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Perhaps the most spectacular boondoggle achieved by Cunningham went through CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity), a Defense intelligence agency established in September 2002. CIFA exists to "coordinate policy and oversee the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies." But here's the good part: 70% of its budget is contracted out.

Right after CIFA was established, Cunningham helped his friend Mitchell Wade's company MZM land a $6.3 million contract with CIFA through an earmark. The earmark set aside the money for CIFA, and Cunningham made sure that MZM got the contract. How he made sure of that is not clear.

Here's what your taxpayer dollars bought:

The resultant program saw more than $6 million spent for a mass data storage system supposedly for CIFA that, according to the prosecutorial document, included almost $5.4 million in profit for MZM and a subcontractor. "Adding insult to injury," the prosecutors wrote, "the final system sold to the government was never installed (as it was incompatible with CIFA's network system) and remains in storage in Arlington, Va."

And then Cunningham tried to follow through with another contract through CIFA, $16.15 million for a "collaboration center." It's unclear how far that went.

Did I mention that a consultant to the Director of CIFA on developing the project left to work for MZM in 2001? That consultant, retired Lt. Gen. James C. King, became president of MZM after Wade was forced to step down.

CIFA has spent more than $1 billion since its inception, most of it on contracts. Prosecutors are looking into the agency's contracting, and the Defense Department is conducting its own internal review.

(WaPo)

Santorum Watch

Time reports on synfuel, a "multi-billion dollar scam" - $9 billion in tax credits have gone to the industry over the last three years. The idea, once a serious one, is to transform coal into natural gas and oil.

"Today about 55 such plants around the U.S. process 125 million tons of coal or, in many cases, coal waste from an earlier mining era. For owners and operators, the whole point isn't creating a profitable new energy resource for the U.S.; it's about collecting the tax subsidy."

The synfuel industry, not surprisingly, has spent $2 million since 2002 on lobbying to keep their tax credit.

And who's the author of the most recent giveaway to the industry? You guessed it, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). He authored an amendment that allows the industry to purchase crude oil at its market price two years ago. (Time)

Reform

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee considered a bill creating an Office of Public Integrity, an office external to Congress to police the system; the office would have reported its findings to the Congerssional ethics committees, who would have then acted.

The item was struck down - with three Democrats voting against it. Apparently they think the ethics committees are working fine. Their replacement for the OPI is an annual report by the ethics committee. Very tough.

The committee did pass a measure that requires greater disclosure for lobbyists. Disclosure seems to be all the rage these days.  

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) seemed to sum up the feelings on lobbying reform over there:

“Reform, that’s always a wonderful term – we’re all for it,” Cole said. “But there are unintended consequences.”

Everyone likes the word - at least we can agree on that. (Reuters, LAT, NYT, AP, Roll Call, WaPo, The Hill)

Katharine Harris Explains

Sort of.

"I requested a $10 million appropriation for the U.S Naval Criminal Investigative Services project because I thought it would bring new jobs to Sarasota," said Harris, R-Fla. "I never requested funding for this project in exchange for any contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region."

See yesterday's Daily Muck for all the details behind her denial. (AP, Daily Muck

Ney, DeLay, Burns, & Pombo in the Money

In a rather simplified accounting of things, Bloomberg reports that Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH), Tom DeLay (R-TX), Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Sen. Burns (R-MT) had good fundraising years in 2005. The piece makes it sound like being the possible target of a federal investigation is the best thing that ever happened to them.

The article doesn't mention, for example, that Tom DeLay is being forced to use his campaign's money to pay his legal bills because he can't raise enough for his defense fund. And one wonders how Burns and Ney will do this year. (Bloomberg)

DeLay Innocent!

He tells Fox News: 

"I’ve hired lawyers that look through everything that we’ve done, my relationship with Jack Abramoff, every contact we made with him, everything. And they’ve given me a complete bill — clean bill of health."

Sorry Tom, I've afraid that's not the way our criminal justice system works.  (ThinkProgress)

ABCNews catches DeLay's trip to Scotland on Abramoff's credit card. We posted Abramoff's AmEx statement, with DeLay's name on it, Wednesday. (ABCNews, TPM

Contracting Reform

Sen. Byron Dorgan and 25 others introduced a bill yesterday to clean up the business of contracting.

According to Dorgan's office, the bill would put "tough new penalties in place for war profiteers, eliminating conflicts of interest, insisting on transparency and putting an end to cronyism in key government appointments relating to federal contracting and public safety.”

(TomPaine.com

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