Thursday, September 29, 2005

There’s No Business Like No-Bid ness

The feeding frenzy has begun.  Congress has been chumming for decades and now that the water is alive with sharks, they’re alarmed and surprised and ‘absolutely shocked,’ to lift a line from Casablanca.


If you’re a fisherman, you know what ‘chumming’ is.  That’s when you throw lots of fish-bits overboard in order to attract other fish, which you are then (with any luck) able to catch.  Government contracting been pretty much an uninterrupted chum ever since 9-11 and this administration has awarded more no-bid and cost-plus contracts than any preceding holder of the keys to the national purse.  Lest I be accused of Bush-mongering, it would have been an equal-opportunity giveaway had the Democrats held those keys.


Happy Days Are Here Again and There’s No Business Like No-Bid ness are heard in the halls of a Congress giddy with money.  Democrats and Republicans stumble over one another in their eagerness to get their own guys into the swim before there’s less blood in the water. Duke, from the Doonesbury cartoon (the source of the title to this commentary) jokes to Honey that the Inspectors General are merely ‘hall monitors.’


Halliburton heads the shark-list, as one might expect, but they’re closely followed by Shaw Group.  Lobbyist for Shaw Group is Joe Allbaugh, who used to sit as Director of FEMA. What a surprise. Halliburton’s door-opener, on the other hand,  need not even lift a phone, his connection is so well known.  And yet the contracts are let, the payoffs paid off, the baksheesh spread liberally and among much hand-wringing, no one seems to have a cure for this common-cold of government.


I have one. 


It’s very nearly self-policing.  It’s as simple as it could possibly be, uncomplicated in all aspects of its enforcement and could quickly be set in place. Congress need merely enact a law that corporate officers are singly and collectively liable for all crimes and misdemeanors committed by their companies while under government contract.


Up until now, when a Boeing or a Halliburton got caught with its hand in the till, an underling took the rap.  Corporate officers would then hold a press conference, pleading that one bad apple does not a barrel make, that the doer of the dastardly deed has been routed out and all is now back safely on the up-and-up.


Doesn’t work.  Hasn’t done a thing for cleaning up the blood in the water.


What does work is to send a Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Kozlowski  or John Rigas to the slammer.  Halliburton might not be quite so sanguine about the repeated instances of cooked books in Iraq contracting if their Dick Cheney replacement, CEO David Lesar stood to be cuffed and carted off to the pokey.  Corporate directives would soon filter their way down the food chain that the boss was damned well not going to go to jail for any sort of financial irregularity.  You think that might have an affect?  How soon?


Yeah, that soon!


I personally would rest easier if the occasionally necessary ‘no-bidness’ contract was awarded under such circumstances.  I’m double-damned sure Tom DeLay and Nancy Pelosi, Bill Frist and Harry Reid would have to support a law like that.
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