House Panel Grills GSA Chief on Republican Briefing

General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan testifies before the House oversight panel.

hide captionGeneral Services Administration chief Lurita Doan testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, March 28, 2007.

Win McNamee/Win McNamee

The Political PowerPoint

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. Below are highlights from Jennings' PowerPoint presentation.

2008 House Targets: Top 20 i i

hide captionA slide from the presentation lists the 20 most vulnerable Democratic House members in 2008. The column titled BC '04 shows the percentages for the Bush-Cheney ticket in those districts in 2004. The column titled '06 DEM shows the percentage of the vote House Democrats in those districts received in 2006.

Source: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
2008 House Targets: Top 20

A slide from the presentation lists the 20 most vulnerable Democratic House members in 2008. The column titled BC '04 shows the percentages for the Bush-Cheney ticket in those districts in 2004. The column titled '06 DEM shows the percentage of the vote House Democrats in those districts received in 2006.

Source: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
2008 House GOP Defense i i

hide captionA slide shows vulnerable GOP House districts that need to be defended in 2008. The column titled BC '04 shows the percentages for the Bush-Cheney ticket in those districts in 2004. The column titled '06 GOP shows the percentage of the vote House Republicans in those districts received in 2006.

Source: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
2008 House GOP Defense

A slide shows vulnerable GOP House districts that need to be defended in 2008. The column titled BC '04 shows the percentages for the Bush-Cheney ticket in those districts in 2004. The column titled '06 GOP shows the percentage of the vote House Republicans in those districts received in 2006.

Source: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Another federal agency, and another appointee of President Bush's, is stuck in the klieg lights of ethics allegations. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked Wednesday why Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, allowed a White House aide to brief her managers on the Republican Party's prospects for 2008.

Doan calls herself an "unabashed entrepreneur." She has also raised $200,000 for the Republican Party. GSA is the government's landlord and office supplier.

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."

The committee had Jennings' PowerPoint presentation. Braley zeroed in on one page: Karl Rove's top 20 targets among House Democrats. When he asked Doan how Jennings explained the list, she again pleaded a bad memory, leading to this exchange:

Doan: "I don't know what the explanation was that accompanied this. I truly do not remember this part of the presentation. "

Braley: "Well, you're familiar with what the word 'target' means, right?"

Doan: "I think we could say that I'm one right now. "

Doan called the meeting a team-building event. Braley cited the Hatch Act, the federal law that bars partisan "team-building," as he said, in federal workplaces.

He said six other political appointees at GSA recalled that when Jennings finished speaking, Doan herself stood up to talk. Braley said, "and according to those sources, you stated, 'How can we use GSA to help our candidates in the next election?' I'm reminding that you are under oath. Can you tell the committee whether in fact you did make that statement?"

Doan said, "I do know that I'm under oath. And I will tell you that honestly and absolutely, I do not have a recollection of actually saying that."

With the PowerPoint slides up on a video screen, Doan's presence was almost superfluous for the Democrats. They speculated that Jennings gave similar briefings at other agencies –- especially after Republicans suggested the briefing was not unusual.

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."

Committee Republicans also defended her, even by criticizing other Republicans. When Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley spoke up for the GSA inspector general, who's been investigating Doan, they cast doubt on his statements.

Florida's Dan Mica suggested the inspector general should be fired, explaining, "I'm going to follow the IG, because I don't like his performance." Like Doan, Inspector General Brian Miller is a Bush appointee.

In this committee's hearing room, the vitriol hangs in the air. It's where Republicans investigated All Things Clinton, from the purge at the White House travel office to President Bill Clinton's last-minute pardons.

In the 1990s, the chairman was Indiana's Dan Burton. On Wednesday, he said those investigations were continually obstructed by the current chairman, Henry Waxman of California. Waxman called the charges inaccurate, to which Burton responded, "We'll find out how inaccurate they are. Look at the papers, look at the records. You did that for six years, and now you're going to have to eat it. "

After that outburst, Burton and Waxman both added their reports on the Clinton investigations to the official record of the GSA hearing, in the end of another day at the oversight committee.

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