Doan controversy may hinder GSA spending request

Lawmakers say the lingering controversy surrounding Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, may have an impact on her agency’s funding in fiscal 2008 as lawmakers try to get answers about what happened at a political strategy meeting at GSA.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, said he will have to field tough questions from the full appropriations committee about the brown-bag lunch held Jan. 26 at GSA’s headquarters.

House members will want details and assurances that GSA will not use the appropriated dollars for “hardcore political issues on how to win elections,” Serrano said at an April 18 hearing.

This may not go away, as the appropriations bill moves through committee and to the House floor, Serrano said. He expects members to make amendments to the bill to keep GSA from holding similar meetings on government time and with government resources.

Serrano said explaining the meeting when his subcommittee proposes GSA’s funding is an intimidating prospect. “I don’t want have to convince my committee members that this is the right thing to do for GSA,” he said.

“This cloud has to be cleared out in a satisfactory way,” Serrano said.

At the monthly brown-bag lunch, political appointees at GSA discussed strategies to help Republicans in the 2008 campaign. Doan testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March about the lunch.

The Office of Special Counsel is investigating the issue and the cloud will pass when the investigation concludes, Doan told the subcommittee.

Doan defended the procurement agency, saying it was not a partisan agency.

“You have to look at what GSA does,” she said. Appropriators need to review the makeup of the funding requests. “They are structured by our government customers.”

She said the meeting was not inappropriate: It was a team-building activity for GSA political appointees. Doan said she did not set the agenda for the meeting.

GSA requested $560 million for fiscal 2008, divided generally from the Federal Building Fund, a capital investment program and annual operating expenses, according to Doan’s prepared testimony.

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