We are so used to being in the opposition that our minds bend when we can support those in power. While little noticed by the blogs or the main stream media, real leadership shined through Thursday morning in Washington when Senator Byron Dorgan, Chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, backed by Senators John Kerry and Patrick Leahy, followed through on his commitment to rein in contracting fraud and abuse that has been the hallmark of the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton outsourcing of their private war in Iraq. At Thursday's press conference, Senator Dorgan announced introduction of the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006.
The bill follows months of hearings led by the DPC when the Republican controlled Senate patently refused even to hear that Halliburton, Blackwater, CACI, Titan and others were raping the taxpayers of this country while making an ill-planned invasion into a full-fledged disaster, assuring that the only real winners in Iraq would be those companies that had sufficiently close ties to the White House to earn them a free ride in a war that leads us daily closer to the brink.
In introducing the bill, Senators Dorgan and Kerry each referred to Brave New Films' "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," as one of the key elements in demonstrating the outrageous abuses that these and other firms committed in Iraq. The key provisions:
- Punishes War Profiteers -Establishes penalties of up to 20 years in prison and at least $1 million in fines for war profiteering.
- Cracks Down on Big Corporate Cheaters -Restores a Clinton Administration rule on suspension and debarment, which prohibited awarding federal contracts to companies that exhibited a pattern of failing to comply with the law. The Bush Administration repealed this rule as soon as it took office.
- Requires Full Disclosure of Contract Abuses - Establishes a "Truth in Contracting" public website identifying overcharges by major contractors.
- Forces Real Contract Competition - Prohibits the awarding of huge monopoly contracts, and allows multiple companies to make bids for work so as to ensure price competition.
- Bans Corporate Cronyism in Contracting - Requires that federal agencies conduct contract oversight, rather than paying contractors with conflicts of interest to oversee one another.
- Eliminates Conflicts of Interest for Federal Contracting Employees - Closes the perverse loophole that allows federal contracting officials to take jobs as lobbyists for companies to whom they awarded contracts.
- Ends Cronyism in Key Government Positions - Stops unqualified political appointees like David Safavian and Michael Brown from holding key jobs relating to federal contracting or public safety.
- Strengthens Whistleblower Protections - Makes it more difficult for federal agencies to retaliate against whistleblowers, and gives courts wider discretion to consider cases of retaliation.
When reading the provisions, I can only wonder why creating such law seems revolutionary. These are common sense provisions that protect taxpayers, make America stronger and keep business from owning government. But after twelve years of control in the Congress and six years in the White House, the right wing utterly gutted the concept of accountability. With the full support of Senator Dorgan, who is a quiet hero on such matters, backed by Senator Kerry, who used his vast email network to arrange screenings of Iraq for Sale last fall and Senator Leahy, who is featured in the film doing his job last year and always getting turned down by the Republicans, we have a chance to restore trust in government, one law at a time.
The job is far from done. This bill has to go to committee, to the Senate floor, pass through the conference committee with the House and then be signed into law. With our help, we can turn up the pressure on members of the Senate and House to support the Dorgan bill and then make it politically expensive even for this President to veto it by building a groundswell of support for accountability.
Stay tuned because with your help, that's just what we'll do.