The wrong line on the GSA controversy


In light of revelations surrounding lavish spending on a General Services Administration conference, it stands to reason that Congress would hold hearings and ask questions. It’s a legitimate controversy that has drawn bipartisan outrage, and several leading GSA officials have already resigned.

But some congressional Republicans appear eager to push this in a misguided direction.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), for example, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, argued yesterday that the White House “knew about” GSA’s mistakes, “did nothing, kept it quiet until just a few days ago.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight committee, also said that the Obama administration tried to hide the matter.

It’s an election year, and the fact that there have been no serious White House scandals during President Obama’s term is no doubt frustrating for his critics, but the truth of the matter is, the GSA conference came to light because the Obama administration launched an investigation and uncovered wrongdoing.

In fact, this story came to light because of a yearlong investigation by the inspector general, and because GSA chief Martha Johnson resigned just hours before its release. […]

An Obama administration ally emails over a different take: “House Republicans started this Congress by claiming the Obama Administration was one of the most corrupt in history, yet they to date they have produced no evidence of wrongdoing” he wrote.

What’s more, Politico found that spending on the biannual General Services Administration Western Region Conference “soared nearly 250 percent during the Bush years.” [Update: The Politico report has been corrected to say costs went up 102 percent in Bush’s second term, not 250 percent. That’s still a significant increase, of course.]

This doesn’t have to be a partisan food fight. The GSA clearly misused tax dollars, and Congress is justified to launch an investigation. But the problem started before Obama took office, and no one can credibly claim that the Obama administration covered up a problem that the Obama administration was responsible for uncovering in the first place.

Congressional Republicans, you have a legitimate example of a government bureaucracy spending too much money without cause. You’re free to jump up and down about this, and use it as an example of wasteful spending, but alleging a conspiracy without evidence is silly.


The wrong line on the GSA controversy