FAA reviews questionable contracts

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has begun a review of contracts with hundreds of companies after a $16 million contract was called into question.

The review was initiated after an employee of Crown Consulting Inc., called an FAA official asking for more money, The Washington Post reports.

The Washington firm denies any wrongdoing. Crown has 58 different contracts with the FAA totaling $135 million.

An Aug. 11 memo from Federal Aviation Administrator Marion C. Blakely to managers announced the review as part of change in how the FAA spends money.

Support services contracts like Crown's are supposed to save the government money.

However, the contracts are usually open-ended in terms of job, performance standards and dollar amount, leading to an ever evolving final contract number.

The final contract pay out is generally based solely on number of hours of service the contractor has put in.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Editorials from The Roanoke Times -Washington's new golden rule

Congressional power is now often merely a stepping stone to the vast riches of a K Street lobbying career.

The Roanoke Times

The perfidy of the current ruling class in Washington, D.C., knows no bounds.

Even the pretext of serving the public good has been abandoned in the rush to cash in the spoils of victory.

Once upon a time, the public may have been shocked to discover that members of Congress were introducing bills written by lobbyists to benefit the industries they represent.

Now hardly a ripple is generated by the disclosure that about half of those leaving Congress become lobbyists, often for industries whose causes they championed while in office.

The poster child for this practice is former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., who went straight from chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the pharmaceutical industry, to leading the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, among Washington's most powerful lobbying groups.

While in Congress, Tauzin shepherded through President Bush's prescription drug benefit for Medicare, which is most notable for its inexplicable prohibition against the government's negotiating bulk discounts for drugs.

Elective office is now merely on-the-job training for lucrative post-congressional careers in influence-peddling.

It's bad enough that so many members of Congress see the institution as little more than a step on the way to the gold pavement of Washington's K Street, but too many of them can't even wait to leave Congress before they begin prying loose the gold bricks.

Witness U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. A federal grand jury has taken some interest in his living arrangements -- rent-free on a yacht owned by a Washington defense contractor.

The same contractor bought Cunningham's California home for about $700,000 more than the market would bear when the contractor resold it shortly after the purchase.

Perhaps even more disturbing than Cunningham's blatant activities is the every-day venality that has become so commonplace that it fails even to raise eyebrows anymore.

In a recent story, The Washington Post detailed the numerous ways federal lawmakers skirt ethical rules.

For instance, spending limits for gifts and entertainment for members of Congress and their staffs don't apply to campaign fundraisers or charity events.

As Bill Allison, editor-at-large for the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity told The Post, "One of the capital's great ironies is that lobbyists can't treat lawmakers to golf or an expensive meal unless they're handing over a check for the congressman's election or his charity, which, of course, only compounds the problem."

And, although lobbyists are prohibited from paying for travel for a senator or representative, the lobbyists' clients are not, so long as the travel is at least vaguely connected to "official duties." Members of Congress have received $18.3 million worth of travel in the last five years, The Post reported, mostly to popular vacation spots like Florida and California.

The evidence is clear that any expectation that Congress will reform itself is foolish optimism. But citizens still have the power of the ballot box.

Unless ethical transgressions are punished forcefully and faithfully there, the sellout to K Street will continue unabated.