27 May 2008

The Blueprint of ignorance

H/T to Lee Cary at American Thinker Blog for his article pointing to Sen. Obama's Blueprint for Change.

This is in the 'I report, you think for yourself' category, and I will restrict this post to *just* the overview.

From the 'At a Glance' very top of the Blueprint, page 3.

Point number one:

A Leader for Reform
Obama reached across the aisle and challenged leaders of both parties to pass historic ethics reforms both in Washington and Springfield, IL. Unlike other candidates, he refuses to accept campaign contributions from PACs and Washington lobbyists.

From Kathy's US Politics Blog at About.com on 31 MAR 2008:

Given that PACS must be "bad" for Obama's campaign to make such an assertion, regardless of its merit, what do we make of the fact that Obama himself runs a PAC? And Obama's Leadership PAC (The Hope Fund) accepted donations from 56 PACs in 2004-2006, according to the Globe. In 2006, Harper's itemized corporate and legal (law firms) interests, PACs and lobbyists who had financed Obama's campaigns and Leadership PAC.


These tables show the extent of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton's leadership PAC donations and whether or not the candidate has been endorsed for president, if that is known. There is not yet a direct cause-and-effect: that is, everyone who has gotten money has not endorsed a candidate. And both candidates have endorsements from senators and representatives who have not received leadership PAC contributions.

Instead, the Leadership PAC, like Obama's history with political money, remind me of Caesar's justification for divorce: "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

"Change" or "more of the same"? Seems pretty clear to me.

From Trudy Lieberman at the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk on 15 FEB 2008:

The word “lobbyist” seems to have a particular meaning in Obama’s campaign
vocabulary. His stump speeches imply that he is not taking money from people who
want things from the government and push for them. The reality is that he has.

To explain: Opensecrets.org, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, is the most authoritative source on campaign finances. Basing its reports on data from the Federal Election Commission, the Center shows that Obama indeed doesn’t take much money from a sector the Center calls “lobbyists.” Through the end of December, Clinton received more than $800,000 and McCain around $400,000 from this group, which the Center says includes people who work for lobbying firms at the local, state, and federal level and their relatives who are not otherwise employed, as well as those who are officially registered as Washington lobbyists. Obama received contributions of about just $86,000 from this group. Obama’s Web site says he doesn’t take money from Washington lobbyists or political action committees,and the Center says that if his campaign finds that the money came from registered Washington lobbyists, it does get returned.


Significantly, the Center’s lobbyist sector excludes in-house lobbyists who work solely for one company, union, trade association, or other group. These people may lobby, but their contributions are grouped in the totals for the various industries they represent, along with contributions from other employees in the sector, their relatives, whatever PAC money has been raised, and donations from trade and professional associations which, of course, carry lots of weight in the horse trading that occurs when legislation is drafted. (Corporations cannot contribute directly to candidates.)


Last August The Boston Globe, in a piece by Scott Helman, took a hard look at Obama’s contributions, noting that “behind Obama’s campaign rhetoric about taking on special interests lies a more complicated truth.” That truth revealed that as a state legislator in Illinois, a U.S. senator, and as a presidential aspirant, Obama had collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and PACs. Helman quoted an Obama campaign spokeswoman saying that after he experienced firsthand the influence of Washington lobbyists, he was taking a different approach to fundraising than he had in the past, and that “his leadership position on this issue is an evolving process.” If Obama’s leadership on campaign financing is indeed evolving, more news outlets should be following the evolution.

Then there is Michael Isikoff's Newsweek piece of 02 JUN 2008 Issue:

When Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike two years ago, it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a "California-style energy crisis" if the rate increase wasn't approved—but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. "It's corporate money trying to hoodwink the public," the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. What got scant notice then—but may soon get more scrutiny—is that CORE was the brainchild of ASK Public Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior partner is David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Barack Obama.

No he doesn't want lobbyists to give him money, he wants them to work for him, especially ones creating deceitful ad campaigns for companies putting out 'astroturf'.

That is the first point of the Blueprint demonstrating Sen. Obama's concept of change.

Point number two:

Close the Revolving Door
Obama will close the revolving door between the executive branch and K-Street lobbying shops. Obama’s appointees will serve the American people, not their own financial interests.

So, will he vet his administration any better than his campaign staff? Or are campaigns tied to lobbyists ok? Well, lets ask K-Street! From The Hill's Alexander Bolton on 28 MAR 2007:

Mike Williams, the director of government relations at Credit Suisse Securities, said of the network of lobbyists supporting Obama: “I would imagine that it’s as large as the Clinton list,” in reference to rival presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is an entrenched favorite of the Washington Democratic establishment.

He said that while lobbyists cannot give money to Obama, they can give “policy” and “campaign support.” Indeed, K Street denizens have rare policy and national campaign expertise.

Williams is actively building support for Obama among lobbyists and the corporate clients they represent. While other Obama supporters have described him as a leading activist, Williams demurs: “I wouldn’t want to put my position as a spearhead.” He acknowledges that the gains Obama is making among Washington’s Democratic establishment are hard to see because Obama’s K Street supporters have kept a low profile. As a result, Obama’s K Street network is a stealthy operation.


Obama’s spokesman Bill Burton said the senator knows that it is impossible to completely escape the influence of Washington’s establishment, but that rejecting lobbyists’ money is an important gesture.

“Senator Obama said when he set out this policy that it doesn’t solve the problem of money in politics but it is a sign and symbolic step in the right direction,” said Burton. “It’s not going to stop the sway that money has over policies or that special interests have over legislation, but it indicates the type of administration Obama would have if elected.”

Other K Street players working to build momentum for Obama are former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), a consultant for Alston & Bird; Broderick Johnson, president of Bryan Cave Strategies LLC; Mark Keam, the lead Democratic lobbyist at Verizon; Jimmy Williams, vice president of government affairs for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America; Thomas Walls, vice president of federal public affairs at McGuireWoods Consulting; and Francis Grab, senior manager at Washington Council Ernst & Young.


One lobbyist who has worked hard for Obama behind the scenes, according to two pro-Obama lobbyists, denied that he was in the Illinois senator’s camp when queried by The Hill. The shy lobbyist wanted to keep his allegiance secret because he represents a New York-based company and his job could be harmed if he alienated Clinton, explained a fellow Obama partisan.

Other pro-Obama lobbyists are open about their plans to help him become president.

“He’s like Bill Clinton with no baggage,” said Jimmy Williams, of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers. “He’s got that aura and people are talking about him. You realize you’re in the presence of something incredible. He has broad appeal.”

“He won’t take our money but we can go out and campaign for him,” he said. “I’m more than happy to campaign for the guy because the country is in dire need of honest leadership.”

Williams, a former aide to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said he was in contact with Durbin’s office to plot out ways to get more young voters interested in Obama.

He also said he would try to raise money for Obama’s campaign in his home county of Rappahannock, in Virginia “We’ll have a fundraiser in Little Washington or Sperryville or something. I haven’t locked it down yet,” he said.

Jimmy Williams of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers wants to get the youth vote out for Obama? Hold a fundraiser? Any sponsorship of said fundraiser? But you really do have to love how the Obama campaign admits it really can't do anything about K-Street Lobbyists, and just takes the anti-lobbyist position to 'set the tone'. Because to do something would require legislation.

From Congress.

Where Sen. Obama currently resides.

Over at Roll Call they have the list of those K-Street lobbyists openly pulling for Sen. Obama:

Barack Obama (20)

Donald Alexander (Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld)
Theodore Bornstein (Foley & Lardner)
John Buscher (Holland & Knight)
Kevin Chavous (Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal)
Tom Daschle (Alston & Bird)
Stan Fendley (Corning)
Elizabeth Fox (Jolly/Rissler)
Francis Grab (Washington Council Ernst & Young)
Tim Hannegan (Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates)
Tom Jensen (Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal)
Broderick Johnson (Bryan Cave Strategies)
Mark Keam (Verizon)
Bob Maloney (Maloney Government Relations)
Marcus Mason (The Madison Group)
Ronald Platt (Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney)
Andy Rosenberg (Ogilvy Government Relations)
Bobby Sepucha (Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal)
Jarvis Stewart (Stewart Partners)
Tom Walls (McGuireWoods)
Michael Williams (Credit Suisse)

The interested student of lobbying look-ups can go to The Center For Public Integrity's LobbyWatch search and have at it! Never know who these various lobbyists are supporting. Remember that CPIC is pretty partisan, but the numbers do speak for themselves. But do remember, that Sen. Obama's campaign recognizes that the Platform is unrealistic.

Point number three:

Increase Transparency
Obama will increase transparency so that ordinary Americans can understand their government and trust that their money is well spent.

Can we start with Sen. Obama? He has released his earmarks, according to Lynn Sweet at the Sweet Scoop at the Chicago Sun-Times, but only after initially refusing to do so:

Sweet scoop: Obama, after initial refusal, releases all earmark requests. Read them here. UPDATES

WASHINGTON--After refusing since June to make public earmark requests from 2005 and 2006, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is releasing Thursday all the earmark requests he has made since he entered the Senate in 2005.

This disclosure was made just before the campaign starts a conference call with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to discuss congressional earmarks. This interest in earmarks comes as Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) --knowing one of them will face anti-earmark Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the fall--have signed on to a bill calling for a one-year earmark moratorium. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is against an earmark moratorium.

Here's one highlight: Obama sought money for the University of Chicago Hospitals. Wife Michelle works for the University of Chicago Hospitals, appointed in spring 2005 as vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. She is now on leave from the job to campaign for her husband. Top campaign adviser and friend Valerie Jarrett is the Chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board and also Chair of the Executive Committee of that board. She has also been named Vice-Chair of the University's Board of Trustees. Obama taught at the U. of Chicago law school and the Obama's two daughters attend school there.

Also mentioned are the following earmark requests by Sen. Obama for 2006 as given in Lynn Sweet's article:

  • $1.6 Million To The University Of Illinois College Of ACES For The Livestock Genome Sequencing Initiative.
  • $2 Million For The Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center At The University Of Illinois College Of ACES.
  • $3 Million The Future Foods Initiative At The University Of Illinois College Of ACES.
  • $2.5 Million For The Illinois Program For Integrated Sustainable Agriculture At The University Of Illinois College Of ACES.
  • $3 Million To Support The National Center For Food Safety & Technology At The Illinois Institute Of Technology.
  • $310,000 For The Slocum Watershed Management Project In Lake County.
  • $2,499,400 For The Food Stamp Participation Project Of The Illinois Department Of Human Services.
  • $1.75 Million For The Secure User Network For Food And Agriculture Response And Mobilization (SUN-FARM) For The Illinois Department Of Commerce And Economic Opportunity.
  • $900,000 For The Women's Sports Foundation’s Go Girl Go Chicago Initiative.
  • $550,000 For The John G. Shedd Aquarium’s At-Risk Youth Monitoring Initiative.
  • $350,000 For Guardian Angel Community Services To Support Its Transitional Housing For Women And Children Suffering Domestic Violence Program.
  • $300,000 To Support The A Child Is Missing (ACIM) Program. In 2006, Obama requested $300,000 for the A Child Is Missing Program (ACIM).
  • $1 Million For The Village of Franklin Park To Support Its Law Enforcement Strategic Technology Program.
  • $3 million For The DuPage, Kane & Kendall County Sheriff's Offices To Support The Tri-County In Car Video Camera Project.
  • $62 million For The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy Project.
  • $1.75 million For The Northern Illinois Technology Triangle.
  • $500,000 For McHenry County’s Integrated Criminal Justice Information System.
  • $450,000 For The South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police To Support Its Center For Law Enforcement Technology Collaboration.
  • $675,000 For The Metro Chicago Youth For Christ Juvenile Justice Ministry Gang Prevention Program.
  • $500,000 For The Lakeview Museum To support Its Planetarium For Central Illinois Regional Museum.
  • $2 million For The University of Illinois At Chicago Prisoner Reentry, Family And Communities National Resource Center.
  • $750,000 For The Windy City Harvest To Support Its Windy City Harvest Resource Center.
  • $1.9 Million For The Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago To Support Its National Coordinated Law-Related Education Program.
  • $3 million For The Museum Of Science and Industry’s Expansion Of Its Center For Human Exploration/Henry Crown Space Center.
  • $500,000 For McHenry County’s Law Enforcement Communication System.
  • $4.3 Million And Helped Secure $1.8 Million For The Air Force ALERT System.
  • $10 Million And Helped Secure $5.85 Million For The Rock Island Arsenal’s Arsenal Support Program Initiative (ASPI).
  • $3 Million And Helped Secure $1.95 Million For The Compact Tactical Laser Program.
  • $7.5 Million And Helped Secure $4.9 Million For The National Center for Advanced Secure Systems Research.
  • $2 Million And Helped Secure $1 Million For HUMVEE Hybrid Electronic Conversion Technology.
  • $5 Million And Helped Secure $1 Million For The Fuel Cells for Mobile Robotics Systems Project At Chicago State University.
  • $8 Million And Helped Secure $1.3 Million For The High Explosive Air Burst Technology Program.
  • $7 million And Helped Secure $6.3 Million For Rock Island Arsenal Industrial Preparedness Items.
  • $5 Million And Received $3.3 Million For The Technology, Research, Education, And Commercialization Center At The University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign.
  • $5.8 Million For the Copper Antimicrobial Research Program. In 2006, Obama requested $5.6 million for the Copper Antimicrobial Research Program.
  • $8 Million For Human Genome Expression Through The University Of Illinois At Chicago.
  • $7.5 Million For Advanced Pathogen Titer Diagnostic The University Of Illinois at Chicago.
  • $4.8 Million For A Light Emitting Diode Healing Program At The University Of Illinois At Chicago.
  • $5.2 Million For A Copper Air Quality Program.
  • $4.2 Million For Advance Technology Research On Fabrication At Remote Sites.
  • $6 Million For Work On The Roof For Building 299 At Rock Island Arsenal.
  • $3 Million For Improvements In Heating And Cooling At Rock Island Arsenal Facility.
  • $784,000 In Funding For The Final Phase Of The Upper Mississippi River Comprehensive Plan.
  • $500,000 For Water Distribution Upgrades In The Village Of Oakwood.
  • $1 Million For A Regional Waterways System In The City Of Monmouth.
  • $2 Million For Reconstruction Of A Water Distribution System In The City Of Shawneetown.
  • $1 Million To Support The Bubbly Creek Restoration Project In The City Of Chicago.
  • $750,000 For An Arts And Science “Green Building” At Quincy University.
  • $5 Million For The Illinois Department Of Natural Resources Demonstration Asian Carp barrier Project.
  • $1 Million To Support The Asian Carp Barrier Operations And Maintenance Funds For The Illinois Department Of Natural Resources.
  • $500,000 For Peoria County’s Senachine Creek River Restoration Project.
  • $300,000 For McHenry County’s Groundwater/Stormwater Protection Investigation.
  • $750,000 For A Neuroscience Laboratory At Dominican University.
  • $1 Million For Construction Of A New Hospital Pavilion At The University Of Chicago.
  • $1 Million For An Intensive Care Unit Expansion And Renovation Project At St. Mary Medical Center.
  • $2.5 Million For A Science Storms Program At Chicago’s Museum Of Science And Industry.
  • $300,000 For The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.
  • $500,000 For The Heartland Water Resource Council (HWRC) For Storm Water Management Assistance For The Turkey Creek Watershed.
  • $6.1 Million For The Illinois Department Of Natural Resources’ Upper Des Plaines River Basin Feasibility Study (Levee 37).
  • $300,000 For The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Expanded Study of Phase II of the Des Plaines River.
  • $2 Million For The Thorek Memorial Hospital Cancer Treatment Center.
  • $1.3 Million For Will County’s Flood Studies Project.
  • $600,000 For The International Arid Lands Consortium’s For Research And Demonstration Projects On Providing Water Resources For Arid Lands.
  • $2 Million For The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to support its National Corn to Ethanol Research Center at SIU-Edwardsville.
  • $4 Million For The Illinois Department of Natural Resources For New Gates At The East End of The Chicago River Lock.
  • $900,000 For Governors State University’s Homeland Security And Disaster Management Center For Excellence In Learning, Research And Outreach.
  • $800,000 For Wireless Communications Technology For The Will County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Northeastern Illinois Sewer Consortium Receive $3.5 million To Support Its Northeastern Illinois Sewer Consortium Project.
  • $2 million For Olympia Fields To Support Its Storm Water Conveyance Improvements.
  • $1 million For The Village Of Park Forest To Support Its Sanitary Sewer Upgrades.
  • $7 million For The Wheaton Sanitary District to support its Water Environment Research Foundation.
  • $120,000 For The Water Environment Research Foundation To Support Its Countywide Wetland Preservation And Restoration Plan.
  • $1,953,331 For Will County To Support Its Ridgewood Water And Sewage Project.
  • $405,000 For The Village Of Olympia Fields To Support Its Water Pumping System Improvement Program.
  • $750,000 For The Lakeview Museum’s Illinois River Interpretive Center.
  • $2 million For Lake County’s Watershed Plan Implementation Project.
  • $1 Million For The Village of Park Forest To Support Its Water Main Distribution System.
  • $500,000 For The University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign To Support Its Midwest Technology Assistance Center For Small Public Water Systems.
  • $700,000 For The Village Of Riverdale’s Illinois Pacesetter Sewer/Water Project.
  • $8 Million For The City Of Chicago’s Drinking Water Security Initiative.
  • $1.5 million For The Illinois State Geological Survey To Support Its Central Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition Project.
  • $1 Million For The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urban Teaching and Leadership Center.
  • $500,000 For Kids Voting USA.
  • $200,000 For The Teen Challenge Faith-Based Drug Abuse Treatment And Prevention Program In Illinois.
  • $3 Million For The Safer Foundation. In 2006, Obama requested $3 million for the Safer Foundation.
  • $500,000 For Goodwill Industries Of Metropolitan Chicago.
  • $335,000 For The Chicago Zoological Society Of The Brookfield Zoo To Support Its Excellence Through Diversity Program.
  • $1 Million For National-Louis University To Support Its Center for City Schools' Secondary Reading Initiative.
  • $500,000 For The Salud Latina Resource Center To Support Its Community Health Programs.
  • $2 million For The Illinois State University Institutes For Mathematics And Science Teachers Program.
  • $2.5 million For Illinois State University’s Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline Programs and Partnerships Program.
  • $500,000 For The Illinois Downstate Assistive Technology Evaluation, Training And Device Loan Program.
  • $1.2 Million For The ACCESS Community Health Network Behavioral Health Care Activities.
  • $200,000 For the Knowledge Is Power Program’s (KIPP) Ascend Charter School in Chicago.
  • $2.2 Million For The Center For Neighborhood Technology’s Information For Communities Project.
  • $2 Million for Chicago Public Schools’ CPS Reading Initiative (CRI).
  • $250,000 For The Chicago Park District’s Obesity Prevention-Affordable Fitness Centers.
  • $1 Million For Alton Memorial Hospital To Support Its Riverbend Stroke Center.
  • $1 million For The Lakeview Museum To support Its K-12 Education And Outreach Program At The Central Illinois Regional Museum.
  • $500,000 For McHenry County’s Job Readiness Program.
  • $300,000 For The Lawson House YMCA’s Targeted Case Management Service For Veterans.
  • $4 million For The Children’s Memorial Medical Center’s Electronic Medical Record Project.
  • $1 million For The Chicago State University (CSU) HIV/AIDS Policy And Research Institute.
  • $1 million For Chicago State University’s (CSU) Establishment Of A School Of Pharmacy.
  • $500,000 For The University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Online Science Teacher Certification Program.
  • $250,000 For McHenry County’s Mental Health Court.
  • $450,000 For Swedish American Health System’s Davis Junction Rural Health Center Clinic.
  • $360,000 For Library And Technology Learning Center At Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.
  • $800,000 For A Training And Resource Center Of The Swedish Covenant Hospital.
  • $300,000 For An Extended-Day And Extended Year Academic Program At The Chicago Jesuit Academy.
  • $900,000 For An Early Childhood Professional Development Center At Saint Xavier University.
  • $700,000 For Youth Conservation Corps, Inc. For A GED Program.
  • $1.8 Million For The Illinois Department Of Public Health To Conduct A Men’s Health Pilot Project.
  • $700,000 For Expansion Of The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant Project By The Illinois Department Of Public Health.
  • $500,000 For The Uhlich Children’s Network To Support Its Adolescent Mental Health Service Support Program.
  • $2.5 Million For The Children’s Hospital Of Illinois’ Replacement Project.
  • $942,400 For Cyber Seniors, Inc.’s Senior Power Program.
  • $5 Million For Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital.
  • $1 Million For Catholic Charities’ St. Leo Residence For Veterans And VA Clinic And Resources Center.
  • $650,000 For A Real-time Writers And Captioning Program At Sparks College.
  • $5 Million For Loyola University’s Center For Public Service.
  • $500,000 For The Children’s Health Fund’s Chicago Children’s Health Project.
  • $2 Million For The Illinois Primary Health Care Association’s Electronic Health Records Project.
  • $5 Million For The City Colleges Of Chicago To Support Project ALIGN.
  • $6 Million For The Midwest Emergency Department Services’ Rural Emergency Access Safety Net Program.
  • $200,000 For The Guardian Angel Community Service’s Before-And-After School Enrichment Program.
  • $162,000 To The Cristo Rey Jesuit High School For Its Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Work Study Internship Program.
  • $1.95 Million For The Will County Health Department To Support Its Mentally Ill Substance Abuse Programs.
  • $312,202 For Helen Wheeler Center For Community Mental Health’s Child And Family Services Program.
  • $250,000 For The Beecher hall At Illinois College.
  • $1 Million For A Center For Communicative Disorders At Augustana College.
  • $400,000 For The Carr Center Second Floor Renovation Of Seguin Services.
  • $2.5 Million For The Center For Excellence In Health Professionals Education At Governors State University.
  • $200,000 For The Peoria County’s Get The Lead Out Program In Peoria County, Illinois.
  • $200,000 For The City Of Rock Island’s The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.
  • $200,000 For The Decatur Lakefront Development Project.
  • $200,000 In Funding For The Shawneetown Community Center And Children’s Park.

My thanks to Lynn Sweet!

Having to ask for this information to extract it from a Congresscritter is awful. It should be openly published and available online, without having to force members of Congress to fess up on their porkritude. Of course Sen. Obama could sponsor an open earmarks amendment to publish all earmarks before they are put into the budget. Congress does that, you know, sets their own rules. Maybe make it official via a FOIA system for Congress. That would, however, take a Congresscritter to draft, sponsor and get such a thing through Congress and show leadership.

And a commitment to transparency.

Point number four and the last of the 'At a Glance' items:

End Wasteful No-Bid Contracts
Obama will clean up government contracting and end the abuse of no-bid contracts.

Well, luckily government already passed laws to get contracts to be open source when at all possible using Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) goods. That went down way back in the early 1990's. I know, I was gainfully employed in the federal government then. When I worked my way over to a slot in R&D I found out where the 'no bid contracts' and grants were coming from.


You see, Congress can side-step its own laws by putting in a 'must get from...' sort of language in a line item. That is a mandatory sole source guidance from Congress, which is then justification to get a contract from only that source. If that language is left out, however, then the government agency must go through the entire open source procurement arrangement, which has a high overhead but gets the 'best value' for the money (not necessarily the lowest cost, but the best overall value to the government for money spent).

Grants have even less in the way of strings to them and as long as who ever gets it does what they are supposed to do or even try to, that is pretty much it (and yes that is a vast oversimplification). Contracts require drawing up specifications, publishing them, taking bids, reviewing bids, awarding contract, going through any appeals, then you start in the whole contract delivery and acceptance problem... the 'no-bid' contracts are the exception, not the rule these days, and only used for critical war supplies or where Congress directs the government to a sole source. It is a Congressionally Directed Action and has the force of law behind it.

If Sen. Obama wants to stop 'no-bid' contracts, he can START with his fellow Congresscritters and get them to STOP putting in those damned earmarks. What Congress doesn't seem to understand is that in putting the earmark *in* it does not put in the necessary administrative and contractual overhead to run said contracts. That usually comes to 10-15% of the cost of the earmark in labor time and legal tracking of work. So a $1 million earmark will eat up $100,00 to $150,000 of agency budget.... and no one had planned to spend it on the earmark so that gets taken out of the hide of other, needed programs. If you are very lucky and Congress did not justify an earmark well, then some of that money can go to overhead, but that is not often.

Senator Obama has a problem in common with the other Senators left running for President: They are not familiar with how the government actually works and what it costs to get things done. They are familiar with the budget, yes, but not the expenditure process that comes from their laws and budgets. I know that from first-hand experience. So when I hear such lovely talk from a Congresscritter about 'transparency' or 'no-bid' contracts, all I have to say to them is: Hold up a mirror for the problem.

Good government does not start at the expenditure side.

It starts in the budget process.

And that starts with the President putting a budget together, and then Congress throwing that out and making its own.

You have to do some digging to get the last President that *just* got his budget and only that. The problem is not in the Executive, but the Legislative. And *that* could sure use some 'leadership'.

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