Morning Must Reads: June 3

In the news: college Republicans, piecemeal immigration, IRS conferences, a deficit deal, Detroit's downfall, the temporary farm subsidy program, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Strategy Group for Media.

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

  • The College Republican National Committee rips the perception of its party’s economic position, and its stance on Hispanics and gay marriage, in a new report.
  • On immigration, the House GOP leans toward a piecemeal approach.
  • The IRS spent $50 million on conferences for employees.
  • Deficit deal is less likely as improving fiscal health eases pressure amid gridlock.
  • Steve Coll: “To rebalance the national-security state and to otherwise revitalize American democracy, the United States requires a Supreme Court willing to deepen protections for investigative reporters.”
  • Michael Barone blames unions for Detroit’s downfall.
  • Meet Google’s Washington insider: Susan Molinari
  • Congress is attempting to kill a farm subsidy program that was set to expire 10 years ago yet still doles out almost $5 billion a year to farmers and non-farmers alike.
  • Iraqi Kurdistan will be forced to seek a “new form of relations” with the central government in Baghdad if negotiations fail to resolve their disputes over oil and land, Masoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous region said.
  • Inside the meltdown at America’s most conservative, most Christian political consulting firm, the Strategy Group for Media
287 comments
tkulaga
tkulaga

I wish someone would look into NOAA. NOAA is responsible for nothing yet it reports on everything imaginable.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And of course how can we forget the for-profit war in Iraq.

Iraq Reconstruction

From the beginning, the Administration adopted a flawed contracting approach in Iraq. Instead of maximizing competition, the Administration opted to award no-bid, cost-plus contracts to politically connected contractors. Halliburton’s secret $7 billion contract to restore Iraq’s oil infrastructure is the prime example. Under this no-bid, cost-plus contract, Halliburton was reimbursed for its costs and then received an additional fee, which was a percentage of its costs. This created an incentive for Halliburton to run up its costs in order to increase its potential profit.

Even after the Administration claimed it was awarding Iraq contracts competitively in early 2004, real price competition was missing. Iraq was divided geographically and by economic sector into a handful of fiefdoms. Individual contractors were then awarded monopoly contracts for all of the work within given fiefdoms. Because these monopoly contracts were awarded before specific projects were identified, there was no actual price competition for more than 2,000 projects.

In the absence of price competition, rigorous government oversight becomes essential for accountability. Yet the Administration turned much of the contract oversight work over to private companies with blatant conflicts of interest. Oversight contractors oversaw their business partners and, in some cases, were placed in a position to assist their own construction work under separate monopoly construction contracts.1

The results of this unsound contracting approach were as costly as they were predictable:

Halliburton
Under Halliburton’s two largest Iraq contracts, Pentagon auditors found $1 billion in “questioned” costs and over $400 million in “unsupported” costs.2 Former Halliburton employees testified that the company charged $45 for cases of soda, billed $100 to clean 15- pound bags of laundry, and insisted on housing its staff as the five-star Kempinski hotel in Kuwait.3 Halliburton truck drivers testified that the company “torched” brand new $85,000 trucks rather than perform relatively minor repairs and regular maintenance.4 Halliburton procurement officials described the company’s informal motto in Iraq as “Don’t worry about price. It’s cost-plus.”5 A Halliburton manager was indicted for “major fraud against the United States” for allegedly billing more than $5.5 billion for work that should have cost only $685,000 in exchange for a $1 million kickback from a Kuwaiti subcontractor.6

Custer Battles
The Air Force found that another U.S. government contractor, Custer Battles, set up shell subcontractors to inflate prices.7 Those overcharges were passed along to the U.S government
under the company’s cost-plus contract to provide security for Baghdad International Airport. In one case, the company allegedly took Iraqi-owned forklifts, re-painted them, and leased them to the U.S. government.

Lack of Progress
Despite the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars, U.S. reconstruction efforts in keys sectors of the Iraqi economy are failing. Over two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, oil and electricity production has fallen below pre-war levels.8 The Administration has failed to even measure how many Iraqis lack access to drinkable water.9


mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Or this little treat:

Hiring Airport Screeners
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) cost-plus contract with NCS Pearson, Inc., to hire federal airport screeners was plagued by poor management and egregious waste. Pentagon auditors challenged $303 million (over 40%) of the $741 million spent by Pearson under the contract.1 The auditors detailed numerous concerns with the charges of Pearson and its subcontractors, such as “$20-an-hour temporary workers billed to the government at $48 per hour, subcontractors who signed out $5,000 in cash at a time with no supporting documents, $377,273.75 in unsubstantiated long distance phone calls, $514,201 to rent tents that flooded in a rainstorm, [and] $4.4 million in ‘no show’ fees for job candidates who did not appear for tests.”2 A Pearson employee who supervised Pearson’s hiring efforts at 43 sites in the U.S. described the contract as “a waste a taxpayer’s money.”3 The CEO of one Pearson subcontractor paid herself $5.4 million for nine months work and provided herself with a $270,000 pension. 4

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And then again there is this gem from the Bush years.

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found that taxpayer dollars were being lavished on perks for agency officials. One IG report found that TSA spent over $400,000 on its first leader’s executive office suite.13 Another found that TSA spent $350,000 on a gold-plated gym.14


mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Wonder where the House Republican Conference was when all this was happening?

It's Your Money
The history of the Bush Administration’s handling of federal contracts and other expenditures is one of persistent and costly mismanagement. It's Your Money, presented by Chairman Henry A. Waxman, features specific examples of government waste, fraud, and abuse:

Katrina Relief   Having made a payment of over $62 billion in emergency funding, Congress must hold the Administration accountable for hurricane relief and reconstruction funds. Iraq Reconstruction   From the beginning, the Administration adopted a flawed contracting approach in Iraq. The results of this unsound contracting approach were as costly as they were predictable. Homeland Security Contracting   The Administration’s domestic contracting record is no better than its record on Iraq. Waste, fraud, and abuse appear to be the rule rather than the exception. Barrett Investigation   Independent Counsel David Barrett, appointed in 1995 to investigate allegations against then-HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, has spent nearly $4 million in taxpayer dollars since a three-judge panel ordered that he close down his investigation more than two years ago.

ahandout
ahandout

Only 4 mil a year?  I'm surprised it's not much more given the high quality productions coming out of the IRS studios.  Spielberg should be scared.

The IRS may be watching us but a number of Republicans are now asking who’s watching the IRS — more specifically the tax agency’s $4 million-a-year television studio.

“The IRS spends $4 million annually to run its own full-service television production studio,” asserts the House Republican Conference, which posted a photograph of the expansive studio on the
flickr picture sharing website.


Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/irs-million-tv-show/2013/02/26/id/492140#ixzz2VBb14h7I
 

grape_crush
grape_crush

Just had another phone 'survey' hit - this time they asked for my senior citizen mother, who lives a few hours away - where the person on the line asked leading, prejudicial questions and wouldn't answer who was sponsoring the poll. I guess that asking them for detail makes them uncomfortable, because they ended the call rather quickly at that point.

Fkng sick of this push-polling. If it's not 'more jobs from fracking' it's 'school choice' or some other wingnut crap.


tkulaga
tkulaga

@ahandout Once again you exaggerate the findings as to say Richard Blum himself won the construction Contract. Had you read your own post you would determine he was a small investor in one of the entities that won the bid.  Woop Dee Doo.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout High speed rail has done wonders in the Boston to DC corridor. Why would it now do the same from San Fran to San Diego?

tkulaga
tkulaga

@mantisdragon91 Why do you keep saying Administration? Just say Cheney awarded the contracts to Cheney and friends.

Tero
Tero

@ahandout 

Oh goody, ahandout is here. The stupid answer to a stupid question no one asked...

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@ahandout 

I'd rather focus on the billions and billions wasted in the military's bloated budget.

Tero
Tero

@grape_crush 

That is crazy. Sometimes I wish a conservative scammer would call me so I could tell them off. I just don't want them calling on a regular basis.

paulejb
paulejb

@SirDonQuixotic 

He must do it for inspiration. The AP is made up of a loyal members of the Obama fan club.

ahandout
ahandout

@tkulaga @ahandout “  Anybody who wants one can get a free Obamaphone.  Some companies market them with the title Obamaphone like this one found on Google:

ReachOut Wireless offers free mobile Phones in USA, Welfare Phone & free cell phone services with Government Assisted/Supported plans in USA. Get a hassle free ... www.freegovernmentcellphones.net or Obamaphone.net. Annual Recertification · Add Minutes · Upgrade Phone · Live Support · Application Downloads ...

The program has nearly tripled in size from $800 million in 2009 to $2.2 billion per year in 2012,”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-phones-subsidy-program-draws-new-scrutiny-on-the-hill/2013/04/09/50699d04-a061-11e2-be47-b44febada3a8_story.html

Obamaphone, when you build it, own it.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout   Multitude of reasons.

It's not going to be high speed first of all.

It was supposed to cost 6 billion, now it's 60 billion and climbing

California is broke, and it won't get the billions from the feds that it wants.

It's not going from SD to SF.  It's going to cost 37 billion to go from San Fernando Valley to Fresno.  That mecca of tourism and fun, Fresno.

People fly on planes; it's cheaper and faster, and safer.

This proposed "high speed rail" will never be completed.

If a high speed rail had any chance, it was 20-30 years ago when a proposed rail to Las Vegas was killed by environmentalists.  

tkulaga
tkulaga

@ahandout@tkulagaRight off the bat you are mistaken and I do quote:: You qualify for a free cell phone if you are low-income, or on Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, Public Housing, School Lunch. Thanks to Lifeline Assistance.

Of course the program was destined to triple! Once Bush put into play the addition of free cellphones, even I would try to get a free cellphone and everyone in my household if qualified. But had it stayed as a free landline phone, households would only get one phone now, would it not?  

Google the subject before you comment any further, please.

tkulaga
tkulaga

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 And THEY try to sell it as if all of us will be capable of using the rail system when at most 12% of us will (using Portland Oregon's track record).  My question is Is it worth taking one in 8 cars off the road for the rail that will cost billions upfront and who knows how much out of all our pockets to operate.

Tero
Tero

@ahandout @Tero @grape_crush 

You mean Bushphones? Because you know that is was started under the Bush admin right? You were obviously kidding right? Or else you you would just look like an ignorant moron... oh wait...