Playing Politics with Your Money

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A former editor of mine used to joke that no matter how cynical you get in Washington, you just can’t keep up. I was reminded of that this morning as I read the Washington Post report that GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan had instructed employees of the agency to find ways to help “our candidates” in the next election. The GSA is the government’s chief procurement agency, handling something like $56 billion worth of federal contracts. Has the GSA ever been completely immune from politics? Probably not. But the blatant nature of this, if true, is astonishing–particularly considering that it happened this year, in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal and the arrest of David Safavian, who was the chief procurement officer at OMB. With polling suggesting that cleaning up Washington was a major motivator in the 2006 midterm elections, you would think the Administration would be keenly sensitive of the need to avoid even the appearance of political taint on government procurement. I wonder if that came up when GSA employees were getting that PowerPoint presentation of polling data by Karl Rove deputy J. Scott Jennings.

That said, this Administration has always been pretty upfront about seeing the government bureaucracy as an extension of electoral politics. Recall, for instance, this 2003 Wall Street Journal story about Rove’s hand in the activities of the Interior Department. Yes, these are “political” appointees. But taxpayers have the right to expect that if we are the ones paying their salaries, their chief concern should be working for us.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ana and commenter Jim for letting me in on the true source of that quote about cynicism. (And I even SAW that show!) Anyway, I should have known there was something fishy. Editors are never funny.