Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, met last week with embattled General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan, David Marin, Republican staff director for the committee, confirmed today.
Davis, who chaired the committee when the Republicans controlled the House, met with Doan to gather information Davis' staff says they need to better prepare for the hearing, which committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., called to investigate a variety of actions Doan has taken while head of the GSA. Davis' staff declined to elaborate on what Davis and Doan talked about. It is not uncommon for Davis, or other House members, to meet with those asked to testify before a committee.
Several sources, including some within GSA, say that the hearing is tentatively scheduled for the week of March 26 with the likely date of the 28th. Sources say the committee delayed the hearing to give GSA's inspector general more preparation time. The IG is investigating a public relations contract that Doan attempted to award to a friend and has accused the administrator of undermining the office through reducing its 2008 budget increase.
Meanwhile, more supporters of Doan are stepping out in print.
Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute, wrote in a March 19 commentary for CNSNews.com that Doan is "working from within to make the federal government more efficient."
Doan says she wants to prove she can run a federal agency like a business (something voters would no doubt approve of). When she took over GSA, it had a deficit of more than $100 million, which she immediately slashed by ordering the agency to make a 9 percent across-the-board spending cut. It may be the first time in decades an administrator actually cut government spending.
But now Doan's under fire. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wants her to testify before the House Oversight Committee "so that she can respond" to his allegations that she awarded a no-bid contract worth $20,000 to a friend.
If Doan did steer business to a friend, that would be wrong. But it's worth wondering if there isn't a witch hunt going on here. After all, this is a woman who has angered important bureaucrats by slashing their budgets. Her agency manages $56 billion in contracts, and she's being grilled about a $20,000 award? The hearing (scheduled for March 20) should be interesting.
Contracting officials familiar with GSA say that the amount of a contract, $20 or $20 million, is immaterial when it comes to allegations of steering contacts. It's still improper, they say.