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GSA Scandal Enters a New Phase

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Former General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson and regional commissioner Jeff Neely were taken to task for what Members of Congress called a waste and misuse of taxpayer money.

In this case, GSA Inspector General Brian Miller has already referred findings from his April 2 report on the Las Vegas conference to the Department of Justice. He has also pushed Republicans to limit disclosures on certain topics to avoid interfering with ongoing investigations by his office.

Meanwhile, dozens of GSA employees from across the country have been calling Republican Congressional offices to blow the whistle on waste and abuse, offering new avenues for investigation.

“To say this place is a circus would be an insult to the circus,” a second GOP aide close to the investigation said about the GSA.

New revelations could broaden the scope of the scandal beyond the single conference and the regional office that hosted it, potentially increasing the scope of the political damage.

For example, after the inspector general  released his report on the Las Vegas conference, a GSA employee sent an email, obtained by Roll Call, predicting that other waste and abuse at the GSA is likely to be exposed.

“It is just a matter of time before Sales Force is exposed for the fraudulent spending it is. I think folks will go crazy reporting things to the IG’s now. Anyone that has a beef. The Baltimore, Md., travel gang better have a wake up call! :-)” the employee wrote.

There are also potentially explosive revelations in the testimony of Lisa Daniels, a GSA employee involved in planning the Las Vegas conference who was abruptly excused from a Tuesday House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing chaired by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.).

Daniels used her position awarding contracts to vendors to obtain discounts, gifts and other perks from those vendors, according to documents reviewed by Roll Call.

For instance, Daniels told a hotel representative at the M Resort Spa Casino where the Las Vegas conference was held, “I found a purse in the Vice Shop that I cannot live without!! But its more than I want to pay. ... Do you get a discount, and if so, will you help me? Its $98 — eek!”

Leah Abbs, the catering and conference services manager at the hotel, offered Daniels a $30 discount, and the two arranged a time to meet and fulfill the transaction.

Daniels told reporters Tuesday that she was on a 15-person committee that organized the conference but maintained she wasn’t responsible for the “over the top” expenses. “I do not. For that conference? No,” she said.

Cummings said he asked Denham to excuse Daniels from the hearing Tuesday because “I felt that she did not have a full understanding that the things that she was saying could be held against her. ... I felt like a doctor who sees somebody who is sick and does not at least raise a hand to help her.”

Denham agreed, and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) later backed the decision, telling Roll Call, “We don’t bring people in to cause them to destroy themselves.”

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