Doan: Details of controversial lunch meeting unclear

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The day the White House made a presentation listing 20 Democrats to target in 2008 at a brown-bag lunch at the General Services Administration was a busy one for GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, she said, explaining to a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee why she cannot recall the details of the meeting.

The Jan. 26 luncheon at which White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings gave a PowerPoint presentation led to allegations that Doan and others violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activities using government equipment or on government time. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is reviewing the issue.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said GSA’s top political appointees gathered at the meeting to find ways to help Republican candidates in next year’s election. And this was done in a federal building during working hours at taxpayers’ expense, he added.

“This appears to be a textbook example of what should never happen at a federal agency,” Waxman said. “You can’t engage in partisan political activity on government time.”

Doan told Waxman she had been busy the day of the luncheon and could not remember many of the meeting’s details.

“I really, truly don’t remember the presentation,” Doan said.

Doan said in her testimony that meetings were held with GSA’s political appointees once a month for team-building purposes. She said she did not set the Jan. 26 meeting’s agenda or review it beforehand.
Committee Democrats did not believe it.

“Your own testimony has been very damning,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).

GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said his office did its duty in sending the possible violation to OSC.

The committee called Doan to answer other allegations, too. It wants to know more about a $20,000 contract Doan reportedly tried to award to a longtime friend. GSA terminated the contract before it was awarded. The committee also wants to investigate Doan’s alleged improper interaction with a contract award to Sun Microsystems and problems with the GSA IG.

After the hearing, Doan called it a fishing expedition.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), committee ranking member, said the allegations are baseless.

“Sadly, this hearing represents the fullest expression yet of the modus operandi adopted by the committee’s new majority,” he said.

Doan said her struggles with the agency’s IG boil down to money and proper oversight, which are the two issues that brought her before the committee.

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