Democrats on a House committee will question the head of the General Services Administration (GSA) today about accusations that she improperly engaged in partisan politics, but committee Republicans are expected to turn the session into a bare-knuckled free-for-all.
GSA Administrator Lurita Doan was accused in a report given this week to the White House by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) of engaging 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.
U.S. Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, who heads OSC, told President Bush in the report that 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."
Republicans, angry about the report and its conclusions, are expected to turn the tables on Mr. Bloch during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, seeking instead to talk about what they have described as his "flawed conclusion and analysis."
"Mr. Bloch's report concerning Mrs. Doan begins and ends with extreme exaggeration," said a high-ranking Republican congressional source. "The fact that he can't imagine a more egregious violation of the Hatch Act boggles the mind; that Mrs. Doan engaged in pernicious political activity boggles the mind.
"What was OSC's goal in this investigation and what flawed process did it use to get there?" the source said.
Mrs. Doan's Washington attorney, Michael J. Nardotti Jr., also rejected the OSC's conclusions in a June 1 response letter to Mr. Bloch, saying the report, which was then being prepared, lacked "objectivity and impartiality." He said an examination of the report in an "objective, impartial and fair manner" shows that it is based on "tenuous inferences and careless leaps of logic."
Mr. Nardotti, a former judge advocate general for the Army and decorated combat veteran, urged Mr. Bush to disapprove the report and submit the matter to another entity outside OSC.
"This case is one of exceptional seriousness for Administrator Doan, and it has not been examined with the objectivity, impartiality and fairness such matters demand," he said.
The White House has acknowledged receiving the OSC report and said a review of it is under way.
Mr. Bloch, who served on the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and was named to head OSC three years ago by Mr. Bush, said Mrs. Doan violated the Hatch Act when at the conclusion of a meeting with Scott Jennings, special assistant to the president, and a deputy of political adviser Karl Rove she asked whether GSA could help Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, 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.
The complaint said he created a hostile work environment with retaliatory acts, that a dozen employees thought to be whistleblowers were involuntarily reassigned, and that he did not enforce bans on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.