In the Washington Post last week, Griff Witte reported that American businessman Philip Bloom–whose companies were awarded $8.6 million in Iraq reconstruction contracts–pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe U.S. officials with more than $2 million in cash and gifts in exchange for the reconstruction deals.
Three officials of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority have already been implicated and more arrests are expected.
According to Stuart W. Bowen Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (and former Associate Counsel to the Bush White House), “This shows oversight is working. It will send a message to those involved in similar schemes that we are on the case.”
Will it, indeed?
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Attorney Alan Grayson is representing dozens of whistleblowers who are suing contractors suspected of defrauding the government. But under The False Claims Act, not one of these cases can proceed or be disclosed to the public until the Bush administration makes a decision as to whether to join in the suit.
There are reportedly 50 such lawsuits pending against firms like Halliburton. Some were filed more than two years ago, and the law states that decisions are supposed to be made by the Bush Administration within 60 days. But the law also allows the administration to seek extensions as it sees fit and so far it has done so in all but one case.
Grayson thinks the reason for the delay is all too clear. “The Bush administration has made a conscious decision to sweep the cases under the rug for as long as possible. And the more bad news that comes out of Iraq, the more motivation they have to do so.”
The one case the Bush administration did allow to proceed–though it declined to be a party to it–was against Custer Battles, who was forced to pay $10 million in penalties.
With a White House that is more than cozy with so many of its no-bid contractors… and a motive to keep bad news from hitting the press–especially when it comes to the misuse of taxpayer (and 2006 voters’) money… it is once again clear that only a bipartisan independent war profiteering commission will get the answers the American people deserve.
Until that happens, tell your representative to turn up the heat for full disclosure on these pending whistleblower lawsuits. Enough with the sorry delay tactics. It’s time for answers now.