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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Ex-IRS Executive Lerner Breaks 15 Months of Silence

After 15 months of silence since invoking her Fifth Amendment rights before Congress, Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service executive whom Republicans place at the center of the targeting controversy, has weighed in.

In an exclusive two-hour interview with Politico, the former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division and her attorneys displayed some attitude toward her accusers and described her inability to find a new job.

Direct discussion of how she may have mishandled applications for tax-exempt status from conservative nonprofits, however, was off-limits due to the ongoing legal battle.

Lerner “has been painted in one dimension: as a powerful bureaucrat scheming with the Obama administration to cripple right-leaning nonprofits,” wrote reporter Rachael Bade. “Interviews with about 20 of her colleagues, friends and critics and a survey of emails and other IRS documents, however, reveal a much more complicated figure than the caricature she’s become in the public eye.”

Though some ex-colleagues said she played favorites, had a temper and made snap judgments, others called her highly professional, noting that she called hundreds of employees to boost morale. Lerner also did volunteer work rescuing animals after Hurricane Katrina, Politico noted.

Friends told Politico Lerner didn’t talk ...

Ellsberg: Whistleblowers Needed to Expose 'Cost and Consequences' of Obama's ISIS Plan

Among the many critics of President Obama’s evolving strategy for confronting the terror group ISIS is one of history’s most famous whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame.

“Whistleblower was not a common term” in the early 1970s at the height of national tensions over the Vietnam war, Ellsberg told reporters Thursday at an appearance sponsored by the advocacy group the Institute for Public Accuracy. “But I fit the definition,” said the former Pentagon and RAND Corp. official who turned over to senators and major newspapers 7,000 pages of classified Defense Department documents on the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Speaking at age 83 at the National Press Club, the leftist Ellsberg tore into the Obama administration’s current effort to use air power without ground troops while recruiting other nations’ help, an approach he likened to the Johnson administration’s manipulation of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident to secretly escalate the U.S. combat role fighting communists in Vietnam.

“The last few days have shown an urgent need for more whistleblowers right now,” Ellsberg said. “We need the Pentagon’s real internal analysis of the cost and consequences” of Obama’s plan, which ...

Highway Safety Board Found to Be Slow, Timid

The government’s top auto-safety regulator found itself in the bull’s eye of a lengthy New York Times investigative piece published Sunday night. 

Three Times reporters’ analysis of thousands of consumer complaints and a review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s popular safety rating system found the agency “has a record of missteps that goes well beyond its failure to detect an ignition switch defect in several models of G.M. cars now linked to at least 13 deaths.”

Over the past decade, the Times wrote, NHTSA “frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.”

As major players such as Toyota, Honda and Jeep have struggled with fuel tank fires or air bag ruptures, the agency “did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level, safety advocates had sounded alarms and motorists were injured or died,” the Times wrote.

Agency officials declined to speak directly to the reporters, but answered questions in writing with variations of the following: “NHTSA has a proven record of aggressively investigating and pursuing recalls,” the agency wrote. “NHTSA evaluates each potential safety defect ...

Can't Get Tickets to the White House Tour? Try This Instead.

Washingtonians and visitors will have a new museum option on Sept. 13 with the reopening of the newly refurbished White House Visitors Center.

Inside the Malcolm Baldrige room of the Commerce Department Building on Pennsylvania Avenue are nearly 100 artifacts, many never before displayed, according to Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, who gave Government Executive an advance tour.

At no charge, you’ll see the telegraph key from which President Lincoln got word of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, the gold eagle finial that was atop the White House for a century, the desk Franklin D. Roosevelt used to deliver fireside chats, and a preserved section of a tree planted by John Quincy Adams.

The “contemporary, modern exhibits are highly interactive, and removable for updates,” McLaurin said while pointing out the push-button displays on political and family life in the surrounding President’s Park. There’s also a state-of-the-art theater and rolling film clips on topics such as the first ladies.

The 16,000-square foot complex also boasts new energy-efficient lighting.

The original White House Visitors Center opened in 1995 in this same vaulted room that was used as part of the Patent Search room ...

HHS Chief Gets Behind One Cause Everyone Can Believe In

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell won't have an easy time making friends on the other side of the political aisle. But on Monday, she did take up one cause that could well be bipartisan. 

"I’ve learned to have respect for every sector of our society and to believe strongly that there really are more things that we have in common as Americans, than things that drive us apart," Burwell said during a speech to The George Washington University students, promoting the Affordable Care Act and highlighting her management background. "That’s why, when we hear good ideas from the other side of the aisle, we want to listen… So when Republican Congressman Fred Upton asked me to join him for a discussion on '21st Century Cures' later this week, I said 'Sign me up.' "

21st Century Cures, as the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman from Michigan noted on his website last month, is a coming series of white papers and hearings designed to speed the discovery and dissemination of pioneering medical cures, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

Asked for his response to the shout-out ...