GSA Head Tells House Panel She Has No Political Agenda
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The chief of the General Services Administration told a House oversight panel yesterday that she has sought no "personal or partisan political gain" during her leadership of the government's primary contracting agency.
Lurita Alexis Doan, the GSA administrator, made her second appearance this spring before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is examining allegations that she violated the Hatch Act by asking political appointees how they could "help our candidates" during a Jan. 26 briefing at the agency by a White House official.
Doan testified that she did not recall the remark. But she asserted that she operates her agency without regard for political concerns.
"I'm not engaged in partisan political activities," she told lawmakers. "And I have haven't directed anyone to do anything."
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) was unconvinced. Citing allegations about her leadership of the GSA, including the approval of a $20,000, no-bid arrangement last July with a business run by a friend, Waxman said he believed Doan could no longer be effective.
"I don't see any other course of action that will protect the interests of your agency and the federal taxpayer," Waxman said. "I would urge you to resign."
The Office of Special Counsel concluded that the remarks Doan allegedly made at the Jan. 26 briefing violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits employees of federal agencies from using their positions for political purposes. In a June 8 letter, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch urged President Bush to discipline Doan "to the fullest extent." The president can take a range of actions, from rejecting the recommendations to dismissing Doan.
Waxman asked Doan to appear before the committee yesterday to testify about allegations that she made misleading and false statements to the special counsel's office during the investigation.
Doan had told investigators that several political appointees who had confirmed reports about her remarks were poor performers, according to a report by the special counsel's office. She said "there is not a single one of those who did not have somewhere in between a poor to totally inferior performance," an assertion that investigators found to be incorrect, according to the special counsel's report.
Doan said her remarks were made after investigators "asked me to speculate."
"Was I wrong to speculate? Absolutely. I should not have done this," she said. "I did it because I was trying to be compliant, and I thought that it was going to be fully confidential, but I regret doing it."
The hearing often devolved into partisan bickering. Democrats on the panel accused her several times of shading the truth.
Democrats released a May 2005 e-mail in which Doan -- then aspiring to be administrator of the Small Business Administration -- pledged to use the post to help the Republican Party. "As the SBA Administrator, I would have an unparalleled ability to serve as an articulate and passionate ambassador for the President's Agenda and at the same time be in a position to encourage both funding and votes to the GOP," Doan said in the e-mail.
Doan testified that she wrote the e-mail as a private citizen, before she fully understood her responsibilities as an agency leader or the details of the Hatch Act.
In response to questions, Doan declined to say whether the Jan. 26 briefing was appropriate for her agency. But she said she has established a policy requiring any briefing proposals be reviewed before they are presented at the agency.
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) said Doan was the target of a political agenda by Democrats. "First of all, you're a Republican, a minority, a woman, a GOP contributor," Mica said. "And they're circling around you to come after you."
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), ranking Republican on the committee, expressed exasperation at the hearing. He said the special counsel's office had "shoddy evidentiary support" for its conclusions and had failed to prove Doan violated the Hatch Act. "Today's hearing is a gross misuse of Committee resources," Davis said, reading a prepared statement. "It is a farce premised on a sham."