John McCaslin

Who's in charge?

Last Thursday, the same day that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration confirmed that a pair of its astronauts had shown up to work drunk, the Government Accountability Office warned with far less fanfare about NASA's "lack of accountability" and "weak internal controls," which leave the space agency's equipment vulnerable to loss, theft and misuse.

"For years, GAO and others have reported that NASA does not maintain effective control over the $35 billion of property, plant and equipment," reports the GAO, which revealed that over the past 10 years "NASA reported that it lost over $94 million of equipment."

Furthermore, the GAO charges in its report, NASA management was "unresponsive to prior equipment-management recommendations, frequently did not investigate equipment losses, and was reluctant to hold employees accountable for loss."

The investigative arm of Congress also found that NASA "lacks the integrated systems" to record equipment purchases, and as a result NASA over the last decade "failed to enter $199 million of equipment purchases into its property-management system."

Concludes the GAO: "These problems are deeply rooted in an agency culture that does not demand accountability or fully recognize the value of effectively managing government assets."

Billboards for Bush

One of President Bush's most visible supporters during the 2004 presidential election has been sued by the Federal Election Commission in U.S. District Court.

The FEC charges that Stephen Adams failed to report and include proper disclaimers on $1 million worth of billboard ads - 435 billboards in all, advocating the re-election of Mr. Bush - during the president's race against Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

According to the filing, Mr. Adams made an "independent expenditure" to pay for the billboards in four states - Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and South Carolina - and for that reason, the highly visible ads should have been reported to the FEC.

"Mr. Adams failed to file timely the required 48-hour notice for independent expenditures, filing it more than six weeks late, and only five days before the election," the FEC states. "In addition, the billboards' disclaimers were incomplete and did not contain the required sponsor information or state that the billboards were not authorized by any candidate or party."

The billboards appeared Sept. 7 through Nov. 2, 2004 (Election Day).

Now that's low

"A remarkable level of cynicism about Washington."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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