Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Good McDeed Goes Unpunished

In 2001, Sen. John McCain became suspicious of the manner in which a plan to lease tankers from Boeing for $26 billion was structured. After dogged investigation and a refusal to bow to extremes of pressure from all sides, McCain exposed an arrangement between Boeing and a corrupt Air Force procurement officer that was costing American’s billions. The end result was the procurement officer and several of Boeing’s leadership were sent to jail and America got a procurement process far freer of fraud. A few days ago, a KC-35 Tanker contract, subject to competitive bid, was awarded by the Air Force to an Air Bus consortium, and McCain is being accused of somehow causing the loss of American jobs. What insanity is this?


This story began in 2001 when John McCain found a footnote in the federal budget providing $26 billion for the Air Force to lease tankers from Boeing. The fact that it was a lease raised McCain’s interest. A lease circumvents the normal authorization and competitive bid process.

McCain demanded answers from the Air Force and Boeing, but instead got obstuction, "Boeing's 35-person Washington lobbying operation in a classic Washington power play and a media blitz worthy of Madison Avenue." Despite this and pressure from his colleagues, McCain was utterly "tenacious" in his investigation. At the end of the road was "the biggest Pentagon weapons scandal in 20 years." You can read an extensive background of the story of McCain’s investigation here.

CBS’s 60 Minutes did a program on the scope of the fraud and corruption involving Air Force senior procurement officer, Darleen Druyun, that was brought to light by McCain’s investigation. She was eventually convicted and sent to jail. Boeing itself came under a new CEO, its chief lobbyist involved in the fraud stepped down, one executive was sent to jail, and Boeing paid a $615 million fine to the government. Our government made a "sea change" in its procedures for procurement. Senator John McCain showed the political courage that is his hallmark, and the outcome was very positive for America.

Fast forward to today,

Now, the utterly odious Nancy Pelosi is suggesting that the Air Force’s recent decision to award a KC 35 Tanker contract to Northrupp Grumond and an Air Bus consortioum is the result of "intervention" by John McCain, an act also discussed in an AP article. Moreover, because one individual who is working on the McCain campaign is also a lobbyist for the Air Bus consortium, some are suggesting that McCain is somehow responsible for the decision by the Air Force to award the contract to Air Bus. There is no evidence whatsoever that McCain influenced the Air Force’s decision in this specific instance. To suggest otherwise is logic worthy of the New York Times in their hit piece on the Paxson Communications matter. Unfortunately, one of my "daily read" favorites, Gateway Pundit, gets it wrong on this. As regards this matter, to paraphrase Shakespeare, we should come to praise McCain, not to bury him.

As Ed Morrisey notes at Hot Air, "[T]he politicians fulminate about the award going to an outside firm. The time to consider that question was at the RFP stage, not the award stage. If the government didn’t want the contract to go to a European firm, it shouldn’t have allowed EADS to bid on it. And if the US wants to compete in the European market, it can’t act protectionist here."

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