Best Practices

Admittedly, Bush administration crony contracting stories are kind of a dime a dozen. But this one caught my eye. The Justice Department’s Inspector General has found that a former Bush administration grant administrator, J. Robert Flores, violated departmental ethics rules (though prosecutors subsequently declined to prosecute). There were a flurry of cronyish grants given out in 2007 by Flores and his boss Regina Scholfield — perhaps revealingly because that year there were no congressional earmarks constraining the administrators’ discretion. But Flores got dinged for a particular series of contracts for anti-gang programs.

Flores issued contracts worth about $281,000 to Hector Rene Fonseca for anti-gang work over three years. Flores repeatedly tried to hire Fonseca on sole source contracts, even after higher level DOJ officials repeatedly tried to stop him from doing so.

The Post identifies Fonseca as a “former Columbian military official” who Flores says he repeatedly tried to hire because of his “ties to the faith-based community through a group called Samaritan’s Purse.”

Now, I don’t want to paint with a broad brush. The Colombian state and thus the Colombian military has certainly had a difficult time dealing with vicious narco-traffickers and a long-standing insurgency. But my sense had always been that the Colombian military was perhaps not really entirely a best practices type operation. So what expertise exactly would a former official in the Colombian military — a colonel, general? — bring to eliminating gang violence in US cities? Sounds like if anything it might not be the kind of experience you’d want.

Well, that’s what I thought before I did a little more sleuthing and discovered that Fonseca actually was never in the Colombian military. According to numerous press accounts, Fonseca is actually a former Colonel in the Honduran military.

He apparently got his start in US right-wing politics when he married Deborah Lynne De Moss, daughter of the right-wing philanthropist De Moss family, who was then Director of Latin American Affairs for Sen. Jesse Helms, generally known for archaic views on Latin American affairs generally. That was back in 1994.

Primed with that juice in the US and Honduras, Fonseca later ran for President of Honduras (though De Moss may have tripped up his chances by threatening to sic her “contacts” on Fonseca’s enemies) before seeing those dreams come to naught and angling for a soft landing with right-wing crony welfare courtesy of the Bush Justice Department.

I feel like there’s a lot more out there about this character. Care to share?