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Monday, February 28, 2011 

What does DynCorp hope to buy from Darrell Issa?

 

In the runup to the 2010 election, it was clear that Republicans were positioned to retake the majority in the House of Representatives and that Darrell Issa was in line to become chair of the Oversight Committee. Issa's upcoming power certainly didn't go unnoticed in lobbyist circles, and Issa saw an influx of new donors in the leadup to election day.
 
Among those was DynCorp, the private military contractor with billions in federal contracts. The new support included $1,000 to Issa's re-election campaign and $10,000 to help Issa's leadership PAC increase its bottom line nine-fold over 2008. DynCorp's check to the PAC joined big checks from the likes of government contractors Raytheon and SAIC, and of course Koch Industries. DynCorp's donations to Issa mirrored a 150% increase in its PAC spending between the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. This uptick coincides with a string of scandals for Dyncorp that would be, to say the least, ripe for oversight.
 
First, some DynCorp history. In 2005, DynCorp was a leading player in a coalition of military contractors that stymied efforts to crack down on human trafficking by overseas contractors. Their lobbying efforts prevented the creation of a trafficking watchdog, and came after whistleblower reports chronicling DynCorp employees involvement in human trafficking and child sex slaves while operating on peacekeeping contracts in Bosnia. DynCorp admitted to firing employees for similar reasons. DynCorp continued to receive billions in military contracts to provide security in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and continued it's string of scandal.
 
Throughout 2007, DynCorp was found to be grossly mismanaging its contracts in Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that DynCorp "appeared to act almost independently of its contracting officers at the Department of State at times" and billing millions to the U.S. for unauthorized projects. Later the same year, a DynCorp employee shot and killed an Iraqi taxi driver which witnesses said posed no threat. And by the end of 2007, the State Department found that DynCorp's $1.2 billion contract to train Iraqi police "was so badly managed that auditors do not know how the money was spent."
 
In 2009, the Washington Post uncovered the involvement of DynCorp employees in hiring "dancing boys" in Afghanistan. The practice in question is traditionally linked to child prostitution and sex slavery, led to high level efforts by the Afghan and U.S. governments to cover up the incident, and resulted in several DynCorp employees being fired. It also highlighted the near-total lack of oversight and accountability for U.S. security contractors operating overseas. Indeed, a recently released Wikileaks document reacting to the incident noted that putting military officers in an oversight role "is not legally possible under the current DynCorp contract."
 
Meanwhile, the incident touched off further investigation. The Associated Press uncovered a wide range of poor behavior by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including drunkenness, drug use and prostitution. And last July, DynCorp employees on a State Department contract were involved in an auto accident in Kabul that killed four Afghans and led the angry crowd to light two DynCorp vehicles on fire before police intervened. The incident came a month after DynCorp posted higher-than-expected profits with a 31% boost in revenue thanks largely to its government contracts in Afghanistan.
 
More than a third of DynCorp's $3.1 billion in revenue comes from State Department contracts despite their history, and heading into this Congress, they've dramatically boosted their financial backing of influential lawmakers. In the past, intense and expensive lobbying efforts helped blunt efforts to rein in the horrifying abuses carried out by DynCorp employees and other government contractors. As the seemingly endless string of failed contracts, millions of wasted taxpayer dollars and ethical abuses continues, DynCorp is still in business -- big business -- but may sense the potential for trouble.
 
But we don't know.
 
We know that Darrell Issa's committee was open to business even before it was open FOR business. We know that his interest in oversight and accountability doesn't yet extend to private corporations and their interactions with government. We know that his hearings thus far have been brazenly one-sided and designed for pre-determined outcomes. We know that Issa is an hyperbolic defender of Blackwater, who has made not-so-veiled threats against a sitting Congressman on Blackwater's behalf. We know that Issa plans investigations to protect the profits of government contractors.
 
And we know that he's deeply opposed to disclosing the lobbyists that he meets with.
 
For Oversight to work, the watchdog must not only be credible, but be verifiably credible. Thus far, Issa is neither. And he doesn't seem particularly interested in taking steps to become either one.

1 comments

Reader Discussion

Darrell Issa has been bent from his beginnings in the automotive security industry.  I wonder what “deal” he cut to withdraw from the California Governer’s race so that he could be “elected” to congress.  Is his payback this new role.  He is a wealthy man, protecting other wealthy men.  Is there any question about where his loyalties lie?  Wealth!

at 1:25 pm on Fri, Mar 11, 2011Posted by Malcolm Hollombe

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