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Davis seeks special counsel’s private e-mail

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A key House Republican wants the head of the Office of Special Counsel to hand over private e-mails he sent on government time that were critical of elected officials and the head of the General Services Administration.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Special Counsel Scott Bloch improperly discussed official business, made inappropriate comments about GSA Administrator Lurita Doan and spoke disparagingly of "at least two members" of Congress.

One of the criticized congressmen is Mr. Davis, whom Mr. Bloch accused in an e-mail of saying "reckless things" in defense of Mrs. Doan and calling for his resignation. He described Mr. Davis' performance at a July 12 hearing as "weird Kabuki theatre."

Mrs. Doan is the focus of an inquiry by the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates accusations of illegal activity by federal workers.

"The use of nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official business is of some importance to this committee," Mr. Davis said in a letter Friday to Mr. Bloch. "As you know, the committee is currently investigating whether official business was conducted improperly on nongovernmental e-mail accounts by executive branch officials."

The Davis letter follows the committee hearing during which it was disclosed that Mr. Bloch had sent at least one e-mail from his personal AOL account discussing official business — an e-mail that Mr. Davis said discussed OSC's pending reauthorization and disparaged an OSC target and other elected officials.

After Mr. Davis asked for the e-mails, Mr. Bloch responded: "It is not going to happen. Let's move on to something real."

Mr. Bloch accused Mr. Davis of invading his privacy, saying the matter was inappropriate for a congressional hearing.

"If you want to exchange personal attacks, perhaps we should go outside," Mr. Bloch said at the time.

OSC spokesman James Mitchell acknowledged receiving the Davis letter but declined comment.

In separate letters on Friday, Mr. Davis asked AOL to protect and preserve all e-mail records associated with Mr. Bloch's account and asked Mr. Bloch to produce e-mails sent on his personal account since Jan. 26 to determine whether he conducted official business through a personal e-mail account or engaged in prohibited lobbying.

"The e-mail disclosed at the hearing and others the committee is seeking may implicate federal law that prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in lobbying," Mr. Davis said.

The House committee is investigating OSC accusations that Mrs. Doan improperly engaged in partisan politics during a Jan. 26 PowerPoint presentation to 30 GSA political appointees on the 2006 midterm elections and prospects for the 2008 elections.

In the report, which was given to President Bush, Mr. Bloch said Mrs. Doan engaged in "the most pernicious of political activity" banned by the 1939 Hatch Act and recommended that she "be disciplined to the fullest extent."

The White House said this week that it is still reviewing the report.

Mrs. Doan's Washington attorney, Michael J. Nardotti Jr., has disputed the OSC's findings, saying they lacked "objectivity and impartiality." He said an examination of the report in an "objective, impartial and fair manner" shows that it was based on "tenuous inferences and careless leaps of logic."

Mr. Nardotti, a former judge advocate general for the Army and decorated combat veteran, has urged Mr. Bush to disapprove the report and submit the matter to another entity outside OSC.

OSC is investigating suspected violations of the Hatch Act on a governmentwide basis, and 18 federal agencies have been asked to preserve electronic information dating back to January 2001, including all e-mail records.

Mr. Bloch served on the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and was named by Mr. Bush to head OSC three years ago. The inspector general at the Office of Personnel Management, at the behest of the president's Office of Management and Budget, is examining a complaint by OSC staff members and others who accused Mr. Bloch of interfering in Hatch Act cases.

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