Two months back Wonkette solicited and then posted the worst and meanest rumors about Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. That could have been the end of it, but once you’ve put out a call for catty comments, the catty comments will find you. Beneath the fold is the latest entry in the slam book – and if this was going into an actual book, it would take up a couple pages.
The political environment at DOL has been bad and seems to be getting worse. Your ‘Dragon Lady’ story was only the tip of the iceberg. If you want to know what Elaine L. Chao is like go see “The Devil Wears Prada” and pay attention to Meryl Streep’s character.
The latest issue seems trivial but is a reflection of what happens here and could be, is, considered illegal.
Within the Federal government there is a requirement that all contracts be put out for competitive bids unless a sole source justification can be provided. We were informed this morning that the Secretary wants a new consultant hired to provide media training to the senior political staff. To do this she wants to hire Merrie Spaeth, known for her involvement as the “PR Guru for the Swiftboat Vets” campaign, for $10,000. Besides the fact that the Department maintains an AV division and has historically provided media training there is no way a sole source justification can be made for this type of service. What will probably happen to get around the regulation is the contract for Staeth’s services will be buried in an existing or new contact. The career staff has refused to process the paperwork.
Throughout the Department career staff have been marginalized as not being ‘team players’. People have been detailed to other agencies for pointing out ethics problems and refusing to sign-off on questionable actions. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent hiring political appointees with marginal experience into senior (GS-15) positions. Inexperienced, junior political appointees have been put in charge of senior career staff. Not taking a ‘hit’ on the OMB scorecard (President’s Management Agenda) is the supreme criteria for all programs regardless of whether or not it makes good business or financial sense.
Two of her (the Sec’s) assistants could only get out of DOL by volunteering to go to Iraq. No one has lasted more than 9 months in the position. She is notorious for screaming at people, calling them idiots and worse. There is a story that has circulated for sometime about throwing an ash tray at one person. The list goes on and on.
We are scheduled to have a ‘Fraud Audit’ in a few weeks where we are supposed to disclose any knowledge of fraud or ethical issues. The only problem is our Assistant Secretary (a political appointee) will be present in the meeting. Needless to say all the answers will be ‘No’, otherwise the first name on the list would be Elaine L. Chao.
— David Weigel