Amid fresh allegations, GSA administrator ‘invited’ to testify

GSA’s inspector general has referred one allegation to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for investigation under the Hatch Act

General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan has been “invited” to appear before a House committee following allegations that she used her government position to help Republican political candidates.

Federal law bars executive branch officials from engaging in partisan politics while on official government duty. The charge is also being reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the GSA administrator to answer the allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct at a March 20 hearing.

In a 15-page letter to Doan, a Republican political appointee, Waxman described a nationwide teleconference on Jan. 26 at GSA headquarters. According to Waxman, Doan convened senior staff members and about 40 GSA political appointees to determine how to advance Republican candidates. The group also met to hear from J. Scott Jennings, special assistant to the president and deputy director of political affairs at the White House, and John Horton, GSA’s White House liaison, about national polling data from the November 2006 midterm elections, the letter said.

During the teleconference, a regional administrator suggested blocking Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from attending the opening of an environmentally efficient courthouse in San Francisco, which is Pelosi’s home district.

“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 wrote.

GSA’s Office of the Inspector General has referred the matter to OSC for investigation under the Hatch Act, according to the letter. The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty, in official government workspace or with government equipment.

Doan said she is ready to bring her case to the committee. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to set the record straight and provide a full and complete record to Congressman Waxman and the committee and refute these scurrilous allegations,” Doan wrote in a March 6 e-mail message.

“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,” she wrote.

The committee’s investigation uncovered several other problem areas. Waxman contends that Doan intervened on behalf of Sun Microsystems in August 2006 in the middle of an information technology contract renewal dispute with GSA. She also faces allegations that she gave a $20,000 sole-source contract to a personal friend’s public affairs firm. GSA said it terminated the contract before any money was exchanged.

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