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Not unexpectedly, Comptroller McCarl's expansionist and independent activities
raised objections, especially during the New Deal period. Referred to as the "watchdog of the Treasury,'
" 26/ McCarl, whose 15-year term lasted until 1936,
incurred the wrath of the Democratic Administration.
On two occasions,
President Roosevelt attempted to limit the Comptroller General's powers through
reorganization but those efforts failed.
Following McCarl's retirement, the
office's responsibilities were handled for three years by Acting Comptroller
General Richard Elliott, an Indiana Republican, much in the same mold as
The disputes between the GAO and the newly-formed TVA became legendary,
prompting TVA's own comptroller, E.L. Kohler, to criticize the GAO, its
powers and methods:
It has long been recognized that the Comptroller General
A review of his report (1934) and frequent contact this
In mid-1939, Fred Brown, a former Democratic Senator from New Hampshire,
was appointed Comptroller General.
Brown had served on a joint congressional
committee investigating the GAO operations regarding the TVA and participated
Statement made in 1939 in Congressional testimony, recorded in Brown.
in recommending changes in methods and investigatory personnel, some of
which recommendations were incorporated in the 1945 Government Corporations
Brown apparently had little difficulty in being confirmed by
his former colleagues in the Senate but served only 14 months, resigning
because of ill health.
His replacement, also nominated by President
Roosevelt and a former congressman, was Lindsay Warren.
little opposition at the time of his appointment and throughout his tenure.
In fact, Warren's efforts to improve the GAO professionally, to increase
its operating capacity, and to extend its domain to government-owned cor
porations (through the 1945 Government Corporation Control Act) resulted
in one analyst calling the office "the new GAO". 28/
The next appointment of Comptroller General occurred in December, 1954.
President Eisenhower nominated Joseph Campbell (who was eventually confirmed
by the Senate), who served as treasurer of Columbia University while Eisen
hower was president of the university and who was a member of the Atomic
The difficulties Campbell experienced in the confirmation
hearings appear to have been confined to the Dixon-Yates controversy.
Holifield, then a member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, advised
that Campbell, as Comptroller General, "should disqualify himself when the
Dixon-Yates contract came before the GAO on the question of payments under
the contract, because they would be payments he (Campbell) 'has been sponsoring.'"29/
Gerald Schulsinger. The General Accounting Office: Two Glimpses. no. 35, Inter-University Case Program Series. University of Alabama.
The current Comptroller General, Elmer B. Staats, had served in the
executive counterpart to the GAO, the Bureau of the Budget, from. 1939 to 1953
and from 1958 to 1966, the latter years as Deputy Director.
For part of
the interim he served with the NSC.
The appointment of Staats evidenced
Although this is but a cursory review of the appointments of the Comp
trollers General, it is evident that at the time of nomination and confirma
tion there was little opposition to the nominees and few attempts to in
trude upon their independence.
attempts were most likely,
following the McCarl and (Acting Comptroller General) Elliott tenure, 1921
1940, President Roosevelt nominated a former Senator who had been one of
the critics and proponents of reform of the GAO.
The most intense contro
versy surrounded Joseph Campbell due to the Dixon-Yates dispute.
sible reason for the limited criticism of the nominees appears to be the
partisan configuration at the time of the appointments.
At the time of
each of the five appointments of Comptrollers General, coincidently, the
same party occupied both the White House and Capital. Thus, inter-party
conflict would not have exacerbated the potential conflict inherent in the
appointments to an office which investigates the executive at the behest of the legislature. Other factors, such as the background and experience
of the nominees, have undoubtedly been important considerations in muting which has experienced the ramifications of the Comptroller General's independence criticism of a nominee. On the issue of independence, it is the executive / (from executive | departments). Congress as an institution has been less concerned in debate
with the office'i Independence (from the Congress) and has enhanced the Comptroller General's independence (from the executive) throughout the years.
Frederick M. Kaiser
September 26, 1975
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Congressional Research Service
By Stuart Glass, Legislative
Attorney, American Division,
WASHINGTON, DC. 20540
ANALYSIS OF S. 2268, THE "GENERAL ACCOUNTING
OFFICE ACT OF 1975"
This is in response to your request of September 10, 1975, for
an analysis of S. 2268, entitled the "General Accounting Office Act of
This memorandum will be in two major sections:
section narrative analysis of the bill, and an analysis of the legal
aspects of the authority which would be delegated by the bill to the
bring suit for declaratory relief against any employee or officer of the
United States to prevent the unlawful expenditure, obligation, or author
ization of public funds; would provide procedural remedies to assist the
Comptroller General in gaining access to records of non-federal persons
and organizations regarding federal contracts; would provide a procedural
remedy to assist the Comptroller General in enforcing access to records
of federal departments and establishments regarding federal financial
activities; and would authorize the Comptroller General to conduct a
profits study of contractors having contracts with the federal government.
Title I.--Title I of S. 2268 would amend the Budget and Account
ing Act of 1921, as amended, 31 U.S.C. $$42, et. seq., by adding a new
section 320, which would permit the Comptroller General of the United
States to institute a civil action for declaratory relief in the United
States District Court for the District of Columbia whenever he:
...in the performance of any of his functions
$ 320(6), S. 2268, $101.
Section 320(b) of the Act, as proposed to be amended, would
further authorize the Attorney General, if in disagreement with the
Comptroller General, to represent the defendant official in any such action.
Other parties, including the prospective payee or obligee, would be allowed
to intervene, or could be impleaded as otherwise provided by law.
other parties would be entitled to be served with notice or process.
Beyond the territorial limits of the District of Columbia, process would
be permitted to be served by certified mail.
Section 320(c) would permit the payment of interest at the rate
of six per centum per annum upon any payment for goods or services actually