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House Panel Grills GSA Chief on Republican Briefing

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House Panel Grills GSA Chief on Republican Briefing

Politics

House Panel Grills GSA Chief on Republican Briefing

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Another presidential appointee faces ethics allegations. She's the head of a federal agency, and lawmakers want to know why she let a White House aide brief her managers on the Republican Party's prospects for 2008.

Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

PETER OVERBY: Lurita Doan is the administrator of the General Services Administration - the government's landlord and office supplier. She calls herself an unabashed entrepreneur. She's also raised $200,000 for the Republican Party. Testifying before the House Oversight Committee, 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, which she got involved in; and, especially, a briefing, last January, to the political appointees at GSA.

Scott Jennings, the top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, came to talk about the 2006 election and the Republican goals for 2008. The leadoff questioner for committee Democrats was Iowa freshman Bruce Braley, a trial lawyer.

Representative BRUCE BRALEY (Democrat, Iowa): Would you characterize his presentation as a purely factual presentation about the results of the 2006 election?

Ms. LURITA DOAN (Administrator, General Services Administration): I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I can say that I honestly don't have a recollection of the presentation at all.

OVERBY: The committee had Jennings' PowerPoint presentation. Braley asked Doan about one page: Karl Rove's top 20 targets among House Democrats.

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

Rep. BRALEY: Well, you're familiar with what the word target means, right?

Ms. DOAN: I think we could say that I'm one right now.

OVERBY: Doan called the meeting a team-building event. Braley continued.

Rep. BRALEY: The Federal Hatch Act says you can't use the workplace to engage in team building for any political party.

OVERBY: He said six other political appointees were called, but when Jennings finished speaking, Doan herself stood up to talk.

Rep. BRALEY: And according to those sources, you stated, how can we use GSA to help our candidates in the next election? I'm reminding you that you are under oath. Can you tell the committee whether in fact you did make that statement?

Ms. DOAN: 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.

OVERBY: With the PowerPoint slides up on the screen, Doan was almost superfluous. Democrats speculated that Jennings gave similar briefings at other agencies. Republicans stuck up for Doan. Darrell Issa of California attacked the bureaucracy.

Representative DARRELL ISSA (Republican, California): 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?

Ms. DOAN: You are absolutely right.

OVERBY: Committee Republicans also defended her by criticizing other Republicans. They doubted Iowa Senator Charles Grassley when he spoke up for the GSA inspector general who's been investigating Doan. And Florida's Dan Mica suggested the inspector general should be fired.

Representative DAN MICA (Republican, Florida): I'm going to follow the IG, because I don't like his performance…

OVERBY: Inspector General Brian Miller is a Bush appointee just like Doan. But the vitriol hangs in the air at this committee's hearing room. It's where Republicans investigated all things Clinton, from the purge at the White House travel office to President Clinton's last-minute pardons.

The chairman then was Indiana's Dan Burton. Yesterday, he said those investigations were continually obstructed by the current chairman, Henry Waxman of California. Waxman called the charges inaccurate, and Burton shot back.

Representative DAN BURTON (Republican, Indiana): We'll find out how inaccurate they are. Look at the papers and look at the records. You did that for six years, and now you're going to have to eat it.

OVERBY: So, Burton and Waxman both added their reports on the Clinton investigations to the official record of this hearing. Another day at the oversight committee.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: You heard references to that PowerPoint presentation - well, you can see it for yourself. Feel the power. Go to npr.org.

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