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May 09, 2006

Comments

my cup of outrage runneth over. i can hold no more.

This is just another entry on the list of things that will be perfectly OK when my team gets back into power.

CharleyCarp: not me. And it wasn't before. -- Or, to be more precise: there are some jobs that anyone can do. (Sweeping the sidewalks, for instance.) Handing out those jobs to political supporters is not high on my list of Horrid Crimes. But handing out jobs that require talent to political supporters who lack talent is. And making political support a requirement for government contracts is, I think, even worse.

Methinks Charley is being snarky. If not, then no, it's not ok. (I have issues with a private citizen acting this way - one of my longest standing arguments with my mother is her decision to switch her insurance agent solely because her previous agent was a significant local pro-life activist [of the non-violent, non-threatening kind, IIRC, not one of the chain-to-the-door, yell-at-pregnant-women, kill-the-doctor types].) The government acting in such a matter is to a degree, inevitable - people know people and will try to help friends out when they can. But this situation is clearly different as there is active and upfront bias on the sole basis of partisanship.

The action doesn't surprise me. The fact that the fool admits it should, but doesn't. Since the Reagon era and the HUD scandal it has been clear that there is a segment of the Republican party that sees absolutely no moral problem with corruption or cronyism. They literally don't grasp it. The purpose of government is to reward certain groups with subsidies. This is why government doesn't shrink under them.

Cheney and Rumsfeld had lucrative private careers because their contacts enabled this. The president got a city to condemn land at one third value (or so the courts ruled) and build him a baseball park.

To them that is the purpose of government. The bigger the better because the more for friends.

This aproach is not capitalism, it is feudalist. The nobility and the state are one. A lot of people have been confused by this, they equate private ownership with markets. In fact the vision is far more anti competition than socialist Sweden. It is the pre industrial, pre capitalist economic form. The rise of the south has furthered it. This region has only been prevented from becoming a third world state poorer than Mexico because of Northern investment and because the north acted as a safety valve that took in tens of millions of surplus population.

Note most of these states take in far more money from the federal government than they give as does Cheney's state, yet they lecture the liberal states on how Republican values encourage self sufficiency. To them that meand having states like California, New York and Massachussets provide surplus wealth and technology that they can have.

Seizing the government is purely a spoils system.


I'm with hilzoy on this one; there's no use pretending we could ever have a world without patronage, but there's a certain line that shouldn't be crossed. Actively bragging about denying someone a contract because of their political views casts our entire system into disrepute. And bragging about it as a cautionary tale to a bunch of people who themselves are looking to get contract work from the government - I can't express how reprehensible I find it. When you work for the government, you serve America, you serve the people. You're not some court retainer whose first duty is to the king.

The true face of conservativism.

"The true face of conservativism."

"Conservativimavism", maybe. Is there any reason to believe this sort of act is a consequence of core conservative beliefs?


I think the post underestimates the importance of an admin being run by people willing to support the president's general philosophy, but that's not an easy thing to calibrate.

It's certainly not consistent with conservative philosophy, but it seems to be very consistent with conservative government in action. Arguing otherwise is kind of like saying that communism works great, it's just never been implemented properly.

It's contrary to human nature to give someone immense power and then expect them to use it to limit their own power. You can find a handful of True Believers in government who actually want to implement the conservative philosophy, but you'll find a lot more who want to (a) use their power for personal gain and (b) hand out tax cuts in order to get reelected.

There's been plenty of corrupt machine politics on the left - though maybe not so much at the presidential level lately.

Confucious on appointing officials etc.

In refernce to the title of this charming post.

The question of the day, week, month, past 5 years, is why isn't it a major scandal.

For all the right wing moaning about the "liberal" media, there has been little to no coverage of this and all the other scandals of the past several years.

Does anyone remember the 90"s when somehow or other there was almost a "scandal de jour", even though 99% of them turned out to be nothing?

ThinkProgress notes that this is against the law:

"Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct."

Circumstances in which it's OK to exclude a contractor:

"(b) Exclusion of particular source; restriction of solicitation to small business concerns
(1) An executive agency may provide for the procurement of property or services covered by this section using competitive procedures but excluding a particular source in order to establish or maintain any alternative source or sources of supply for that property or service if the agency head determines that to do so—
(A) would increase or maintain competition and would likely result in reduced overall costs for such procurement, or for any anticipated procurement, of such property or services;
(B) would be in the interest of national defense in having a facility (or a producer, manufacturer, or other supplier) available for furnishing the property or service in case of a national emergency or industrial mobilization;
(C) would be in the interest of national defense in establishing or maintaining an essential engineering, research, or development capability to be provided by an educational or other nonprofit institution or a federally funded research and development center;
(D) would ensure the continuous availability of a reliable source of supply of such property or service;
(E) would satisfy projected needs for such property or service determined on the basis of a history of high demand for the property or service; or
(F) in the case of medical supplies, safety supplies, or emergency supplies, would satisfy a critical need for such supplies."

A class action complaint is already starting to take shape in my head. If a rejected bidder for a HUD contract in the last couple years were to walk into my office about now...

I made my last comment into an update. And Steve: go for it.

Is there any reason to believe this sort of act is a consequence of core conservative beliefs?

In all seriousness: are there core conservative beliefs when it comes to the actual practice of governance? And if so, are they at all like the professed core beliefs?

Core conservative belief when it comes to the actual practice of governance:

IOKIYAR

I think bleh has it mostly right about the Party of Ideas when it comes to crony capitalism. We have seen so much of this that de facto it has become a core conservative value in our lifetimes.

Its consistent with the recent conservative doctrine that it is the government that is the problem and that it cannot be expected to do any good, so why not use it for profit opportunity? At least its finally doing something useful, from the conservative point of view.

Modern conservatism has rejected all forms of ideology that value public service as the goal for government. Except, that is, for the military (maybe because its also the ultimate profit opportunity), but even then they short-change the benefits for the troops themselves who are doing the public's service. I guess veterans need to get a better lobbyist in order to feed at the trough.

Jackson is an idiot, no doubt. I'm sure he's been getting an earful from Washington over this. The bigger problem is the Bush insistence on putting political operatives into any and every spot he can... The hatred and suspicion of lifelong bureaucrats will end up wrecking many of the most basic functions of government. Using political hacks as the arbiters of gov't service makes for poor gov't.

To me, this is a perfect example of "politics as policy". It shows zero faith in the way our system is supposed to work. I mean, what other laws are being ignored out of stupid ideology?

heet, I think at this point it would be easier to list the laws that the Bush Admin is not breaking.

HUD has a storied history, as it is close to some contentious social safetynet issues which, depending upon administration in the White House at the time, variously has been imbued with scandal, or even praise and hope.

CharlieCarp, if it is CharlieC, and it sounds like CharlieC, is working with some very underprivileged people, and is merely paraphrasing the principals of the party in power, daring them to make the prejudicial remarks of the program administrator a full fledged plank in the GOP platform.

We know the Republican party advocates there be a thousand points of light, volunteers willing to work for free, share their expertise. Right.

Consider events of some HUD director tenures: Andrew Cuomo, Bill Richardson, Henry Cisneros.

Class action is a weaker complaint now than it was, though if the $5. million entry threshold is passed, federal court is open to listen, if you can form a class by 2005 revised guidelines. The Republican Congress with the help of some Democrats 'trimmed the excesses' in class action.

This is a non-story for to reasons.

First: At worst, this is typical political cronyism. It happens. Republicans do it. Democrats do it. Remember the whole "Friends of Bill" stuff from the early 90's? If this were a democrat Kerry administration, they'd be doing the exact same thing (though it might not ever be reported on).

Second: The contractor brought his personal politics into things first. That is a cardinal sin when applying for a contract, any contract. If you want the job, you should be all business and only business. Any contractor who comes out and volunteers that they dislike (or approve for that matter) the current administration (whether republican, democrat, libertarian, green, or whetever) is significantly less likely to effectively dedicate the public funds granted them to doing the work required for the public. By volunteering his personal politics (positive or negative) the contractor disqualified himself.

I see BrianCohen has answered my question in the affirmative.

BrianCohen: the fact that a contractor makes a faux pas does not excuse the secretary of HUD breaking the law.

The reason it is not just typical cronyism is that it is a flat-out litmus test. Of course we assume some contracts will always get steered to friends of the administration, right or wrong. But when a well-qualified guy has already been selected, and then gets disqualified solely because of his political views, that falls well outside the law.

We might all wonder, what possessed the guy to say something about Bush at this meeting? And in truth, we have no idea what the conversation was that prompted it. But the fact is, if they can deny you a contract because you said you didn't like the President during a meeting, they can do the same thing because you said it in the newspaper, because you had a certain bumper sticker on your car, or because you donated to the wrong political party. The fact is that the U.S. Government is not supposed to be run like Tammany Hall.

Broke the law? Hardly. Look in the followup to the article. A contractor can be excluded when it "would ensure the continuous availability of a reliable source of supply of such property or service"

A contractor that spuriously volunteers a political bias demonstrates that they have more in their agenda and higher priorities than providing the property or service. They cannot be trusted as a reliable source of supply. Plain and simple.

The contractor did not "make a faux pas". He was blatantly unprofessional. And therefore undeserving of the contract.

No doubt there is something missing from the story - so far we're working from Jackson's version of it. He's not the most credible person right now.

For example, just how did the question of liking Bush rise, exactly? Did Jackson ask, or ask for a donation?

Telling this story is just saying to these minority contractors: nice contract you have there, would be shame if anything happened to it...

> "But the fact is, if they can deny you a contract because you said you didn't like the President during a meeting,"

If the HUD director had come out and asked the contractor his political views, that would be a different matter. That _would_ be illegal.

But if a contractor VOLUNTEERS that they don't like the president when applying for a contract, they are introducing their personal political views into what should be a completely a-political business only matter. They are being grossly unprofessional and are therefore undeserving of the contract.

The same thing goes for contractors who volunteer that the DO like the president. Positive or negative, you do NOT introduce your political views when applying for a public contract.

Any contractor that spuriously introduces their personal politics, whether positive or negative, anywhere into the appliction is being EXTREMELY unprofessional. The HUD director has a duty to the taxpayers and voters to only hire professional applicants.

Brian, are you for real?

It amazes me how defenders of the administration can constantly offer defenses of public officials that run directly contrary to what those public officials have themselves said.

Did Jackson say he felt it was unprofessional of the contractor to volunteer his political views, whichever direction they might lean? Did he even leave the door open for the argument that he would have denied the guy his contract even if he had said, "Gee, I sure do love President Bush"?

Of course not. Jackson said: "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract."

That's an admission of his motivation. You don't get to just pretend he didn't say it and make up some other motivation that might fit within the law - and I have to say, your argument is so ridiculous I can't imagine a court accepting it in a million years.

Oh please, Brian, it makes it ok if the contractor brings it up? I mean aside from the legalities.

Pooh:

Oh please, Brian, it makes it ok if the contractor brings it up? I mean aside from the legalities.

I think bleh's earlier comment bears repeating:

Core conservative belief when it comes to the actual practice of governance:

IOKIYAR

Steve: I am for real. I am not a defender of the Bushies. I'm a registered democrat and I voted for Kerry.

But I have also done many public contracts for the federal government for many years under both parties. And I know that when applying for any government contract, YOU DO NOT INTRODUCE YOUR PERSONAL POLITICS. Ever.

When Jackson said: "so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president", he was absolutely correct. The funds paid to a contractor on a public contract should go exclusively to fulfilling the public contract. Someone who politicizes their application cannot be trusted to do that.

Pooh: "it makes it ok if the contractor brings it up?"

It makes it legally NECCESSARY. The HUD director is required to award the contract "with complete impartiality". Once the contractor introduced his personal political bias, he destroyed any chance Jackson had of remaining impartial no matter which way he awards the contract.

If Jackson awards the contract to an openly pro-bush contractor, he is showing possible bias towards his own party. This is not impartial and is unfair to professional contractors who know enough to keep their mouths shut. If Jackson awards the contract to an openly anti-bush contractor, he would be showing a possible attempt at explicitely proving that he isn't biased (by being biased the other way). This is also not impartial and is unfair to professional contractors who know enough to keep their mouths shut.

If another pro-democrat contractor competing with my company for a public contract unprofessionally volunteers his anti-bush political views and then demands the contract by extortion (which, make no mistake, is EXACTLY what they're trying to do here), it is also not imparital and is grossly unfair to professional pro-democrat contractors like myself who know enough to keep our mouths shut.

So let me repeat this one last time: when applying for a public contract YOU DO NOT INTRODUCE YOUR PERSONAL POLITICAL BELIEFS. NEVER EVER EVER.

Brian, how do you know the contractor volunteered that he/she didn't like Bush?

This sounds more and more like a mob scene to me. "Hey congrats on the contract, amigo... You know, my boss is a great man and we consider it good manners to show some respect, capisci?"

Especially when this story was delivered to other minority contractors. I'm sure they got the message - anybody check their contributions lately?

If another pro-democrat contractor competing with my company for a public contract unprofessionally volunteers his anti-bush political views and then demands the contract by extortion

Well, actually, he had already been selected for the contract, then they brought him in for a thank-you meeting and he made the anti-Bush comment, whereupon they rejected him.

Let's recall who is telling the story. This is not a contractor going "wah wah, I made an anti-Bush comment and then they wouldn't give me the contract." This is a government official boasting that he didn't give a contract to someone BECAUSE he made an anti-Bush comment.

The linked article lays out the context very, very clearly. Jackson was not telling these meeting attendees "see, here's why you don't bring up your political views to me." He was telling them "see, here's why you don't bring up your anti-Bush views to me."

The funds paid to a contractor on a public contract should go exclusively to fulfilling the public contract. Someone who politicizes their application cannot be trusted to do that.

This is simply absurd. As long as you perform the contract, what you do with the profits is your own business. Because the guy made an inappropriate remark, you think HUD is justified in assuming he won't perform the contract? Please.

The guy has an absolute slam-dunk case. If Jackson has a policy of declining contracts to anyone who makes a pro-Bush remark (and, let's be real, there is no way that he does), it was pretty irresponsible of him not to mention to the folks at this meeting that they shouldn't make pro-Bush comments either, wasn't it?

Jackson defends himself: I lied.

Thanks for making my point (nice contract you have there mister).

That's really the only defense he has. But you're right, the practice of going around telling made-up stories with the moral "this guy said he was anti-Bush, and look what happened to him" is more reminiscent of a crime family than anything else.

kvenlander: how do you know the contractor volunteered that he/she didn't like Bush?

It says so in the article. Admittedly, it is also possible (indeed likely with the bushies) that Jackson actually brought it up, but that's not what it says in the article. It says the contractor volunteered the information. If the article is incorrect, then the contractor is well within his rights to get the truth published. For now, we only have the one version and have to trust to the integrity of the Business Journal that they are reporting the truth.

Steve: he had already been selected for the contract,

In this business, selected for a contract is not the same thing as awarded. Contracts can be recalled, cancelled, revoked, re-awarded etc. at any time. What this means is that the contract isn't awarded until the government's check clears. And that doesn't really matter: YOU DON'T INTRODUCE YOUR PERSONAL POLITICAL VIEWS EVER. "Ever" includes after the contract is awarded.

> a government official boasting

I don't see the boasting. I see an official explaining why he fulfilled his legal obligation of impartiality after cancelling a contractor's elligibility for a contract. As soon as the contractor introduced his political views, regardless of what those views actually were, he destroyed Jackson's ability to award the contract to him impartially.

> what you do with the profits is your own business

Absolutely wrong. I don't think you have any concept of how much control, oversight, and auditing goes into public contracts. Actually almost all public contracts legally have specific clauses defining the limits and use of the profits from those contracts. These limits are put in place specifically to prevent a political party from engaging in cronyist kickback schemes, but that door swings both ways (as it must). What the contractor does with the private wages he pays himself is his own business (so long as he keeps that business out of his profession public dealings), but the actual profits from the contract are NOT controlled solely at his own discretion.

> The guy has an absolute slam-dunk case.

Actually no. But any contractor who is also competing for the same contract would have a slam dunk case if this contractor were awarded the contract after volunteering his personal political bias.

> If Jackson has a policy of declining contracts to anyone who makes a pro-Bush remark (and, let's be real, there is no way that he does).

Behind closed doors, probably not, but legally he has to have just such a policy. But that is not what happened here. In this case he correctly obeyed the law by denying a contract to an applicant who expressed a political bias. That the bias was against the current administration is, and should be, immaterial (except to those who are inclined to find fault in the current administration even where fault isn't present).

> it was pretty irresponsible of him not to mention to the folks at this meeting that they shouldn't make pro-Bush comments either,

The article doesn't say he didn't. And regardless, such pro-bush comments weren't in the particulars of this case.

Think about it. It would have been absolutely correct and appropriate for Jackson to deny the contract to an applicant who he thinks might use the money to campaign FOR bush. Otherwise, just such an award would utterly stink of kickbacks and cronyism. Legal impartiality requires that he apply exactly the same standard regardless of the political bias expressed by the applicant. Anything else is utterly unfair to contractors who correctly keep their politics out of their public business dealings.

It would have been absolutely correct and appropriate for Jackson to deny the contract to an applicant who he thinks might use the money to campaign FOR bush. Otherwise, just such an award would utterly stink of kickbacks and cronyism. Legal impartiality requires that he apply exactly the same standard regardless of the political bias expressed by the applicant. Anything else is utterly unfair to contractors who correctly keep their politics out of their public business dealings.

Another excellent point. In any case, every administration does this -- the Democrats just like about it when they do it.

kvenlander: Jackson defends himself: I lied.

Now that changes everything. Typical sleazy bushies. And stupid too. Do they think they aren't going to get caught when they pull stunts like this?

But it still doesn't change my original point that any contractor who volunteers his personal politics into a bid automatically disqualifies himself from winning that contract (and probably future contracts as well).

It would have been absolutely correct and appropriate for Jackson to deny the contract to an applicant who he thinks might use the money to campaign FOR bush.

Except everyone who reads this story, but you, understands that he would do no such thing. In any event, it is completely unreasonable to take a statement like "I like Bush" or "I don't like Bush" and extrapolate that into a belief that the contractor is going to use contract funds for an impermissible political purpose. That's just silly. If he said "I like cheese" would it be reasonable to infer that he's probably going to blow it all on dairy products?

I see an official explaining why he fulfilled his legal obligation of impartiality ...

See, when you can read the same story I did and make a statement like this, I feel like we're not on the same planet or something. This entire story demonstrates the EXACT OPPOSITE of impartiality.

I feel like we're not on the same planet or something.

That's why they call you guys "moonbats". I know, I know, the moon isn't a planet ;)

It's good to see that there is no act so corrupt that Bush apologists will not endorse it heartily.

Extra bonus points for the 'blame the victim' argumentation! (I did think that guy walking straight *into* Cheney's shot pattern only got what he deserved).

It's not "corrupt", notAll, it's hard ball politics and following the law. Some clown who suffers from BDS is just going to flush that contract money away anyway. Jackson was duty bound to take away the contract when he saw what a nut the guy was.

Leonidas: every administration does this -- the Democrats just like about it when they do it

Don't I know it. And it's not just that the dems lie about it, it simply doesn't get reported when they do. Fortunately for me, though, I'm a dem myself.

I've actually had democrats selection committees on local city government contracts publically ask me what my political affiliation is, which is completely inappropriate. This always unfairly puts the contractor in a tight spot because it's a question for which there simply is no safe answer. And if you complain about the flagrant violation of ethics, you run a real chance of being blackballed by both parties for not "playing ball".

I've never had a republican or anyone on the federal level ask me about my politics, but that's probably only because they know they'd get trashed in the press for doing so. I have no idea why the bush brand of republican is so different (and stupid).

Brian, thanks for the clarifications, and I think I see your point now.

Y'know, I could've sworn someone campaigned on the theme of 'restoring honor and integrity'...

Fortunately for me, though, I'm a dem myself.

Right.

Actually almost all public contracts legally have specific clauses defining the limits and use of the profits from those contracts.

This is totally implausible. Come on, Brian. You can do better.

Steve: See, when you can read the same story I did and make a statement like this, I feel like we're not on the same planet or something.

Sort of. We're definitely coming at it from different perspectives.

You're coming at it from the perspective of someone who desperately wants anything they can hold against the bushies, even if it's not a legitimate complaint. To you, the bushy is always wrong. Which isn't true, there's just a very high probability the bushie is wrong.

I'm coming at it from the perspective of someone who works in the public contract sector and knows the ethics, laws, and business practices first hand. To me, and the law, the contractor who willingly volunteers his political beliefs in a contract bid is screwing with the neccessary impartiality of the process and is completely wrong. Which is true, such contractors are always wrong.

But all this is irrelevant because it turns out the whole story is completely fabricated and just another bushie sham. Jackson didn't correctly deny a contract to bidder who volunteered his personal political bias. He incorrectly lied about doing so.

To me, and the law, the contractor who willingly volunteers his political beliefs

i gues i missed this part. do you have a transcript of the meeting where the contractor "volunteered his beliefs" ? or was it a case of someone doing a little digging and finding that the contractor donated $X to Dems and nothing to Bush? or was it a case of a sly question or two over a period of time that convinced Jackson there were more-Bush-loving contractors out there, etc. ?

and Leonidas... wow. while i doubt the existence of "BDS", there's no question you show all the signs of BASS: Bush Apologetic Sycophancy Syndrome.

You're coming at it from the perspective of someone who desperately wants anything they can hold against the bushies, even if it's not a legitimate complaint. To you, the bushy is always wrong. Which isn't true, there's just a very high probability the bushie is wrong.

Mind-reading. Ten yards, loss of down.

Yes, yes, I am so blinded by hatred of George Bush that I can't consider the perfectly reasonable alternative you suggest. This must be the case, even though you yourself acknowledge that there is a "high probability" my presumption is correct.

Of course, if a Clinton Administration official did the exact same thing, or an official of my state or local government did the exact same thing, I'd laugh it off, right, because I'm just looking for an outlet for my Bush-hatred, right?

I don't believe the new story that it was all a lie, either, more proof that I am motivated by pure partisan hatred. The fact that Jackson's spokesperson was earlier able to provide specific details about the contract in question, calling it "an advertising contract with a minority publication," has nothing to do with my point of view, surely. If I believe there's patronage in the Bush Administration - particularly when one of its officials comes right out and admits to it - I must be a Bush-hater.

In any event. Do I accept, as a matter of pure academic logic, that it's possible Jackson was merely enforcing a nonpartisan principle that you can't be awarded a contract if you express an opinion either for or against the present administration? Sure. Do I think it is plausible in light of the way he told the story? Not at all. But sure, it's possible. I'm sure the line about how "the president was elected, and I was selected" somehow can be reconciled with that alternate storyline.

you know what I think - Jackson thought he was preaching to the choir so he was speaking his mind (or an allegory of what happens in his mind, anyways). I mean, "The Dallas Business Journal"? He thought it was a crowd of Republican business owners and thought he'd blow some smoke to make 'em feel good about their political choice. He sounds like a tool. Perfect choice as a HUD secretary - no brains, no class, and now maybe no job.

It makes it legally NECCESSARY. The HUD director is required to award the contract "with complete impartiality". Once the contractor introduced his personal political bias, he destroyed any chance Jackson had of remaining impartial no matter which way he awards the contract.

Do you have some source of legal authority for this proposition? You've repeated it several times as if it's a settled legal principle but you haven't cited anything and it seems rather implausible that a contractor's expression of a political opinion means that a goverment official is per se incapable of impartiality.

He thought it was a crowd of Republican business owners and thought he'd blow some smoke to make 'em feel good about their political choice.

There may be some truth to this, but keep in mind (1) Dallas voted for Kerry, although we can assume the business community is mostly pro-Bush; and (2) this was a minority real estate consortium, so it's more likely there are some Democrats in the mix.

It's worth noting the experts who are quoted in the article.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said canceling a government contract due to political views "is not a door you want to open."

"Whether or not it's legal, it certainly draws your judgment and the judgment of your office into question," Jillson said. "It's just not the tone you want to set."

Told of Jackson's comments, Mary Scott Nabers, a government-contracting consultant in Austin, had a briefer initial reaction. "Oh, my goodness gracious," she said.

Now, why would a government-contracting consultant not have responded by saying, "Oh, of course. As soon as the applicant made a political statement, they were absolutely required by law to disqualify him. Everybody knows that." Perhaps the proposition is not, after all, cut and dried.

I read those quotes, too. They don't mean Jackson isn't an idiot.

I'm just saying I don't buy the "sending a warning" story. I live in Dallas and there is quite a Republican streak here, especially among the business community. Perhaps Jackson forgot himself for a moment and was waxing rhapsodic.

Bernard Yomtov: This is totally implausible.

It's absolutely true. For public contracts, especially federal contracts, there are all sorts of rules and regulations about how much the bidder can claim as profit, what he can do with that profit, how much goes to pay investors, how much can be rolled back into the company, etc. It's all supposed to prevent cronyism and corruption.

For an counter example, up in canada a few years back, the prime minister's party was awarding all these bogus contracts to companies in exchange for the companies taking a certain percentage of the money and kicking it back into the party's coffers. Because canada doesn't have all the regulations and oversight that the U.S. does, they got away with doing this for _years_.

And not all regsitered democrats are hyper left wing bush bashing protest junkies. There are actually middle of the road democrats like myself who have degrees, own businesses, and live in houses with back yard gardens in the suburbs.

Josh: Do you have some source of legal authority for this proposition?

The Competition in Contracting Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulations. They're quoted above, but slightly misapplied. There's also case-law precedent where companies have won lawsuits because contracts have been awarded to competing companies who violated the "don't ask don't tell" standard (it's fun to turn _that_ phrase on its ear) and then threatened to claim discrimination of they were not awarded the contract. It's not as common as companies illegally losing contracts because they support the opposition (epsecially in local politics - especially Chicago), and it's harder to prove, but it does happen. There's one particular case in California I'm thinking of about a contract to supply low flush plumbing or some such to the state parks, but I can't remember the case title. This was back when Wilson was governor. I'll try to look it up in the morning and post it here. I don't know if there's an internet link, so I'll have to just post the case title and let you internet whiz kids find it.

Basically, the standard of impartiality comes down to this: the contract selector is not allowed to request the political support, or even research the political activities of any of the bidders. The bidders at the same time, are not allowed to use their political history or position to curry favor or threaten claims of bias when bidding on a contract. It's a case of "don't ask, don't tell" that actually makes sense.

Steve: I don't believe the new story that it was all a lie,

Actually, at this point, I don't know what to believe. Which has been all to common these past few years.

On the one hand we have an administration with obvious honesty problems. On the other hand we have a bunch of equally dishonest socialist misfits running my party who are desperately clutching for anything, whether the truth or a lie, to try to bring down that administration. And, to be brutally and sadly honest, don't seem to be all that different from it themselves.

Somewhere in the middle of this muddle is the real truth, but at this point there's no knowing where.

Well, unless you think the Dallas Business News is a bunch of socialist misfits, I'm just drawing inferences from the story I see in front of me. It's not like this would be the first example of the administration openly admitting that it dispenses favors to its allies and punishes its enemies. (I recall one incident shortly after the last election in which the administration refused to certify some businesses which had donated to Kerry as part of the U.S. delegation to some South American gettogether that had previously been considered nonpartisan.)

Indeed, this is what the whole K Street Project is about. You don't have to be a socialist misfit to understand that this administration runs the government like a political machine.

Banning Kerry supporters from the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission? Yes, I read about that - back in April 2005, it actually looked like a significant scandal. Business as usual for the Bush administration, of course.

You don't have to be a socialist misfit to understand that this administration runs the government like a political machine.

Uh, the government is a political machine. Maybe you'd be happier in a dictatorship with no politics? Is that perhaps why you wanted Saddam to stay in power?

"When you run an agency, you are supposed to try to get the best possible work done."

I agree! So get rid of minority set-asides....

Bernard Guerrero, who needs no additional advantages

not all regsitered democrats are hyper left wing bush bashing protest junkies. There are actually middle of the road democrats like myself who have degrees, own businesses, and live in houses with back yard gardens in the suburbs.

Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I don't believe that you've ever voted for a Democrat in you life, Brian.

Funny, I'm a socialist misfit with hyper left-wing protest junkie bush-bashing tendencies who is a registered republican (gets to vote against Republicans in both primaries and general election) and lives in a house with a backyard garden in the suburbs, from whence I've had a business or two and I have a degree. No lover of Saddam (I like my dead meat piled up in the service of democratic ideals), though I have a sock puppet in a steamer trunk who can do troll impressions.

Thought I'd get all of my categories on the table. Did I miss any? Go for it.

For public contracts, especially federal contracts, there are all sorts of rules and regulations about how much the bidder can claim as profit, what he can do with that profit, how much goes to pay investors, how much can be rolled back into the company, etc.

How about some actual cites for this stuff? The anti-kickback provisions of the FAR are a long long way from this, as are the restrictions in the cost provisions concerning uses of funds. There's a big difference between saying that some expenditure can't be charged to the government, and saying it can't be made out of profit. (Take a look at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode10/usc_sec_10_00002324----000-.html>10 USC 2324 -- sure there are limits on using money for lobbying, for exxample, but they're about using federal money, that is, charging the government for the activity. They're not about what you do with your own profit.) There's also a big difference between limiting the profit in a cost plus contract -- where the government is explicitly agreeing to pay a specified profit -- and limiting the profit in a fixed-fee job, where the contractor doesn't provide its cost information, and takes the risk of overruns etc.

One also has to distinguish the rules that apply to companies involved in special programs -- like disadvanyaged small businesses -- that are designed to show who qualifies, not to control behavior. A small minority "owned" business that paid out 90% of its profit to a not-small, not-minority owned partner would look a whole lot like a front company. The point of these programs is to benefit companies that fall into a category, and you'd want to be able to tell who's in the category, and keep people not in it from finding ways to manipulate the rules and pretend that they are.

There's also case-law precedent where companies have won lawsuits because contracts have been awarded to competing companies who violated the "don't ask don't tell" standard (it's fun to turn _that_ phrase on its ear) and then threatened to claim discrimination of they were not awarded the contract.

Cites?

I think there is no rule at all that precludes a contractor from expressing a political opinion. What the government can't do is act on any such expression. That's not don't ask don't tell, it's simply don't discriminate, and that's a mandate on the government, not on the contractor. Now I suppose it would be imprudent to include too much political content in one's proposal, as this might be used to show discrimination, if you won. But this is really along the lines of asking a job applicant if he/she is a Catholic -- it's not the asking or the telling that's the legal problem, but the taking of action based on the answer.

http://akss.dau.mil/jsp/default.jsp>This, by the way, is far and away the best place to look at rules and regs governing federal contracting.

The HUD Director is in no position to award a Government contract. That responsibility falls upon Government Contract Officers.

The Director's comments show that he hasnt a clue about Federal Acquisition Regulation. And I suspect those comments hint at his involvment in this particular acquisition. He may be the project leader (if you will) but a HUD Contract Officer had to make that award.

No CO worth his or her salt is going to disqualify a contractor's proposal based on political affiliations. That's a sure fire way to get audited and potentially lose your license. And if this award was rescinded due to a distaste for President Bush there should be a protest either with HUD, GSA, or the GAO.

What jumps out at me is that everyone here assumes this contractor got screwed because of his minority status. The part about trying unsuccessfully for ten years to obtain a HUD contract jumps out at me.

The world of Government Procurement is typically misunderstood by those that are not deeply involved in it. And while ignorance can be bliss, it frequently manifests itself in statements like the one Alphonso Jackson has made.

Brian, if what you're saying is true (that anyone expressing a political opinion is automatically disqualified for federal contracts), then why didn't any of the people quoted in the articles just say that? And why on earth would Jackson say he made up the whole thing rather than just saying he was complying with the law? We may be a bunch of Bush bashers, but you're far out of your way to defend the administration -- coming up with a defense that goes beyond even what the offending official himself says. That's a symptom of Bush Infatuation Syndrome, an affliction rarely found among Kerry voters.

We may be a bunch of Bush bashers, but you're far out of your way to defend the administration -- coming up with a defense that goes beyond even what the offending official himself says.

As an aside, that's actual been a standard trope amongst Republicans since 2002, at least, involving among other things the run-up to Iraq, the abuses at Abu Ghreib and Guantanamo, the NSA wiretapping/datamining and so forth. I've referred to it as the Rorschach nature of the Bush Administration in the past, although I'm steadily becoming less charitable.

Okay, so now the vase isn't really broken after all, but the lying kids are *still* telling mom how someone else broke it and it wasn't their fault and after all it's standard procedure to break vases and really the vase never should have let on that it was fragile?

Man, these Bush apologists really are pathetic. And pretending to be "dems" is pretty thin color. (Like pretending to be a Californian by saying you're from Frisco). Better trolls, please.

What jumps out at me is that everyone here assumes this contractor got screwed because of his minority status.

Everyone? Can you point to anyone? Or are you using "minority" to refer to his dislike of Bush, which he shares with a majority of the US population, and which the secretary explicitly stated was the reason he lost the contract?

If this had happened under Clinton, you'd all be defending it, claiming it never happened and so on and so forth. Don't get all morally superior with me. You're the party of moral relativism, you're the party that put an adulterer in the White House, you're the party that leaks classified information to the NYT and WaPo to hurt the president.

So, please, spare me the morally superior routine.

oops, I know Democrats who use the word "dems", but I haven't run across any who run on about "hyper left wing bush bashing protest junkies" and "socialist misfits".

So, please, spare me the morally superior routine.

you first

You're the party of moral relativism, you're the party that put an adulterer in the White House, you're the party that leaks classified information to the NYT and WaPo to hurt the president.

And you're the party of unnecessary wars of choice, torture, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, hookers, corruption, warrantless domestic spying, profligate deficit spending, cronyism, etc. etc. etc.

But yes, blowjobs, adultery, and leaks of classified information exposing illegal activities by the U.S. government, much much worse. I'm surprised we survived the Clinton years intact, what with all the unemployment, depressed stock market, high gas prices, humongous budget deficits, the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers, etc.

you first

Looks like what you would call performance "art" to me. Tell me you wouldn't pay 20 bucks to see a guy dress up like that in anti-Bush "performance art spectacle" in TriBecca.

DFTT

Sorry lj

it itches. i can't help but scratch.

cleek: Hey... Hey now, there have been a lot of incredible advances in topical creams over the last few years!

DFTT.

Eat them.

No thanks, I'm vegetarian.

And anyway, even if trolls count as vegetables, I have standards.

topical creams

Try new Trolladryl! It stops the itching and burning associated with troll infestation, instantly! It's the only medication specifically designed to combat trolls and prevent them from breeding! Trolladryl!

[note, Trolladryl should not be used if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant. your doctor should evaluate your liver function before prescribing Trolladryl. do not take Trolladryl if you have asthma, diabetes, atheletes foot, smallpox or chronic wasting syndrome. side effects include lethargy, groupthink and smugness. ]

last i checked (and it's been a looong time), the First Amendment still protects govt contractors. so the notion that the govt can lawfully deny a contract that it would have otherwise awarded based on political speech is, well, absurd.

Francis, what about the box you have to check off when making a political donation that says you're not a government contractor?

I wonder if we're going to hear from the contractor he says he stiffed. I'm surprised we haven't, already.

Brian,

Thanks for your response. I don't think the situations you mention are precisely on point, however.

Basically, the standard of impartiality comes down to this: the contract selector is not allowed to request the political support, or even research the political activities of any of the bidders. The bidders at the same time, are not allowed to use their political history or position to curry favor or threaten claims of bias when bidding on a contract.

I don't see how the facts as reported (before we found out that Jackson was lying) fit this standard. The contractor certainly wasn't currying favor, nor does he appear to have been threatening to claim bias.

I was also going to bring up Francis' point - a contractor denied a contract for expressing his political opinion would have at least a colorable First Amendment claim. The don't ask, don't tell standard Brian posits would open the door to that litigation. I wish Westlaw didn't charge an arm and a leg (or I still had my student password) so I could look into this.

Don't feed the Leonidas. He contributes nothing but bad faith and whataboutery.

Leonidas: "Is that perhaps why you wanted Saddam to stay in power?"

"If this had happened under Clinton, you'd all be defending it, claiming it never happened and so on and so forth. Don't get all morally superior with me. You're the party of moral relativism"

Do not presume to tell us what we would and would not have done under Clinton. Do not presume to tell us that we wanted Saddam to stay in power. If you can cite any specific individual who holds these views, fine. Otherwise, the repeated attribution of hypocrisy and/or repellent views to all of us, without any sort of evidence, will be taken as a violation of the posting rules, and thus as grounds for banning.

And do not presume to tell us that we are "the party of moral relativism". First, we aren't. (And I teach ethics for a living; I know what moral relativism is, and what my views on it are.) If anything, that honor now goes to the Republicans, who now include altogether too many people who seem to think that such things as the ban on torture and corruption do not apply to them and their leaders.

Lawyers, Guns and Money comes up with some relevant case law:

"There is no doubt that if Gratzianna had been a public employee whose job was to perform tow truck operations, the city could not have discharged him for refusing to contribute to Paxson's campaign or for supporting his opponent. In Branti, we considered it settled that to fire a public employee as a penalty for refusing a request for political and financial support would impose an unconstitutional condition on government employment. Respondents insist the principles of Elrod and Branti have no force here, arguing that an independent contractor's First Amendment rights, unlike a public employee's, must yield to the government's asserted countervailing interest in sustaining a patronage system. We cannot accept the proposition, however, that those who perform the government's work outside the formal employment relationship are subject to what we conclude is the direct and specific abridgment of First Amendment rights described in this complaint. As respondents offer no justification for their actions, save for insisting on their right to condition a continuing relationship on political fealty, we hold that the complaint states an actionable First Amendment claim. [cites omitted]"

It's not as common as companies illegally losing contracts because they support the opposition (epsecially in local politics - especially Chicago), and it's harder to prove, but it does happen.

Good point Brian. There is a lot of local level cronyism by Democrats in power in Chicago, from what I can tell, in Milwaukee as well.

Former Illinois governor George Ryan, a Republican, was as bad or worse

Current Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich did budget cutting by eliminating state park jobs likely held by Republicans. Not a terrible thing except for leaving Starved Rock State Park in disrepair, where some kid fell to his death a couple of weekends ago. The Chicago Tribune had an article about how bad the trails were at Starved Rock the week before this accident.

As for the rest of you guys, this troll talk is totally bogus. Don't mind 'em Brian and Leonidas. If I could, I'd live in a gated community just to keep wild-eyed characters like John Thullen out. lj and Jes are safely overseas, although they have probably voted for Mayor Daley a couple of times.

Hey thanks, Jesurgislac, for remembering the Inter-American Telecommunications thing. That was really bugging me.

KimInDC: campaign finance is a tremendously complex topic that varies dramatically from state to state, county to county, and city to city. The Supreme Court has upheld any number of restrictions on political contributions against First Amendment challenges. Greenwald and various Volokh contributors likely know this law much better than I do, so if threads start on either blog I suggest posting your question there.

but the important point to note is that denying govt contracts based on political speech / viewpoints directly raises 1st Amendment issues in a way that political campaign contributions do not.

As for the rest of you guys, this troll talk is totally bogus.

really? you think "Maybe you'd be happier in a dictatorship with no politics? Is that perhaps why you wanted Saddam to stay in power?" is honest civil discussion ?

If this had happened under Clinton, you'd all be defending it, claiming it never happened and so on and so forth. Don't get all morally superior with me.

Well. I guess we can at least rest in the knowledge that even the hardcore folks have stopped actually defending the administration. 'They're just as corrupt as us' should be an inspiring rallying cry for the 2008 campaign.

DaveC, what does someone have to do to be a troll? I admit that, unlike Washington Monthly's "Al" commenter, say, Leonidas has a blog of his own, so perhaps he's some sort of leftist performance artist (something like the parody right-wing commenter personalities of Balloon Juice commenter DougJ) or a sociology experiment, rather than just a disruptor. But ridiculously over-the-top statements and refusal to engage in discussion are trolling in my book.

Jeff, once your reputation has deteriorated to the point that you can no longer use the "not as bad as" defense, you can always fall back to the "no worse than" defense, at least until it deteriorates further.

Hey thanks, Jesurgislac, for remembering the Inter-American Telecommunications thing. That was really bugging me.

For eight years of my life I was (for my sins) a telecoms geek, so I took it kind of personally.

DaveC, if you have an issue with moderation on ObWing, it's polite either to vent about it at HoCB or to take it up with the kitty. I speak as one who failed to do this myself quite recently, but I put myself in the wrong by doing it.

"You" there of course means "one", not Jeff.

The irony here never stops and the standards only keep getting lower.

"it's polite either to vent about it at HoCB"

It's POLITE to vent at HATING on Charles Bird.


Now that IS ironic.

Oh, come on, blowme.

Standards, we don't need no stinking standards.

(at HoCB, I mean)

OT:

President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday that nearly 1,100 bodies were found in Baghdad last month, the victims of executions

...

Talabani said in a statement that the 1,091 bodies found in the Baghdad area in April were the tip of the iceberg.

...

Scores of unidentified bodies turn up around the capital on a daily basis, many bound, tortured and shot execution style in what officials say is an unwavering tide of reprisal sectarian killings.

At least 3,525 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this year. These numbers include civilians, government officials, and police and security officials, and are considered only a minimum based on Associated Press reporting.

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