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June 13, 2005

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How do these people become so corrupt, so quickly?

Charming fellow.

MZM just broke into the top 100 list this year. It doesn't appear that they're public, so it's hard to obtain revenue information for them, but their own website says they've tripled revenue and nearly tripled staffing in the past year. It'd be smart, however, for watchdog groups to keep an eye on who's moving up in the area of government contracts; all kinds of contracts and at all times. I'd long thought that the establishment of a huge government body of rather nebulous charter and funding (i.e. DHS) could result in new opportunities for tax dollars to work their way into the pockets of the dishonest, and I think this is one of those instances.

I'm not holding my breath for President Bush to appoint a Truman Committee (although an interesting Republican nominee might be Lindsay Graham), but it certainly would be good for the nation (if it were, of course, sincere, and not part of a sham cover-up, like the promised (before the election) and effectively disappeared (after the election) commission to study the use intelligence was put to).

Good to know the break-in cost for a steady flow of Your Tax Dollars into a patron's pocket via defense contracts is about $700,000.00.

How do these people become so corrupt, so quickly?

Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence.

The guy is on the defense appropriations subcommittee. He doesn’t buy anything. I agree that selling his house to a defense contractor that suddenly starts to win a lot of bids should raise a lot of eyebrows. And yea DoD's IG should look into the situation because there are sure to be ethics violations all around. But it’s not like Cunningham can just hand out defense contracts.

Influence them for sure, but not hand them out.

He isn’t in the same position as the contracting officer that landed herself in jail after helping Boeing win a number of contracts while negotiating her private sector job with the company and thanking them in arrears for employing two family members.


Toby: from the article:

"The defense appropriations subcommittee drafts the bill that sets specific funding levels for defense programs each year. Committee staff members, acting under the supervision of the chairman and with input from members of the committee, create the initial draft of the spending bill.

With the chairman's approval, subcommittee members are able to insert targeted provisions, frequently benefiting companies, schools or other projects in their congressional districts. This process goes on largely behind closed doors, and the language of the bill rarely identifies the intended beneficiary or the subcommittee member responsible for the provision. Subcommittee members frequently win support for their pet provisions by supporting the provisions of other members.

"It's almost like a swap meet sometimes," said Eric Miller, senior defense investigator for the Project On Government Oversight.

After the draft is completed, the subcommittee, full committee and House must approve the legislation.

Asked if he had supported funding requests benefiting MZM, Cunningham said, "Oh, sure. Just like I have supported Qualcomm and everything else. Titan. SAIC. TRW." "

That last bit is nothing new, hilzoy. The part about swapping $700k for that activity is the part that's problematic.

Which is going to be a concern for both Cunningham's constituency, the DoD, and the IRS. That last, if it can be determined that the house was purchased for considerably more than FMV. In which case the remainder would be a gift. Probably a few blanks would need to be filled in before the IRS would take action, but the IRS would probably be interested in filling in those blanks.

"Probably a few blanks would need to be filled in before the IRS would take action, but the IRS would probably be interested in filling in those blanks."

Perhaps. Fortunately, the IRS, like all other government agencies, has been carefully left unpoliticized by this administration, and there's no possibility of any favortism towards anyone in either direction.

Which is going to be a concern for both Cunningham's constituency, the DoD, and the IRS.

What about the US Attorney?

Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence.

Ha! Too subtle, CharleyCarp; that took me a minute.

perhaps I am not 100% correct on the way appropriations bills work - but I recognize it’s a bit of a cat and mouse game that depends on how well people can word things. So….

With the chairman's approval, subcommittee members are able to insert targeted provisions, frequently benefiting companies, schools or other projects in their congressional districts. This process goes on largely behind closed doors, and the language of the bill rarely identifies the intended beneficiary or the subcommittee member responsible for the provision. Subcommittee members frequently win support for their pet provisions by supporting the provisions of other members.

They point out in the article that members’ targeted provisions seldom specifically name the intended contractor. Sure the bills benefit certain companies. Lockheed, Boeing, insert name of any other large defense contractor are all going to lobby these guys to keep specific programs funded. And if the programs remain funded then the contract holder continues to get paid.

The article leads me to believe that MKM wasn’t an incumbent contractor wishing to keep certain programs alive. Seemed to me that MKM was not really a large player in DoD contracting and their sudden emergence onto the scene is positively correlated to a real estate deal that raises eyebrows.

Cunningham isn’t in the position to influence (I use the word loosely) who a contracting officer awards a contract to. Sure Cunningham may push to fund a particular program that MKM is competing on. But he can’t (as far as I know) write into the appropriations bill that such and such program shall only be funded in the event that the project is awarded to MKM. And Cunningham makes this obvious point.

Eric Miller goes on to say it’s like a swap meet. I suspect what he is hinting at is the way the members wheel and deal with the funding for specific contracts that are on the chopping block. You support this program that is of importance one of my constituents and I’ll support that program you mentioned to me was of equal importance to one of your constituents.

In today’s procurement climate government officers are paying particular attention to procurement regulations, especially those regulations that focus on competition. And take into account all of the changes Dee Lee has made to DoD procurement regulations and you have to wonder if Cunningham has done something particularly foul – or if he worked out an agreement with a contractor that had a chance at winning some big government projects that were potentially going to be left unfunded during a particular appropriations cycle.

Sure its bad – but its still not as distasteful as what the Airforce CO did to help Boeing as way of thanks for providing jobs to family members and ultimately herself.

Slarti: "That last bit is nothing new, hilzoy. The part about swapping $700k for that activity is the part that's problematic."

Yeah -- I was putting that in not to imply that it was bad per se -- although, as someone who thinks that contracts on which our national security and soldiers' lives might depend should be made awarded to the best contractors, period, I think it is -- but specifically to answer Toby's point about his not being in a position to influence contracts. I think that someone on the defense appropriations subcommittee is in a very good position to influence contracts, whether by writing in contracts designed for a particular firm (and written so that that firm will get it, w/o naming the firm), or by informal contact with the people who do award contracts, who would want to be on the good side of the people who decide what contracts there will be to award.

I agree, though, that it's the home sale that's the kicker.

Well, too, there is the bidding process; I really can't imagine that MZM didn't submit a competetive bid. But if Cunningham had, say, revealed some information about its competitors bids, or shared more of the downselect process than the other contractors were privy to, that could be worth millions to MZM.

The "swap meet" comment was to describe the budget formulation process, not contract selection. So Cunningham may have been able to influence what programs made it into the budget, but so far there's been nothing about how he might have made sure MZM won the bidding.

Given Cunningham's position, I doubt he should ever happen to have in his possession any confidental information required of contractors during the bid process.

And I doubt a CO would respond kindly to his interference in the procurement process. Afterall its the government contracting officer that gets audited and not Cunningham, so the buck mostly stops there. If the CO gets audited and the IG finds important information is lacking or missing the CO is going to get in a fair amount of trouble possibly resulting in the loss of their liscense, or risk having authorities lower the maximum value they can purchase with their liscense....both of which I suspect CO's dont like.

I still think what he did was shady. I would be willing to bet that if Cunningham leaned on anyone he was leaning on someone at the SES level who in turn asked the approprate program managers etc to try influence the way the statement of work was written so that MKM would have a better chance at success in a competitive bid process.

So it's known that these are competitive awards, and not sole source?

sole source awards in this day and age are very rare. people throw around the phrase frequently, but typically they are misusing the phrase. even when it comes to DoD acquisitions.

So Cunningham may have been able to influence what programs made it into the budget, but so far there's been nothing about how he might have made sure MZM won the bidding.

Slarti,

Is it possible he shifted the budget a little, to emphasize types of projects where MZM's specialties would be more valuable? It would be hard, probably impossible, to show that this was a payoff, but it seems that it could happen.

On the nature of the contracts:

"Since then, MZM has added tens of millions of dollars in additional contracts, including a $5 million sole source contract to provide interpreters in Iraq."

A couple of years ago the UPI covered Cunningham's inconsistent attitudes about drug smugglers. Every smuggler should get the death penalty, unless the smuggler is his son.

One word on why Cunningham won last time: Diebold

Is it possible he shifted the budget a little, to emphasize types of projects where MZM's specialties would be more valuable?

Yes, I believe that's what I was suggesting as a plausible explanation.

"Since then, MZM has added tens of millions of dollars in additional contracts, including a $5 million sole source contract to provide interpreters in Iraq."

Sole source contracts still require a bid. Otherwise they're blank checks.

One word on why Cunningham won last time: Diebold

Ahem: Uh, no. One doesn't obtain a margin of 21% of the total vote by playing games with polling. Besides, San Diego County (which entirely encompasses District 50) uses Optical Scan, which is auditable. Note that there are only a few counties that use touch-screen ballots.

Um, to clarify: not saying Diebold didn't make the voting equipment in SD county, just saying the kind of voting equipment used doesn't lend itself well to cheating. And, for reference, the last time Cunningham ran he won with a 27% margin.

On the nature of the contracts:

"Since then, MZM has added tens of millions of dollars in additional contracts, including a $5 million sole source contract to provide interpreters in Iraq."

I think its only appropriate that I insert my foot into my mouth now. missed that part yesterday. though I wonder if its really possible that MKM is the only group in the US with the ability to provide interpreters in Iraq.

That would be MZM, toby. Just sayin'.

at least I am consistent?

I am the webmaster of the "clearly anti-Cunningham" webpage, http://www.dukecunningham.org/ I have no personal vendetta againt the guy, I just dislike his being my representative and actions he's done in Congress.

Let me assure you the quotes from the transcripts from the San Diego Union-Tribune and North County Times are accurate. They were done by me from a CD database at the San Diego Public Library. A list of transcripts are at
http://www.dukecunningham.org/bibliography/

The consensus in San Diego seems to be Cunningham is done for--either at re-election time or by resigning.

Here's the real problem: Gerrymandering. Congressional Districts are crafted to be "safe" Democratic or Republican seats. These make Representatives in both parties less accountable. They don't have to moderate their views or actions. They become arrogant and are safe unless they do something blatently stupid as Cunningham.

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