May 18, 2012

Government Waste or Corruption?

A friend of mine recently told me a story that should anger any American taxpayer.  Not too long ago he was working for a company that had earned a $120 million federal contract for the development of a computer system and he was the project's manager.  The work was going well and the system was on schedule for an on-time completion.  After the company had charged $90 million of the full contract amount, a representative of the agency that had ordered the work, visited my friend and ordered a stop to it.

My friend, rightly so, was incredulous.  The system was still a work-in-progress, but enough had been completed that he could show it was living up to expectations.  The man said a demo wasn't necessary and that he didn't intend to take the contract away form the company.  In fact, he wanted to replenish the budget in full, but he needed the work to begin again from scratch.  Why?  Did it have to do with some new consideration or development that hadn't been a concern at the time of the bidding?  No, the agency wanted the work farmed out to a specific subcontractor.  

You probably already suspect what had happened behind the scenes, but here's the summary: 1) An original bidder on the project complained to a congressional representative who was on an important appropriations committee, 2) the congressman put pressure on the regulatory agency to rethink the project to include the losing bidder, and 3) the agency--afraid future appropriations would be jeopardized without political support--cancelled the contract and demanded the work be restarted with the new subcontractor.  Now, some people might call the result government waste, but in my mind, it's more than that.  It's corruption based upon the influence of a well-heeled corporation and the money at its disposal.  The result was that $90 million of tax revenue--money you and I paid--evaporated.  

We can't give corporations and billionaires the ability to exert financial arm-twisting in this way, and a good place to start would be to end their influence in campaign financing.  The degree to which fraud occurs is dangerous and destructive.  Here's a case in point: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS has raised tens of millions of dollars from unnamed donors and is using the money in attack adds against democratic opponents.  This would normally be illegal, but he's getting away with it because he calls Crossroads GPS a 501 (c) non-profit entity that is working to enhance social welfare.  

This is nothing short of a scam that only increases the influence of the moneyed class in America.  We can't let him get away with it.  We only do so at our peril.  If you don't believe this is a problem, listen to this recording (from This American Life) of an elected official shaking down a lobbyist for money.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't a total waste, according to Obama. He created jobs.