the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

September 17, 2005

Looting $249,999 at a Time


On today’s Weekend Edition, Scott Simon interviewed George Washington University law professor Christopher Yukins about government contracting for Katrina rebuilding (my transcript):

YUKINS: In the $52 billion bill, the administration included a key exception for contracting up to $250,000. That exception means that there will be no competition and no transparency whatsover. Approximately 60 to 65 percent of all federal contracting actions are actually below $250,000. You’d be astounded at how many small actions the federal government undertakes.

SIMON: And for what kind of jobs are these?

YUKINS: Services to clean out garbage, or a truckload of diapers. And, Scott, I’d like to emphasize that, in fact, it’s $250,000 per order, so it’s very common to see, unfortunately, companies and agencies will agree to split
requirements so that you always stay below a certain threshold — in this case, below $250,000.

SIMON: So somebody, for example, like a trash removal firm could do a whole series of jobs for $240,000 and never have to go through a competitive bidding process.

YUKINS: Exactly.

SIMON: But on the other hand, a lot of companies have to move quickly.

YUKINS: They do, and in fairness it is necessary to abbreviate the competition in a situation like this, but you really shouldn’t abandon competition and transparency entirely.

No accountability and no transparency for almost two thirds of the spending.

Josh Marshall is right. It’s been fun for left-wing sites to beat up on the few Republicans who voted against rebuilding funds, but pretty soon I think Democrats who voted for the bill are going to be regretting it as much as they now regret voting for the Iraq war.

Bush has put Karl Rove in charge of managing the reconstruction. The money is going to go to contractors who are connected to the administration. Bush promises that there will be appropriate oversight, but Billmon has the history of how well Bush’s watchdogs have worked earlier. It’s on track to be the biggest-ever Republican slush fund.

The one thing we can be sure of is that in 2006 Republican candidates will be hitting the jackpot on campaign contributions, as all the contractors kick back a fraction of the vast amounts of taxpayer money that went into their pockets.


  1. It’s just another business opportunity, like Iraq. Haliburton has already been anounced as the major player and just like you said, it’ll all come back as campaign contributions.

    —Natasha Rothschild • 4:03 pm

  2. As I was just reading in “Don’t Think of an Elephant”: these sorts of plans have two purposes:

    1.) As you point out, the money helps to win over Republican contributors.
    2.) Since Bush has ruled out tax increases, Project NOLA Freedom will reduce funding for agencies that don’t fit into the conservative paradigm.

    When Grover Norquist refers to drowning “big government” in the bathtub, he really means eliminating the EPA, Education, NIST, GAO, and other agencies that serve as a check on the Executive branch.

    The result of this is that Democratic dollars that would have gone to campaigns go to NGO’s. If you will, the watchdogs will be “privatized”.

    Rove, of course, sees this as good clean fun.

    alt hippo4:45 pm

  3. This boondoggle should be a focus of Democratic grass-roots pressure to make sure it’s not
    the swamp of corruption the Iraq reconstruction turned out to be. The most detailed website on
    these issues is , the site of the Project on Government Accountability.
    I’ve got some links on the topic on my website: the parallels with the Iraqi
    reconstruction mess are striking.

    Art Levine6:20 pm, September 18

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