Here are the top corruption stories from around the country you may have missed this week.
Equifax compromised millions of customers’ data…and then won a no-bid federal contract
The IRS gave Equifax a $7.25 million contract just weeks after the credit reporting company’s massive security breach.
We can’t make this up. The IRS had a multi-million dollar fraud-protection and identity-verification project on the cards, and awarded it to Equifax. That’s right. The credit reporting company, which announced this week that its earlier breach may have exposed 145.5 million consumers’ personal data, won the $7.25 million contract on September 30. The contract was considered a “sole-source order,” meaning the IRS identified Equifax as the only company that could protect against fraud and validate personal information for the project, and awarded the credit reporter millions of tax dollars without soliciting other bids.
The bottom line: Apparently a company can lose millions of social security numbers and still qualify for a contract loaded with personal data. Maybe it’s just a case of bad timing, but this sure seems like the wrong way to award $7.25 million of taxpayer money.
While Congress fights, children’s health insurance funding expires
Congress failed to reauthorize federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program before the September 30 deadline.
With the battle over the future of Obamacare raging last week, it’s easy to overlook a vital piece of health care news: Congress failed to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which lapsed at the end of September. The program provides insurance coverage to 9 million children and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women, and is paid for with federal and state funds. While most states have enough unspent federal money to maintain the program for several months, others do not – Minnesota, for example, ran out at the end of September and will require leftover federal funds. Bipartisan efforts to restore the program are underway.
The bottom line: Vital government programs, like CHIP, have fallen by the wayside due to the hyper-partisan divide in Congress and special interest influence. It’s time to refocus.
EPA administrator schedule chock full of meetings with industry lobbyists and executives
An analysis of Scott Pruitt’s schedule shows numerous meetings with industry leaders and taxpayer-funded trips home.
If you’re a coal, oil, or manufacturing executive, you might want to call EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. From February through May of this year, Pruitt booked several meetings a day with leaders and lobbyists of the industries his agency is tasked with regulating. And while those executives had the opportunity to talk with the EPA head about regulations that could cost their companies millions, the analysis of Pruitt’s schedule shows very few meetings with individuals or groups representing consumer protection or environmental interests. His predecessor, Obama-appointee Gina McCarthy, met more often with these stakeholders, though she did meet with industry leaders, too. As the article notes, Pruitt on several occasions sued the EPA while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general in order to “try to block rules [he] is now in charge of enforcing.” The analysis of Pruitt’s schedule also disclosed a number of trips taken home to Oklahoma on the public’s dime that appear to have involved limited government work. Dubious taxpayer-funded travel has become a prevailing storyline for the administration – in the past week, the Washington Post reported Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke chartered a $12,000 flight on an oil-and-gas executive’s private plane.
The bottom line: The head of the EPA, like other government officials, is free to meet with whomever he’d like. When the policies their agencies produce tilt largely toward the people in those meetings, however, the special interest connections become a little clearer.
Take your $90,000 and get out of this congressional primary
A former congressional candidate from Pennsylvania admitted he concealed money he received to drop out of a race in 2012.
Giving an opponent $90,000 to withdraw their candidacy is not normal. This week, former Philadelphia judge Jimmie Moore confessed he covered up the payment from Rep. Bob Brady’s campaign he accepted to end his 2012 primary challenge. As the Associated Press reported, the deal came as the result of a meeting between Moore and Brady, after which the judge bowed out. Brady has served in Congress since 1998 and has not been charged for his role in the payoff.
The bottom line: Legal or not, paying off challengers reeks of old-school, political-machine-style corruption. Both parties – judge and representative – should know better.
Represent.Us rallies with allies (including the Terminator!) for an end to partisan gerrymandering
As the Supreme Court heard a crucial gerrymandering case, officials, activists, and legal experts rallied outside.
On Tuesday, Represent.Us volunteers and staff journeyed to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, to speak out in force against partisan gerrymandering. As the justices heard arguments in Gill v. Whitford, one of the most important anti-corruption cases to reach the high court in years, Represent.Us joined Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, and DC Action Lab in organizing a rally on the steps below. Legal experts, activists, and politicians of both parties, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke to the crowd about the need to end the practice of partisan gerrymandering. The message was loud and clear: Voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around.
The bottom line: By abusing the public trust and diluting the voices of their opponents, politicians of both major parties use partisan gerrymandering to rig the system against voters. It’s corruption, pure and simple – and the Supreme Court has a chance to end it.
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