Another Conrad Burns earmark - maybe the best one yet.
Burns tried to push $20 million in federal funds to a company in which Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff and a close associate of Jack Abramoff's, had a financial stake.
The $20 million earmark, which Burns inserted into an appropriations bill in early 2003, was to fund Guam's contract with a company called Map Roi, a software firm. Map Roi was hawking their program called GForce, which is advertised on Map Roi's website as (I kid you not) "Your complete system for winning government business."
So why was Burns (a human GForce in his own right) so eager to see Guam get more government money?
Map Roi was founded by the son-in-law of Guam's former governor Carl Gutierrez, who is himself a stockholder. And even though the company's business is getting government money, on May 1, 2003, they signed up with Alexander Strategy Group, Buckham's lobbying firm, to help them land some government contracts. As payment, they offered ASG an option on 500,000 shares in the company. The lobbying disclosure filings don't show a significant amount paid in cash fees that year.
Map Roi signed up with ASG on May 1. On May 13, 2003, the Governor of Guam boasted to his island that Guam would be the beneficiary of Burns' generosity:
Working closely with Sen. Burns, I was successful in including Guam with the state of Virginia to be part of the appropriations budget for 2004 that develops a revolutionary nationwide program called MAP ROI. MAP ROI provides data on government procurement, available federal grants, market intelligence and business development tools ... to help companies turn marketplace knowledge into increased sales...
It also helps our government and private citizens obtain more grants and assistance. This economic stimulus package will provide approximately $20 million extended over five years to the University of Guam to house and train technical personnel to implement this program.
So it would seem that no sooner had Buckham received his stake in the company that Burns went to work drumming up big business.
Burns' spokseman didn't return our call seeking an explanation. The Burns response to the LA Times piece, which briefly mentioned the $20 million contract, was that the project was not funded. And Guam never signed up with Map Roi, according to the Pacific Daily News.
So somewhere along the line, the deal fell apart, but it wasn't for lack of Burns' trying.
Late Update: Be sure to see Burns' response to the story here.