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Three top officials of the General Services Administration (GSA) were ousted Monday in advance of an Inspector General's report documenting a lavish spending spree at a 2010 agency conference in Las Vegas.  But while White House chief of staff Jacob Lew reported that President Obama was "outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars," conservative media and Republicans like Darrell Issa claimed it was an "embarrassment" and "hypocritical" for the administration."  Of course, when Bush GSA chief Lurita Doan gave no-bid contracts to her friends and converted her agency into an appendage of the Republican Party, the GOP and its allies rushed to her defense.

As the Washington Post reported, the Obama administration "was alerted in March to the year-long investigation" and "moved swiftly to get in front of the scandal."  But the $835,000 price tag for the GSA conference, a tab which included the costs of clowns, commemorative coins and a mind reader, was too sweet an opportunity for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa to let pass.  President Obama's "chief inquisitor" issued a statement before unleashing a torrent of criticism on Twitter:

"After President Obama lectured the private sector about not wasting funds on Las Vegas conventions, it's hypocritical that such a large agency with critical management responsibilities across government would hold this luxurious conference at the height of the recession and even spend thousands on custom made coins touting the stimulus."
Of course, when it comes to hypocrisy, Darrell Issa knows what he's talking about.

As you may recall, President Bush's GSA chief Lurita Doan came under scrutiny in early 2007 for cronyism and impermissible electioneering on behalf of the Republican Party.  As the Washington Post recalled on the day of her resignation a year later in 2008:
Waxman's [House Oversight and Government Reform] committee began investigating Doan after articles in The Post revealed that she had approved a $20,000, no-bid procurement order last July with a firm run by a friend who had served as Doan's public relations consultant when she was in private business. Doan said she terminated the order after she became aware that it did not comply with contracting rules.

The committee investigation also turned up evidence that Doan may have violated the Hatch Act in January 2007 by allegedly asking political appointees how they could "help our candidates" at an agency briefing conducted by a White House official, according to several of the appointees present for the briefing.

After inquiries by the Office of Special Counsel Scott Bloch and the GSA's own Inspector General Brian Miller (the same Brian Miller who headed up the probe of Obama's appointee, Martha Johnson), Republican Senator Chuck Grassley led the criticism of Doan.  "In my oversight of the GSA, including the Sun Microsystems contract," Grassley said, "it appeared that the taxpayer was not the Agency's top concern."

But he was virtually alone among Republicans and their water carriers.  For months, the Post noted, the Bush White House "said it was considering Bloch's recommendation but made no further comment."  Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) lamented that "the administrator appears to have fallen victim to a bureaucratic culture that fears, rather than rewards, entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and bold leadership."  And no one came to her defense more forcefully than one Darrell Issa.

As Political Correction documented at length in June 2011, time and again Issa came to Doan's defense, even going so far as to list her charitable contributions as proof of her virtue.  That was hard to do with a straight face, given Doan's pathetic performance in front of his committee.  As NPR detailed in March 2007:

In her testimony, Doan preferred to emphasize her entrepreneurial efforts. But Democrats were interested in other things: a contract that she tried to award to an old friend; negotiations with Sun Microsystems, in which she became involved; and, more especially, the briefing. In January, Scott Jennings -- the top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove -- talked to GSA political appointees about the 2006 election results and the Republican goals for 2008.

In one exchange, the lead-off questioner for committee Democrats, Iowa freshman Rep. Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer, asked Doan, "Would you characterize his presentation as a purely factual presentation about the results of the 2006 election?"

Doan replied, "I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I can say I honestly don't have a recollection of the presentation at all."

(You may have a recollection of that presentation. After all, slides showing the GOP's top 20 target seats for the 2008 election were made public.)

Nevertheless, Darrell Issa, the same man who accused Valerie Plame of perjury, attacked the families of murdered Blackwater employees and accused Joe Sestak of Hatch Act violations, defended Doan as a victim.  During a March 2007 Oversight Committee hearing, Issa defended Doan.  As NPR reported:

Republicans stuck up for Doan. Darrell Issa of California noted that she has been running GSA for just eight months: "In your eight months, I think you've probably found what I found in my nearly seven years now: That this is a bureaucracy that will resist you at every point, isn't it?"

Doan's reply: "You're absolutely right."

For her part, the loyal Bushie Lurita Doan repaid the favor.  In October 2008, Doan attacked the man Issa would eventually replace.  "Most Americans have grown familiar with your lack of candor, misleading statements, and bitter partisan machinations, and certainly, your report serves as yet another example of the same ol' same ol' from Henry Waxman."  And In January 2011, Doan reemerged on the pages of Townhall to praise "Issa's Early Effect":
Congressman Darrell Issa's chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has already had an effect on Democrats in the Obama Administration, even before Issa has hosted a congressional oversight hearing. The announcement of the resignation of Josh Sharfstein, the Deputy Commissioner at Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is likely just the first of many such resignations that will occur as Executive agency leaders in the Obama Administration realize that their misguided policies can't stand up to public scrutiny...

Expect an exodus of other political appointees from other federal agencies as soon as public scrutiny reveals more Obama Administration abuses of public trust. Many Democrats have depended on operating in the dark because they know their policies are indefensible. Liberal Dems who know that their policies cannot be defended are going to leave before Issa's hawk's eye turns on their activities.

Brendan Nyhan may or may not be right that the GSA's "what happens in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas" shame could be Barack Obama's first scandal.  Either way, the Obama administration's quick action to remove Johnson and her lieutenants suggests a zero tolerance policy for wrong-doing at the nation's procurement agency.  Unfortunately for Lurita Doan and her bathwater drinker Darrell Issa, the contrast with the politicized General Services Administration under George W. Bush should become sharper in the days to come.

* Crossposted at Perrspectives *

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Comment Preferences

  •  a mind reader and a clown (0+ / 0-)

    Walk into a bar

    What did the Mind reader say to the Spy

    I could tell you but then you'd have to kill me

    Response: If you "got it" you wouldn't be a republican

    by JML9999 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:44:19 AM PDT

  •  Time For Another Issa Investigation..... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, JML9999, Deep Texan, AllanTBG

    Now that he's done investigating Solyndra, Darrell is going to be all over this.

    After 11 investigations, subpoened witnesses & taxpayer money wasted.......Darrell came up w/ nothing on Solyndra.

    The GSA investigations will keep Darrell busy until November.  

  •  It is not so much what they do. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Corruption, especially from a hideous creature from the Black Lagoon like Issa, comes naturally to them, almost as natural as respiration and mastication. (Yo, Darrel, get your dictionary out) It is that they as so utterly shameless about doing it.

    On second thought, it is also what they do. Attack, attack, attack, deny, lie, make shit up, and attack again. Republican behavior is like a  broken record. For the many yutes populating this place, we used to have this ancient technology concocted by  this Edison dude (yes, they named your power company after him. He really did exist!) who learned how to reproduce sound without using an iPod. He used a very fine needle and initially, a wax tube. No, seriously! He graduated to a fine tin sheet fairly soon, and later, the tube was exchanged for a disc, kind of like a frisbee, but without the edges. A "broken record" simply means that the replay function was damaged because of a scratch in the surface of the data containing material, causing the replay needle to skip back to the same spot, time after time.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:50:01 AM PDT

  •  "But they did it too and got away with it" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, JML9999

    would be stronger if the two situations were more analogous.  

    Is there no evidence of lavish and unwarranted spending on government employee events during the Bush era?  Difficult to believe.  

    There's really no excuse for the excessive GSA spending on the LV conference.  Then again, I find the size, scope, and lavishness of this administration's State Dinners to be excessive.      

    •  Just to Clarify... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, Dirk McQuigley, Korkenzieher

      ...I'm  in no way defending the excesses which occurred under the just-terminated GSA officials.  Neither is the Obama administration, which rightly moved quickly to dismiss them.

      You're right that the two situations are not analagous. The politicization of the GSA under Lurita Doan was orchestrated by key players in the Bush White House. And the Republican Party and its conservative amen corner tried to defend the wrong-doing they helped perpetrate.

      •  Understood that from your diary. Was merely (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avenging Angel

        pointing out that by placing them together, you implied some sort of equivalence that's a stretch.  Both can be viewed as examples of corruption in government, but the GSA case seems more like incompetence and disregard for public dollars than manipulating the system for personal gain at some later date.

  •  Rovian imbeds (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove, myboo, notdarkyet

    Before I present that theory, it is possible that the current GSA situation was brought about by Democratic political appointees but until that is proven, I want to touch on a point Avenging Angel made about GSA, Rove,  Monica Goodling, and Scott Jennings.

    Essentially, THAT scandal showed Rove wanted to imbed operatives in each and every government agency. These imbeds were political appointees. GSA is a big agency so it is tough to police every single person.

    BTW, why is the mainstream media focusing solely on lavish spending at GSA. The Pentagon wastes billions of taxpayer dollars. Also, wasn't there some oil-related agency where appointees were doing coke w/ the people they were supposed to be regulating during the Bush Administration?

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