Doing Business

Lurita Alexis Doan, Chief Administrator of the General Services Administration, says on the GSA web site that she hopes to meet “President Bush’s challenge for all federal agencies to find new and smarter ways to do business.”

That business is, apparently, electing Republicans.

Scott Higham and Robert O’Harrow Jr. write in today’s Washington Post:

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 PowerPoint presentation on Jan. 26 of polling data about the 2006 elections.

When Jennings concluded his presentation to the GSA political 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 A. Waxman (D-Calif.), 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.”

Doan is scheduled to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Doan and others may have violated the Hatch Act, which forbids executive-branch employees from using their positions for partisan political purposes.

(That’s Henry Waxman’s committee, the same one that heard the testimony of Valerie Plame. I just wanted to point that out to underscore why it was so important to elect a Democratic majority to Congress in the midterms. It wasn’t because Democrats are perfect, because they aren’t, but turning control of committees over to Democrats makes investigation of the Bush Regime possible.)

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. The government’s leading procurement agency annually handles about $56 billion worth of federal contracts.

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 technology contract with Sun Microsystems that could cost taxpayers millions more than necessary.

Ah, yes. Bushies and cronyism. Together forever.

In the Senate, Doan is facing a similar line of questioning in letters from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Also examining Doan are the GSA’s Office of Inspector General and the independent federal Office of Special Counsel, which investigates allegations of Hatch Act violations.

In several recent statements, Doan has said she did nothing wrong. She said her troubles are the result of retaliation by the inspector general over her efforts to rein in spending and balance the GSA budget. Doan, a wealthy former government contractor who sold her company before taking over the GSA last May, has hired three law firms and two media relations companies at her own expense to handle inquiries from the federal investigators and the news media.

“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 in a March 7 statement.

Readers of the rightie e-rag Townhall are being told that Doan has been targeted by Waxman’s Witch Hunt because she dared to cut spending — you know that liberals are pro-spending — and because Doan canceled a $20,000 contract intended to “promote diversity.” The WaPo story mentions the contract and provides some information Townhall leaves out —

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 R. Swendiman, told Waxman’s investigators he was “alarmed” that the project was not competitively bid.

“Fraser” is Edie Fraser, a Washington public relations executive with whom Doan has had a long business relationship and who helped Doan get the plum GSA position. It appears the contract was a quid pro quo.

The GSA general counsel “immediately and repeatedly” advised Doan to terminate the contract. When Doan refused, the general counsel directed another GSA official to do the terminating. Somehow these little details escaped the attention of Townhall.

The J. Scott Jennings, the “deputy in Karl Rove’s political affairs office” mentioned above, was also instrumental in getting one of Rove’s aides, Tim Griffin, a U.S. Attorney job. Among the items discussed during the videoconference were how they could keep Nancy Pelosi from attending the opening of a new courthouse in her district.

Karl Rove and various Republican politicians apparently pushed U.S. attorneys to manufacture charges against Democrats to help Republicans win elections. And now this. What do you want to bet that similar shenanigans are going on in several other federal agencies?

Pass the popcorn.

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