For NASA Administrator, This Mission Is a Tad Personal

NASA chief Michael Griffin would be
NASA chief Michael Griffin would be "honored" to be asked to stay on in the new administration, his spokesman said. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Monday, January 5, 2009

Democrats, as would be expected, are lobbying intensely for senior jobs in the new administration. It's a bit more unusual to see top Bush administration officials lobbying to keep their jobs.

But that appears to be the case with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin.

Just before the election, Griffin sent a letter to Barack Obama saying he was "deeply grateful to you, personally, for your leadership" on the vote to allow NASA's use of Russian spaceships, the Associated Press reported. And last week NASA sent out priority mail packages, at $6.75 apiece, containing copies of a new agency book titled "Leadership in Space: Selected Speeches of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, May 2005-October 2008."

And there's an online drive, launched by a former NASA official, asking for people to petition Obama to consider keeping Griffin at the agency. Griffin's wife, Rebecca, e-mailed friends and family members asking them to sign the petition.

Griffin's press secretary, David Mould, told the Associated Press that Griffin isn't campaigning and expects the incoming president to name a new administrator. But Griffin would be "honored" to be asked to stay on, Mould said. "A lot of people seem to like and support Mike and think he's doing a good job," he said.

Hmmm. Somehow we're thinking that "a lot of people" does not include the president-elect's folks.

A Lavish Bathroom at Interior

If Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) is confirmed this month as interior secretary, he'll have a snappy, scarcely used bathroom in his fifth-floor office, thanks to Dirk Kempthorne, the outgoing secretary.

Seems Kempthorne spent about $235,000 in taxpayer funds renovating the bathroom a few months ago, which included installing a new shower, a refrigerator and a freezer and buying monogrammed towels, department officials told our colleague Derek Kravitz.

The General Services Administration approved and partially funded the project, an Interior Department official said. The GSA paid about half the cost to refurbish aging plumbing, which needed to be replaced within four years.

But department officials say much of the money was spent on lavish wood paneling and tile. Among the choice items found in the new bathroom: wainscot wood panels extending from floor to ceiling and cabinet doors revealing a working refrigerator and freezer.

"If Gale Norton needed to shower, at least she was conservative enough to go to the gym in the basement of the building," one career employee quipped, referring to Kempthorne's predecessor.

An initial investigation by the department's inspector general, Earl B. Devaney, found no wrongdoing on the secretary's part because the GSA had approved the project.

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