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Members Back GAO Candidate

Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) said Wednesday that his application to become the next comptroller general has the support of several of his colleagues — including the Democrat tasked with orchestrating the search process.

Platts announced his candidacy this week, almost seven months after Congress’ selection panel began its search. He decided to apply, he said, after being “encouraged by House of Representatives colleagues on both sides of the aisle.—

Among those colleagues, according to Platts, are Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Towns is responsible for much of the day-to-day operation of the search process. In addition, more than 100 Members — 38 Democrats and 73 Republicans — also signed a letter to the commission endorsing Platts for the GAO post, according to his office.

“It’s very humbling to have this level of support,— Platts said Wednesday, adding that his past support of legislation that increased the transparency and accountability at various federal agencies illustrated his level of commitment to open and efficient government.

Platts joins a small pool of applicants that include Rhode Island Auditor General Ernie Almonte, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi and former Assistant Comptroller General Ira Goldstein. Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, a well-liked career GAO employee, has also thrown his hat into the ring.

It is rare for a Member of Congress to apply for the head job at the Government Accountability Office, which acts as Congress’ nonpartisan watchdog. Only one sitting Member has become CG: then-Rep. Lindsay Warren (D-N.C.), who was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940.

The nomination process has changed since then, when the president had sole appointing power. Now, Congress sends at least three names to the White House. The president then nominates a candidate — who does not have to be on the recommended list — and the Senate confirms his choice. Officials haven’t said when they will send the recommended list of candidates to the White House.

The process is usually structured, with candidates turning in their applications by a deadline and submitting to several interviews with Members and senior staffers. But Platts’ late entry is somewhat puzzling; applications were originally collected in April, and several sources said some candidates have already had two interviews.

Former Comptroller General David Walker, who left the post in March 2008, said he was “concerned that they lost control of the process.—

“In the end, Congress can do whatever it wants,— he said. “But one thing I know for sure is that if the process doesn’t have integrity, then the selection is going to be questioned.—

The CG carries a 15-year term and wields significant power in leading an agency of 3,000 analysts who investigate a broad range of government programs. The agency has also gained new importance during an economic downturn and two costly wars.

If chosen, Platts said he would work to strengthen the relationship between the GAO, Congress and the executive branch. But he isn’t counting on his appointment: Until the Congressional Comptroller General Commission makes a decision, Platts said he fully intends to run for re-election in 2010.

“I have known I wanted to [become a Member of Congress] since I was 14,— he said. “I’ll leave the House with a heavy heart.—

Both Platts and Walker said at least one other candidate has also recently turned in an application.