Investigations into the activities of the Blackwater private security firm in Iraq have revealed a critical lack of oversight when it comes to defense contractors receiving billions in appropriations from the federal government while greasing the wheels with well-placed campaign contributions. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jim Webb (D-VA) have introduced legislation to rectify this shortcoming.
We recently published a fact sheet connecting the dots between defense contractors, campaign cash, and lucrative -- and unmonitored -- security and reconstruction contracts in Iraq. From the sheet:
Since the beginning of the current administration, spending on no-bid and limited-competition contracts has increased by 206 percent from $67.5 billion in 2000 to nearly $207 billion in 2006.[ii] A report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that 187 contracts in 2007 totaling $1.1 trillion involved significant overspending and negligence.[iii] And while most of us would not even renew a contract for a cabinet installer with that kind of overspending, the Pentagon doesn't seem to mind.
Companies receiving these contracts have given substantial amounts of campaign money over the years. Their contributions have been rewarded with new contracts, even with the overwhelming amount of evidence of malfeasance.
All our billions in taxpayer dollars have bought us no end of scandal and no clear answers about results. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is wondering why (courtesy of Congressional Quarterly):
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., in a floor speech Sept. 18 complained that it was time to do something about security contractors in Iraq. He singled out Blackwater in particular.
“Blackwater has enjoyed a charmed existence with the Bush administration from the start,” Durbin said. “This is another example of a firm that has been given millions of taxpayers’ dollars to do a job in Iraq without accountability, without the kind of disclosure, basic disclosure, which American taxpayers deserve and demand.”
The Webb-McCaskill amendment would create a bipartisan oversight body to review security and reconstruction contracts and empower the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction to perform audits of these contracts. It's about time we knew what we were getting for our money -- after all, the defense contractors are certainly seeing a return on their campaign cash investment.