Lurita Doan, who headed the embattled General Services Administration (GSA) under former President George W. Bush, today charged that the money used to pay for the bureaucrats-gone wild extravaganza in Las Vegas was syphoned away from the stimulus intended to jumpstart the nation’s ailing economy.
“What’s really sad is the money that they’re using is not just taxpayer money. It’s also the stimulus money which was intended for shovel-ready infrastructure projects which was intended to create jobs and it didn’t happen,” Doan charged on Fox News.
Doan, who headed GSA from 2006 to April 2008 and was the first woman to serve in that position, was commenting on the conference for 300 people in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers $823,000 and raised indignation on both sides of the Potomac as Congress weighed in with a series of hearings this week.
Taxpayers shelled out for private parties, bicycles, $6,000-worth of commemorative coins and even a mind reader.
“What the three hearings proved is that the poor management started at the very top of GSA with the political leadership appointed by President Obama,” said Doan, dismissing suggestions that such lavish spending also occurred under her watch.
“What the Obama administration doesn’t talk about is the fact that their budget within GSA doubled between 2009 and 2011, and I can tell you . . . I would never have approved these kinds of excesses, especially the fact that they’re using taxpayer money for personal use,” insisted Doan.“This never happened under the Bush administration.”
Doan addressed, and dismissed, comparisons to her own tenure at GSA, where she came under fire for awarding a $20,000 contract to a friend, which was later revoked, and for violating the Hatch Act when she asked appointees how they could help "our candidates." The Hatch Act bars federal employees from engaging in political activities with government resources or on government time.
“What we have are numbers that are being used in completely different circumstances with completely different numbers of attendees,” she declared. “We did not have conferences at this price. Our conferences were outward reaching to small businesses.”
Those events were aimed at helping small businesses do business with the federal government. “It was reaching out to small businesses, trying to help them find ways to create new jobs and grow this economy. It was not designed for personal aggrandizement which is what we see.”
Doan said that Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, failed to ask the single most important question when her committee took up the matter on Wednesday during hearings.
“The one question she didn’t ask was the most important question,” Doan explained. “How did you pay for it? What of the building fund money did you use for this and what projects did not get done because you did this particular Las Vegas extravaganza, or the Napa extravaganza, or the Hawaii extravaganza, or any one of these debacles?”
She said she was “stunned” by revelations that the wife of Jeffrey Neely, the acting commissioner of the GSA’s Pacific Rim region, who invoked his Fifth Amendment rights before a Congressional oversight committee hearing on Monday, had her own parking space at a federal building. Neely is currently on administrative leave.
“What I do see is a culture of excess that comes from the top, that comes from a political leadership that was appointed to watch the agency and they absolutely delegated all of their responsibilities away,” added Doan.
She also urged the Inspector General to move faster in releasing future investigations since it took 11 months for the investigation regarding the GSA Las Vegas conference to be made public and another 11 months for the White House to take action.
“What’s happening in the meantime is taxpayer dollars are being wasted,” said Doan, adding that the Inspector General has more than 30 outstanding investigations.
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