It is so hard to keep up with all the Republican scandals these days. One almost needs an instant message service just devoted to these scandals. Admittedly, quite a few came to light even before Congress jump-started its dormant oversight functions early this year. Now that the oversight machine has gotten warmed up, expect a new scandal to surface every couple of weeks or so.
One recent junior-level scandal is about to get bigger. Remember Lurita Doan, the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA)? She recently gave testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigating GSA misconduct. If you don’t remember, here is an exchange between Ms. Doan and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) over a meeting she attended, on GSA property, in which the White House Office of Political Affairs presented strategies for winning the 2006 elections. The presentation included things like a list of targeted Democratic seats. Multiple witnesses reported that after the presentation, Ms. Doan stood up and said “How can we use the GSA to help the Republicans in the next election.” She, of course, had no recollection of the presentation or her own statements afterward.
The problem for Ms. Doan is that the activity, on the face of it, violates the Hatch Act of 1939. That isn’t just the opinion of a spiteful liberal like me; in fact, it’s the opinion of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (here is a pdf version of their report).
The report has gotten Ms. Doan a second date with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on June 7.
The Chair of the committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (R-CA), just gave an interview to the Center for American Progress to explain the rationale for asking her back for a second date. In summary:
By pressing forward with the investigation, investigators have revealed a disturbing pattern by Doan to mislead and cover-up her true intent regarding these partisan briefings. Some examples:
- When asked by the OSC investigators about her role in the briefing, she said “she was uninterested in the topic” and “was on her Blackberry…reviewing emails…and only periodically looked up and down.” But a review of her e-mail use during the meeting failed to corroborate that she was checking or sending email via her BlackBerry.
- Doan claimed the GSA employees who spoke out about her were employees who were poor performers. The OSC investigators said that Doan’s claim regarding the witnesses “appears to have been purposefully misleading and false” since none of the seven employees had “between a poor to totally inferior performance.”
- Doan claimed “she does not care about polls or election results.” But investigators report that Doan contributed $226,000 to Republican candidates and Republican organizations. Doan responded by testifying that the contributions had been “taken out of context.”
Here’s the thing. It is possible that this is an isolated case of a senior Bush appointee just not understanding the rules.
It’s possible…but why is it that every time something suspicious is investigated, it turns out that Republican appointees are breaking the law (or at least bending the law to the point of breaking) in order to squeeze out partisan advantage? And they never remember a thing about it afterward!
I’m talking Gonzogate (“I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons”), Monica Goodling (“I crossed the line of Civil Service policy”), Plamegate, the Armstrong Williams & Maggie Gallagher propaganda scandals, a fake reporter in the White House press corps, GAO-gate, and so on and so forth. And we’ve just scratched the surface.
Collectively, it is clear that (1) these people think they are above the law, (2) the GOP comes before country to them, (3) they feel being in power entitles them to use their power to keep power at any cost, (4) this abuse of power is systematic. The Bush administration’s great innovation has been to refine the concept of distributed power abuse it in a way that hasn’t been seen in generations (if ever before). It’s a pernicious, distributed, largely low-level abuse of power at all levels of government. And we have only scratched the surface.
When it comes right down to it, this current pack of criminals in the White House makes Richard Nixon seem like a real amateur.