Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Former special counsel Bloch sues Rove, Davis and others for $202 million

Some might have thought the endless legal battles between former Office of Special Counsel chief Scott Bloch and officials in the George W. Bush administration ended when he was finally sentenced in March to one month in prison for contempt of Congress.

Not by a long — very long — shot.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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Bloch, who was appointed by President Bush to head an agency that protects government whistleblowers and enforces the law against political activity in government agencies, has filed a 63-page, $202 million lawsuit against top Bush adviser Karl Rove, former Virginia congressman Tom Davis and dozens of others for allegedly trying to thwart his office’s efforts. When they failed, he claims, they launched a bogus criminal investigation to drive him out of his job.

The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) suit, which Bloch and his wife filed pro se, meaning as their own attorneys, last month in Fairfax County Circuit Court, also names other officials as defendants, including Lurita Doan, who was forced from her job as General Services Administration chief amidst allegations of political activity (which Bloch investigated) at her agency, and Clay Johnson, former deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Bloch, now a lawyer here, also included some private groups that protect whistleblowers, such as the Government Accountability Project (GAP) , Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

Those groups had called for an investigation of Bloch for allegedly retaliating against employees and for improperly dismissing whistleblower cases. (Since the OSC couldn’t investigate itself, Johnson in 2005 asked the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general to investigate. Bloch says that it was former White House counsel Harriet Miers who ordered Johnson to bring in the IG, but, oddly, she’s not a named defendant.)

The OPM notified PEER last week that “the investigation [of Bloch] is still in an open status” and “we are withholding documents related to it from release.” No word as to how many more years the investigation will take.

Bloch, in late 2006, famously called Geeks on Call to conduct a “seven-level” scrub of his office computer’s hard drive and the laptops used by his top deputies. That operation, which Bloch said was needed to deal with a computer virus, makes any data retrieval virtually impossible. As part of his guilty plea last year, he admitted that he didn’t tell congressional staff that he knew the procedure would wipe most everything out.

In the suit, spotted by Courthouse News Service, Bloch accuses the defendants of a stunning array of misdeeds, including conspiring to “violate civil an [sic] constitutional rights” by “selective and vindictive investigation and threatened prosecution and wilfull [sic] subornation of perjury and tampering [with] grand jury proceedings” as well as “intentional and negligent infliction of mental and emotional distress” and for violating his rights to “Free Speech, Petition of Congress, Freedom of Religion,” among other rights, and for defamation, slander and libel.

There is, on Page 23, a tantalizing tale of an unnamed White House “emissary from the West Wing” who, in March 2006, tells Bloch that they “wanted him to leave his job,” and if he did, the IG investigation “would likely fade away.” In addition, Bloch says, the “emissary knew of several large law firms” who could get him a “good job,” and said that Bloch might later be in line for a judgeship “either on the federal circuit or the federal court of claims.” Bloch said he refused.

All of this untoward activity, Bloch says, adds up to $100 million in damages, another $100 million in punitive damages and a couple of million for “economic and out of pocket” losses as a result of defending himself.

Now, if you haven’t been mentioned as a defendant, don’t feel you’re off the hook. Bloch is also suing “other unknown persons, and agents of OPM and OSC.” In the meantime, Bloch is appealing his one-month sentence.

Fast train coming

Loop Fans in this area owe a hearty thank-you to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) for turning down that high-speed rail money for his state so that $800 million could go to the Northeast Corridor.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told us Monday that once all the investments are made, we’re looking at 30 to 45 minutes shaved off the time it takes to go from Union Station to New York City. “That’s the goal,” LaHood said, “within the next three to five years.”

That would mean Acela trains could make the trip in just about two hours. Amtrak had better start ordering some extra cars.

All I got was this T-shirt

When the Department of Housing and Urban Development ranked 24th out of 31 agencies in the 2009 Partnership for Public Service employee satisfaction survey, officials were concerned.

Last fall, after HUD tied for dead last, the top brass decided to act. So in late March they launched, in addition to ice cream socials, the “I Believe in HUD” campaign to improve morale.

The campaign, a spokesman said in an e-mail, will include video testimonials and posters of employees talking about why they believe in HUD, as well as YouTube and Facebook outreach. “The response to this morale campaign has been exceptional,” the spokesman added. So look for HUD’s rating to skyrocket in this year’s survey.

There’s even an online store, where you can order fantastic HUD stuff to show your commitment. There’s the usual array of baby and kid merchandise — bibs, sweatshirts and hoodies — as well as a HUD trucker hat. There are also the usual mugs, bumper stickers, and water bottles as well as a license plate frame, wall clocks and tote bags. (There’s a snappy-looking iPad case, but it’s $32.99.)

HUD set up the online shop, but the spokesman said it will make no profit from the sales.

Our favorite is the “I believe in HUD” yard sign, which is only $14.99. Trouble is, the price doesn’t include the cement and anchorings you’ll need to guard against people coming across your lawn to steal this beauty.

Follow In the Loop on Twitter: @AlKamenWP.

 
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