the Senate, Doan is facing similar questioning from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa. In recent statements, Doan has said she did nothing wrong. Doan, a wealthy former government contractor who sold her company before taking over the GSA last May, said her troubles are the result of retaliation by the GSA's inspector general over her efforts to rein in the agency's budget.

"Ever since I made the decision to restore fiscal discipline to all divisions within GSA, I have had to face a series of personal attacks and charges," Doan said March 7.

Waxman's investigation began in response to a Jan. 19 story in the Washington Post about a no-bid job Doan tried to give to firms run by Edie Fraser, a veteran Washington public relations executive who had served as a consultant to Doan. Waxman's investigators concluded that the two women had "a long-standing business relationship" that was not "previously disclosed," according to his letter.

Between 2003 and 2005, Fraser billed Doan as much as $20,000 a month in consulting fees to "generally promote attributes" of Doan and her company, New Technology Management Inc., according to invoices obtained by the Post. In all, Doan paid at least $417,500 to companies affiliated with Fraser before Doan took over the GSA, according to Waxman's investigators.

On July 25, two months after Doan took office, she took the unusual step of personally signing the no-bid arrangement with Diversity Best Practices and Business Women's Network, firms then run by Fraser, to produce a report about GSA's use of businesses owned by minorities or women. The GSA's general counsel at the time, Alan Swendiman, told Waxman's investigators he was "alarmed" that the project was not competitively bid.

Last month, in a letter to Waxman's committee, a senior GSA official called the no-bid arrangement a "procedural mistake." Doan told the Post that she submitted a service order for the work through normal GSA contracting channels and did not focus on it afterward.

But Swendiman, now a special assistant to President Bush, told Waxman's investigators that he advised Doan to terminate the arrangement. When he was unable to persuade her, Swendiman directed a GSA contracting officer to terminate it.

The committee's examination of the Jan. 26 videoconference could raise questions about the role of Jennings, the White House official who works for Rove.

After Jennings and Doan spoke during the videoconference, one regional GSA administrator offered the suggestion that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, could be excluded from the opening of a federal courthouse in San Francisco, which Pelosi represents, according to Waxman's letter. GSA manages the nation's federal courthouses.

The letter cited evidence that Doan then raised questions about "the upcoming opening of a courthouse in Florida," based on statements from participants in the videoconference.

"It would be an obvious abuse if you suggested to agency officials that the activities of the agency be manipulated to provide political advantages to Republican candidates," Waxman told her in the letter.
I heard sound bites of Doan today, from her testimony where she had no defense for this teleconference, other than that she attended it, but didn't run it. Amazing stuff. As soon as I find it I'll post it.

Basically, Rove hijacked the GSA to see how it could help him in the 2008 elections. This could be viewed as a violation of the Hatch Act.

But I'm sure this is one more crime he'll get away with.
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Old 03-28-07, 03:50 PM
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Kind of reminds one of Al Gore soliciting campaign funds in a government building when he was VP.
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Old 03-28-07, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Kind of reminds one of Al Gore soliciting campaign funds in a government building when he was VP.
Yeah, because that compares to subverting an entire government agency.

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Old 03-28-07, 04:06 PM
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It was merely a violation of at least one campaign finance law - probably two.

And, it was obviously a violation of the Hatch Act.

A little consistency never hurt anyone. Try it sometimes.
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Old 03-28-07, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
It was merely a violation of at least one campaign finance law - probably two.

And, it was obviously a violation of the Hatch Act.

A little consistency never hurt anyone. Try it sometimes.
You first!

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