Salomon Melgen, the Florida eye doctor whose relationship with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is now the subject of a grand jury investigation, has left a trail of lawsuits over bad investments, including one involving a government contract in which he had attempted to tie his money to the coattails of another prominent Hispanic official.
Melgen, who has a port security firm in the Dominican Republic that Menendez denies he tried to help and a medical practice in Florida that the senator admitted he aided, has filed numerous lawsuits over other business dealings that went sour ...
With the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Housing Administration and the Treasury combining to promise trillions... View ArticleContinue reading
Scott Amey at the Project for Government Oversight’s POGO blog writes about being positively surprised by one thing he found... View ArticleContinue reading
What would you say if the Defense Department outsourced the arming of our allies in Afghanistan to a company run by a serial stalker and a licensed masseur? The New York Times reports that the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan's fledging military and police forces, AEY, Inc., has been sending 40 year old munitions acquired from former Soviet bloc countries that do not work. AEY, Inc., is headed by Efraim Diveroli, a young man who used his position as a defense contractor to try and weasel his way out of court appearances regarding stalking charges filed against him by a girlfriend who alleged abuse and was nearly convicted of felony battery. The entire story really must be read in total. The AEY story is reminicent of the great movie Lord of War, except the protagonist here, Diveroli, is a bumbling, corrupt fool and not a successful enabler of mass murder like the Nicholas Cage character.Continue reading
We've been following the progress of a couple of bills making their way through Congress. H.R. 1309 puts a little more teeth in our Freedom of Information Act--the main lever that the press and the public has for prying documents out of the executive branch (and see here for useful FOIA tips maintained by Investigative Reporters & Editors), while S. 223 would, for the first time, require campaign committees of Senate candidates to file their contribution and expenditure information electronically with the Federal Election Commission rather than sending in stacks of paper (both House and Presidential candidates file electronically).Continue reading
A brief, puzzling update (below the fold) on my attempts to get my hands on actual forms SF-LLL, which government contractors or grantees must file when they make a payment or agree to pay "any lobbying entity for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with a covered Federal action," with the latter phrase referring to any contract, grant, cooperative agreement, loan, loan guarantee or loan insurance worth more than $100,000. A reminder: The hope here is that if we can get enough forms SF-LLL, we can start to distinguish between those contracts awarded through the normal procurement process, and those awarded after lobbyists went outside the normal procurement process to influence members of Congress or administration officials. If we can get a complete set of all forms SF-LLL filed with the government, we might be able to build a database from that information, linking it with or incorporating it into sites like FedSpending.org, which tracks government contracts and spending, or OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political influence.Continue reading
FedSpending.org, the go-to site for all government spending information, has now added some 2006 data--the full set isn't available from the Feds just yet--plus some new and improved features for keeping track of how Washington manages our money. Congratulations to all at OMB Watch on the upgrades and updates. I'm appending the press release below, but what I think might be the coolest new feature is the summary data, which provides a really nice snapshot--here's Lockheed Martin, and here's Halliburton. Compare the trend boxes.Continue reading
As they so often are able to do, investigative journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, writing for Vanity Fair, offer both a sense of the scale and the substance of the issues raised by the federal government's increasing reliance on contractors.
It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS. In Washington these companies go by the generic name "body shops"—they supply flesh-and-blood human beings to do the specialized work that government agencies no longer can. Often they do this work outside the public eye, and with little official oversight—even if it involves the most sensitive matters of national security. The Founding Fathers may have argued eloquently for a government of laws, not of men, but what we've got instead is a government of body shops.Continue reading
Last week, GoodbyeJim.com's Jonathan Marks wrote a post about a company called ProLogic. After noting that that company has made campaign contributions to Rep. James Moran, and has hired a sophisticated lobbying firm, PMA Group, whose employees have been generous contributors to Moran's campaigns over the years, Marks raises what I think is a fairly important question: How does ProLogic win business? How does it fair against competing firms that don't have the benefit of any representation from a savvy insider firm like PMA Group (which describes what it does here)? And what does this say about the way procurement decisions are made in the government? Are we always buying the best mousetrap? Are we unable to buy the best mousetrap without the mediation of lobbyists? Conversely, are we making do with somewhat overpriced, somewhat mediocre mousetraps because the company that manufactures them hired the lobbyist with the right connections?Continue reading
At GoodbyeJim.com, a site that closely monitors the member of Congress from my district--Rep. James Moran of Virginia's 8th district--Jonathan Marks has an interesting post about a small government contractor called MobilVox. In the 2004 election cycle, the firm's employees made modest campaign contributions to a trio of lawmakers--Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Rep. John Murtha, and Moran. In fiscal year 2005, according to FedSpending.org, the Navy awarded MobilVox a contract worth $507,092. Marks wonders whether it's worth looking at MobilVox more closely.Continue reading