The Associated Press reported that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will investigate how a huge loophole in federal overseas contracting was slipped into regulations being drafted to limit waste and fraud in government-funded projects. The regulations, when enacted, will require contractors to establish and maintain specific internal controls to detect and prevent improper conduct in connection with a government contract. The loophole would specifically exempt contracts performed entirely outside the U.S.
According to the report, the Committee will "look at whether the exemption was added at the request of private firms, or their lobbyists, to escape having to report abuse in U.S. contracts performed abroad."
It's a good question, but, as long as we are on the subject of waste, we would suggest a simple fix that could lead directly to an answer, without spending taxpayer dollars on document reviews, staff interviews, subpoenas, hearings and testimony stemming from an investigation. If Congress had enacted H.R. 984, Congressman Waxman's Executive Branch Reform Act, a few keystrokes on a computer might provide us with an answer as to whether a firm or lobbyist requested the exemption.
The floodgates are open in Congress as members are ready to begin work on a new season of appropriations bills. That can only mean one thing: more earmarks. This season, being an election year, will be frought with perils and politics for many members of Congress. Today, the House Republican conference released a new Web site to fight for earmark reform, and, of course, to put Democrats in politically precarious districts on the defensive on reform and spending. Many of these Democrats are freshmen, including Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak. In CongressDaily, Sestak explains how earmarks are used to help support these targeted freshmen:
But he acknowledged that his requests for add-ons were not always given the same priority as those of more vulnerable freshmen. "I do know this," Sestak said. "Because I wasn't on Frontline. I was not on the Tier One list for earmarks."Continue reading
House Republicans have launched a new site aiming at further reforming the earmarking process by suspending earmarks until a joint select committee reports back on the practice (presumably with recommendations on how to reform the system). Now Rep. Henry Waxman has come out with a strong statement supporting, if not the Republican effort, then most decidedly the sentiments behind it:
After careful consideration I have decided that I will not request funding through the earmark process in the FY 2009 appropriations cycle. We have a problem in Congress. Congressional spending through earmarks is out of control. ... Congress needs to find a better balance in this area. Properly targeted earmarks can provide the resources for essential services and needs in all parts of our country. They can also identify the most pressing priorities and bring assistance to those who need it most. But none of us can have confidence that a majority of earmarks are meeting these goals under the current system.Waxman goes on to suggest suspending all earmarks from the 2009 appropriations, while working with leadership to come up with a better system. The full text of the Republican earmark proposal is here. Continue reading
Instead of spending another Friday night surfing the Web for your news, here's some television you should watch tonight. Bill Moyers Journal will give you the best arguments you'll ever need to explain why it's so important for our government to do its work in the open. They have prepared an extensive report on government waste and abuse of power.
Specifically Moyers is going to look at some of the unsolved mysteries under investigation by Congress's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman. The program profiles the Committee's work, including its investigations of the mercenary army of Blackwater; Lurita Doan, who remains head of the GSA despite allegations of questionable no-bid contracts; and Condoleezza Rice's State Department, which is plagued by fraud and abuse. Waxman's Committee's Web site is a treasure trove of information and documents on these issues. (In fact, Sunlight regards it as a model site itself when it comes to revealing the details of the work of a committee of Congress.)
And we're pleased that their Web page will highlight many of Sunlight's insanely useful Web sites for people are seeking more information.Continue reading