Scott Bloch Cops A Plea For Bloching Justice

You might remember our old friend Scott Bloch, the former head of the United States Office of Special Counsel under the Bush/Cheney Administration. The OSC’s primary mission is to safeguard the Federal merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing. You might also remember Bloch was the one David Iglesias was sure could unravel the US Attorney Purgegate and nail Karl Rove. That didn’t work out so well, and then Bloch got in hot water himself for purging his own computers with the pros from “Geeks on Call” performing a “seven level wipe” for him.

Well, to make a long story short, it appears Lady Justice has finally caught up to the intrepid BlochHead. From the Washington Post:

Scott J. Bloch, the former director of a federal office in charge of helping shield government whistleblowers from unfair treatment, plans to plead guilty to withholding information from congressional investigators after he had his office computer files professionally deleted in 2006.

U.S. prosecutors filed papers in federal court Thursday that accuse Bloch, who led the Office of Special Counsel through much of President George W. Bush’s administration, of failing to truthfully answer questions about whether he arranged for private computer technicians to “scrub” his office computer and that of other political appointees. This type of filing, known as an information, is made public when a suspect is about to plead guilty to the allegations.

Bloch came under criticism early in his tenure as special counsel for ordering all mention of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation be removed from OSC’s Web site and printed materials. Bloch stated his office lacked the authority to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

He was abruptly removed from his post and barred from returning to his office in October 2008 after a meeting with White House officials.

The root here is Bloch is to plea to withholding information about his computer scrape from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. A criminal information was filed today, and that means his change of plea to guilty is on the immediate horizon, very possibly tomorrow. Here is the AP version of the story.

Hilariously enough, Bloch’s troubles began when someone blew the whistle on him; from a February 2007 Washington Post article:

A trouble-plagued whistle-blower investigation at the Office of Special Counsel — whose duties include shielding federal whistle-blowers — hit another snag this week when employees accused the special counsel of intimidation in the probe.

The Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general has been investigating allegations by current and former OSC employees that Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch retaliated against underlings who disagreed with his policies — by, among other means, transferring them out of state — and tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases to reduce the office backlog. Bloch denies the accusations, saying that under his leadership the agency has grown more efficient and receptive to whistle-blowers.

The probe is the most serious of many problems at the agency since Bloch, a Kansas lawyer who served at the Justice Department’s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, was appointed by President Bush three years ago. Since he took the helm in 2004, staffers at the OSC, a small agency of about 100 lawyers and investigators, have accused him of a range of offenses, from having an anti-gay bias to criticizing employees for wearing short skirts and tight pants to work.

At any rate, the continuing saga of Bungalow Bloch appears to be nearing an end. Oh well, another name to the Bush Administration convict list and another update of Hugh’s Bush Scandal List needed.

Bloch: Stop Making Sense

I am still catching up on events of the last week and so I don’t have a really good sense of WTF is going on with the FBI raid of Scott Bloch’s house and–according to NPR, via Sara–body cavities. But I wanted to point you to this analysis of a document drafted by a bunch of Office of Special Counsel investigators, listing their complaints about Bloch’s intervention into their investigations. I hoped that, by reading the analysis, I could figure out whether Bloch was in the bag for the Administration or opposed to the Administration. And, for the life of me, I can’t really discern any logic to Bloch’s action.

Go read the analysis. But here’s a scorecard of what the analysis seems to suggest:

Office of Political Affairs (Karl Rove’s shop at the White House)

Bloch consistently forced the task force conducting the omnibus investigation into whether the White House illegally used agency resources to help Republicans to expand its scope, even beyond the mandate of OSC.

Score: Anti-Bush

US Attorney Firing

Bloch refused repeated DOJ Inspector General demands that he drop his investigation into whether the Administration fired David Iglesias for political reasons, even while he insisted that the Iglesias firing was not a Hatch Act violation. Bloch seems to have insisted on keeping the case either because it was so high profile or to stymie DOJ IG’s investigation.

Score: Pro-Bush if done to stymie DOJ IG’s investigation

Monica Goodling’s Use of Political Tests in DOJ’s Hiring Practices

Bloch repeatedly refused to allow investigators to open an investigation into Goodling’s admitted Hatch Act violations. When he finally allowed investigators to open such an investigation, he allocated no resources to that investigation.

Score: Pro-Bush

Don Siegelman Prosecution

Bloch ordered investigators to close their investigation into the politicized prosecution of Don Siegelman.

Score: Pro-Bush

Politicized Prosecution of ACORN for Voting Fraud

Bloch refused to allow investigators to open an investigation into whether the timing of Missouri US Attorney Office indictments of ACORN voter registration employees was politically motivated.

Score: Pro-Bush

Lurita Doan

After completing an investigation into Lurita Doan which concluded that she had violated the Hatch Act, Bloch ordered investigators to open a second investigation into Doan, from a time before she worked in the Administration involving her husband. This second investigation sounds like a personal witch hunt against Doan.

Score: Anti-Bush

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One Day, One Resignation

Woo hoo! I’ve barely left the country, and already we’ve got our first sacking: that of Lurita Doan.

Dear Friends and Colleagues at GSA,

Early this evening I was asked to submit my resignation, and I have just done so. It has been a great privilege to serve with all of you and to serve our nation and a great President.

The past twenty-two months have been filled with accomplishments: together, we have regained our clean audit opinion, restored fiscal discipline, re-tooled our ability to respond to emergencies, rekindled entrepreneurial energies, reduced bureaucratic barriers to small companies to get a GSA Schedule, ignited a building boom at our nation’s ports of entries, boldly led the nation in an aggressive telework initiative, and improved employee morale so that we were selected as one of the best places to work in the Federal government.

These accomplishments are made even more enjoyable by the fact that there were lots of people who told us they could never be done.

Best of luck to all of you, it has been a true honor.

The question is, why now?

As you’ll recall, almost a year ago, Scott Bloch recommended that George Bush fire Doan. Bloch had determined that Doan had violated the Hatch Act, but since Doan is was an agency head, only Bush could fire her.

And given the amount of time that has passed since then, it appears Bush didn’t think the wholesale politicization of the GSA was a firing offense (go figure).  

So if violating the Hatch Act doesn’t merit firing, what does? 

Waxman Attempts to Plug Truck-Sized Loophole for Theft

Remember that truck-sized loophole for theft the Bush Administration created? The one that takes a rule that says contractors have to reveal contracting fraud, and adds a loophole for anyone doing business outside the US? Well, Waxman is on it:

On May 23, 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ) requested that the Federal Acquisition Regulation be amended to “require contractors to establish and maintain internal controls to detect and prevent fraud in their contracts, and that they notify contracting officers without delay whenever they become aware of a contract overpayment or fraud, rather than wait for its discovery by the government.” DOJ believed such a rule was necessary because few government contractors voluntarily disclose suspected instances of fraud. DOJ proposed specific changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

In response, on November 14, 2007, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council published a proposed rule on “Contractor Compliance Program and Integrity Reporting.” This rule requires contractors to have a code of ethics and business conduct, to establish and maintain specific internal controls to detect and prevent improper conduct in connection with the award or performance of government contracts or subcontracts, and to notify contracting officers without delay whenever they become aware of violations of Federal criminal law with regard to such contracts or subcontracts. The proposed changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation closely track the DOJ proposal, with two primary substantive changes: the exemption for contracts to be performed overseas and a second exemption for contracts for commercial items.

On January 14, 2008, DOJ filed a comment on the proposed rule stating that “we do not agree with” the exemption for overseas contracts. According to DOJ, “[a]lthough these contracts may be performed outside the United States, the United States still is a party to these contracts and potentially a victim when overpayments are made or when fraud occurs in connection with the contracts. Under these circumstances, the government still maintains jurisdiction to prosecute the perpetrators of the fraud. Moreover, these types of contracts, which in many cases support our efforts to fight the global war on terror, need greater contractor vigilance because they are performed overseas where U.S. government resources and remedies are more limited.”

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