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McCaskill: Oversight a 'Hand in Glove Fit for Me'

By Ed O'Keefe

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight. (Getty)

Between health care reform, energy and climate change and the Supreme Court nomination, the last thing lawmakers probably want to hear about is hundreds of millions of dollars in contracting abuse. But Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will still try.

"People are stressed and working on big big stuff," she admitted Wednesday in a conversation with reporters. "But we’ve got a list and we’ll plug away at it and I think this time next year we’ll be able to point to a number of things we’ve got done related to government contracting.”

The Missouri Democrat leads a Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight established earlier this year to root out contracting waste, fraud and abuse.

Today it will meet to discuss Alaska Native Corporations and their use of a loophole that gives them access to no-bid government contracts.

An analysis of the 19 largest ANCs prepared by McCaskill's subcommittee staff found that no-bid contracts awarded to the firms ballooned from $508.4 million in 2000 to $5.2 billion in 2008. The companies have paid out roughly $615 per year in dividends to the approximately 130,000 Alaska Natives who are company shareholders. Approximately 5 percent of employees were also shareholders in their companies.

McCaskill's focus on ANCs has nothing to do with Alaska, its politics or its people ("I'm a big fan of salmon," she jokes), but is instead an acknowledgment that Congress needs to find ways to save taxpayer money as it considers other expensive measures.

"I think it’s about a program that began as an effort to allow the Alaska Native corporations to participate in federal contracting and just somehow has grown bigger than anyone had ever imagined," she said.

The senator raised Eyebrows last month when she initially criticized President Obama's firing of Gerald Walpin, the inspector general at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Observers applauded her willingness to call out a close friend and former Senate colleague.

But her remarks were backed by her previous experience as Missouri state auditor. She frequently touted her experience with government contracting during her 2006 Senate campaign as concerns about Iraq war contracting surfaced. Once she joined the Senate she quickly earned a reputation as a go-to person on the issue. She now considers Congressional oversight a “hand in glove fit for me."

As for the future of her subcommittee, she anticipates at least one hearing per month between now and December, focused on a variety of contracting issues. Stay tuned.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 16, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Oversight  
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Next: No-Bid Contracts to Alaska Native Corporations Raise Eyebrows


A few corrections to this love letter to Senator McCaskill

As far as the criticism of Obama's firing of the IG goes, McCaskill later recanted it.

Also while serving as state auditor, McCaskill spent much of her time in an unsuccessful run for governor in 2004 and in a successful senate campaign two years later. I assume the auditor's office in Missouri is run by the bureaucrats and the elected auditor is a figurehead as in many state offices. Basically, the office probably runs itself.

This is basically a low risk job for her. She can lay low and not have to face real spending issues and she can trumpet minor triumphs

If she is successful and saves a few hundred million dollars it will be insignificant compared to the billions and trillions of uncontrolled spending that is going on.

McCaskill may catch a few small fish in Alaska while a salmon run is going on behind her back.

Posted by: danielhancock | July 16, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Keep on plodding. But Trailblazers just added in 4 more pays on each claim to get reimbursed from Medicare trust Fund. US atty says no reason OIG can't investigate using my signed OK and good evidence.' What is wrong inside CMS? They act as if someone with authority is "in on the thefts?" Linda Joy Adams. Call me if you need more info. Sens McCain and Coburn have much of my info on the multiple thefts that started last Fall, by trailblazers and their parent company Palmetto GBA got reimbursed for a $600 flu shot. Some of the claims being altered and stolen for theft by them are state and local medcal providers in Texas and OK. Does the State atty generals need to sue the medicare contractors and seize the monies on behalf of their citizenry? The fraudulent national health ins data base is a fraud and used to change info and some have said it is bizarre on me. The committee has my permission to go to 1-800-Medicare and see the multiple thefts on the screen. Mel Curtis , pres. of vangent won't permit fraud reports to be filed at all now. And they were only sent to the 'thief' before. Not to CMS. Violating their CMS contract. This company will have your personal info next Fall from OPM and their parent company isn't even in US. In retaliation for this discovery from HHS in 4/09, their phone lines blocked. All I did was ask for info an my records and request a fraud report be filed as they have the "best" evidence that they will not allow me to have. Dallas will not even number my civil rights an HIPPAA complaints.

Posted by: LindaJoyAdams | July 17, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

no bid contracts for small/minority business has been in existance since the 70s when the pols decided equal opportunity meant giving incompetent or shell companies $$$$$. of course they receive pacs and votes.

Posted by: pofinpa | July 17, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

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