McCaskill: Oversight a 'Hand in Glove Fit for Me'
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.
| July 16, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
Categories: Congress, Oversight
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