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GSA Scandal Gives GOP Fodder

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Martha Johnson resigned Monday as head of the General Services Administration after an inspector general’s report revealed the organization spent almost $823,000 on its biennial Western Regions Conference in 2010.

Rep. Jeff Denham, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, called the Las Vegas ordeal “a big scandal” that could prompt lawmakers to propose an overhaul of the GSA.

“I am outraged with their not only wasteful spending, but they’ve actually gone out and bragged about it,” said the California Republican, whose subpanel will hold a hearing April 19 to look into the GSA scandal. “I am going to wait before we decide what type of restructuring needs to be done until we have a hearing.”

Denham added that his subcommittee would further probe the GSA’s Hats Off program, which doled out $200,000 in electronics and gift cards to employees of the Pacific Rim region as part of a staff awards program.

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, one of the administration’s most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to the inspector general last week asking for further details on the timeline of when administration officials were made aware of the Las Vegas conference.

In his letter to the inspector general, the California Republican notes that administration officials, including Johnson, were informed of the wasteful spending at a briefing in May 2011. In an interview with ABC News, Issa said, “This administration knew about this 11 months ago, and they didn’t act until the press got wind of it.”

One Democratic source, however, noted that it was the GSA’s own investigative arm that unveiled the dysfunction and charged that House Republicans are “just scrambling to inject themselves into the story.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz noted that the administration was made aware of the report in March and that White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew briefed Obama on the issue before his trip to South Korea last month.

Obama “called for the fullest degree of accountability possible given that these actions were not only grossly irresponsible, but they are also entirely inconsistent with the expectations that he has set as President,” Schultz said in a statement.

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