Last October, Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent out a memo to the heads of all federal agencies ordering them to ensure that no federal funds were awarded or obligated to the community organization ACORN. Orszag’s memo was a response to bipartisan legislation known as the De-fund ACORN Act, passed after right-wing activist and wanna-be pimp James O’Keefe’s propaganda film sparked mass-hysteria about the community organization.
ACORN was hardly a major US government contractor–the group had received just $53 million over the course of 15 years in federal dollars, most of it in the form of funding for low income housing initiatives. ACORN has never received any money from the Department of Defense, yet Undersecretary of Defense Shay Assad, the Pentagon’s top contracting official, sent a memo to the commanders and directors of all branches of the military instructing them to cease all business with ACORN and to take “all necessary and appropriate” steps to prevent future contracts with the organization. All of this happened because ACORN was accused of some of its workers giving improper tax advice to a fake prostitute.
Contrast the Congressional response to ACORN’s federal contracts with its response to BP, which does billions of dollars in business with the federal government, specifically the Pentagon. BP holds more than $2 billion in annual US defense contracts and continues to be the premiere provider of fuel to the world’s largest consumer of oil and gas: the Pentagon. BP is responsible for the worst environmental crime in US history. It is responsible for the deaths of 11 oil rig workers. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is conducting both criminal and civil probes into BP’s actions in the US Gulf.
And yet, there is no real, bi-partisan Congressional march to de-fund BP. The White House is reportedly considering the possibility of debarment of BP, but as of last week no formal inquiry had begun. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported, "Cutting BP off from future government contracts, though, would be an unprecedented and highly complicated move, lawyers say. BP supplies the military with nearly 12% of its fuel needs, making it the Pentagon’s largest fuel supplier, with Royal Dutch Shell coming in a close second, according to the Defense Logistics Agency. ‘It is not hard to block a debarment if an argument exists that it would harm the government, especially on national security grounds,’ said Robert Burton, a Washington lawyer who worked as the Bush administration’s top procurement official."
It isn’t that there is no Congressional action happening, but rather that it is dramatically understated given the gravity of the situation and its past excitement over the fake pimp ACORN scandal. Late last month, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill which calls on the Secretary of Defense to reevaluate all defense contracts with BP and consider debarring BP if it is determined not to be a "responsible source." According to the Federal Acquisition Regulations, all federal contractors must meet the definition of a "responsible source," one provision of which states that the prospective contractor "has a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics."
The amendment was put forward by Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez. "There is ample evidence leading up to and including the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that BP is not a ‘responsible source’ and shows a consistent disregard for federal law and the lives and livelihoods of Americans," Gutierrez said. The bill is currently in the Senate.