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Can Doan survive?

On Saturday, the WP followed up on the front page story on Friday about GSA administrator Lurita Doan's almost no-bid contract to a friend. The story Saturday was about the Hill getting revved up with questions. It was similar to a story FCW did on Friday about Congress starting to investigate Doan. And, of course, it was the Buzz of the Week for the week.

It is fascinating to see how people react to these kinds of things. The outside world is outranged, of course. It seems so simple -- blatant corruption. A person gets a notable office and passes a contract on to a friend. One person here in our office even said, 'If that's what we find out about, what don't we know about?'

That seems just too simple to me... and for $20,000? As I re-read the story over the weekend, I just don't think it was corruption. It seems to me it was just stupid. As we mentioned in the Buzz, Doan is a person who wants to get things done. She comes from the private sector. In the private sector, that is how you do things. You know somebody who you can trust to do a good job -- in fact, a person may be a friend because they have done a good job for you in the past -- and you hire them. Done!

But as a radio journalist friend said to me this morning, "I'm not even in the government and I know you can't do that."

He even suggested that there was so much positive Doan press, that it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. I guess this just seems sad to me -- we almost don't like it when people actually succeed.

There is a larger context here. We will never know how this story made its way into the hands of WP reporter Robert O'Harrow Jr. But we can speculate that it just may have something to do with the ongoing battle between Doan and the GSA IG's office about funding of the IG. This is how Washington works, as we all know.

That also seems sad to me. We can't debate the issue of the role of the IG. Rather then having that legitimate debate, people end up bringing people down.

Doan hasn't really helped herself. In her effort to get things done, hasn't made many friends. There is still chatter about a now famous meeting she had with Gordon England, the Pentagon's number two guy, where she was apparently somewhat insulting.

I'm interested in the reactions from other people too.

One person I know and respect -- a person who is a believer in good government -- wrote me saying:

My very quick reaction -- only skimmed the story -- is: what is a story about a $20,000 contract that never got awarded doing on the front page of the Post? Is this the penalty for criticizing IG's? Are we in a new McCarthy Era in procurement?

Another person took said this:

I think the Post did her, and all of us involved in contracting, a disservice by making it page one news. Simply put, you don't make anyone wealthy by handing them out one shot 20K deals. That's not enough money for anyone ... to get too worked up over. Plus, they never did get the 20K deal anyway.

Tying this small news story to someone convicted of lying to federal investigators was irresponsible of the Post. The two stories are not really alike. In one, someone willfully misled and lied to federal authorities and tried to cover up something wrong. In this one, a person new to government made a simple mistake, one that looks bad to the uninitiated, but upon further review holds less than perhaps originally thought.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will not quote you by name if that's what you request. I'm more curious about what people think. E-mail me at cdorobek at fcw.com.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jan 22, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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