A review of the General Services Administration's daily briefing shows that several opinion pieces and news articles on the conduct of the agency's chief Lurita Doan were excluded. GSA's daily briefing is sent to all GSA employees and acts as an official archive of news coverage of the agency.
For example, a review of the daily brief by Government Executive shows that the March 26 news article by The Washington Post revealing that a deputy of Karl Rove was involved in the videoconference at GSA, which is under scrutiny for violating the Hatch Act, was excluded. Also excluded was an April 11 news article in the Federal Times that revealed that Doan pushed a contract award to Sun Microsystems despite learning that the agency's inspector general had considered notifying the Justice Department about allegations of fraud.
Most recently, a news article in Friday's Washington Post on the missing Karl Rove e-mails was excluded. The article references the "alleged politicization at the General Services Administration."
Edward Blakely, the agencyâ€™s associate administrator for the Office of Citizen Services and Communications and in charge of the briefing, said he is exercising "responsible filtering" in an attempt to improve the "diversity and variety" of the daily briefing. "If there is nothing new in the negative stories that are being published I donâ€™t put them in there," Blakely said. "I make sure that every clip that is relevant gets out there. ... If there's not a new news hook on this, we shouldn't put it out there."
Blakely included in the daily briefing a hard-hitting April 3 editorial that appeared in The Washington Post titled, "Playing Politics at the GSA," citing Doan's "willful disregard of the Hatch Act."
Still, the two GSA employees that compile the briefing are under orders to forward all negative stories to Blakely and he makes the final decision on whether they are included, according to sources. Blakely said his approach to the briefing is an "ad hoc" policy he implemented, and neither Doan nor her staff asked for stories to be removed. When asked to give examples of neutral or positive stories that were excluded because they contained repetitive information, Blakely could not offer examples.
GSA included in the briefing more than a dozen stories on the recent announcement of the multi-billion-dollar Networx contract.
Mark Corallo, the founder of a crisis communications media services firm and former chief spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft, told Government Executive that he had not heard of an agency censoring its daily briefing. He said that while he was at Justice, his staff included all news articles or editorials.
"There was no censoring," said Corallo, who had represented Doan until last month. "Basically anything that came up [was included]. We saw lots of bad news."
Officials in the public affairs offices of eight agencies, including the Homeland Security Department and the Office of Personnel Management, said that excluding news articles and editorials from the daily briefing could put agency employees at a disadvantage because employees need to know what the public is reading.
The following is a list of articles that mention GSA but were excluded from the daily brief:
March 28 Cox News Service news article, "Democrats blast GSA chief for politics at agency."
March 28 Federal Times news article, "GSA chief grilled about alleged improper partisan presentation."
April 1 New York Times editorial, "The Rovian Era."
An April 2 Federal Times editorial, "Unfit for the job." (Unavailable online. GSA excluded the editorial calling for Doan's resignation, but it did include Doan's response in the following week's edition.)
April 4 column by Marianne Means, "Bushies remember they can't recall."
April 5 Washington Post column by Ruth Marcus, "Fox-in-the-Henhouse Government."
April 5 Cox Newspapers columnist Tom Teepen, "Tom Teepen: Contempt for government."
April 6, Philadelphia Enquirer editorial, "Karl Rove and the GSA."
April 11 Los Angeles Times editorial, "Send RNC emails to Congress."
April 12 Salon.com's Sidney Blumenthal, "Upending the Mayberry Machiavellis."
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