Contractor: Kitzhaber kept Cover Oregon exchange site shuttered for political reasons

posted at 2:41 pm on June 24, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

There are a few oddities about this claim from Cover Oregon’s prime contractor. Oracle isn’t claiming that the Cover Oregon exchange worked properly out of the gate on October 1. The software giant told a House committee investigating the use of federal funds for the ObamaCare site that they did have it functioning well enough by February 1 to finally enroll individuals into health-insurance plans through the website. The decision to keep it off line came from Governor John Kitzhaber, Oracle alleges, as a political move to help him win re-election (via the Daily Caller):

Oracle went out of their way to accuse Kitzhaber personally for playing politics with the website:

Software vendor Oracle provided information last week to the U.S. House and Energy Committee claiming the website was operational in February, but that the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.

The On Your Side Investigators obtained a copy of the Power Point presentation, which alleges the state deliberately distorted the case for abandoning the Cover Oregon website in favor of transitioning to the federal exchange.

“Cover Oregon executives have stated to Oracle that the application functionality is sufficient to support individual enrollment,” Oracle president Safra Catz wrote in a letter addressed to Cover Oregon interim director Clyde Hamstreet and state CIO Alex Pettit. “However, Cover Oregon has not agreed to give individuals direct access to the application. Thus Cover Oregon, not Oracle, made the decision to keep the exchange closed to individuals even though the functionality has been delivered by Oracle.” …

“Oracle can only conclude that the Governor’s unwillingness to release the website is because doing so doesn’t fit with his re-election strategy of blaming Oracle for his own mistakes,” the presentation reads.

That decision to get personal may have something to do with Kitzhaber’s public direction to the state Attorney General to sue Oracle over the website failure.  There are still plenty of unanswered questions about Cover Oregon’s failures and Kitzhaber’s knowledge of them, too. It’s not clear just who benefits most from lawsuits, or perhaps who benefits least, but both sides are already playing hardball. Discovery should be a blast for observers in this fight.

Here’s the rub with Oracle’s claim, though. What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?  He and Cover Oregon were getting hammered in the press over Oregon’s complete failure to launch its ObamaCare exchange. Kitzhaber was an ObamaCare advocate, and pledged to deliver a working exchange. If Oracle really had one ready to go, Kitzhaber should have jumped at the change to mitigate the failure with some late success. Kitzhaber still would have had plenty of room for “blaming Oracle for his own mistakes,” plus the modicum of operability would have blunted much of the longer-term political damage.

There’s little doubt that politics played a big role in keeping the Cover Oregon failures from being addressed and made public, and Kitzhaber will have plenty of questions to answer. But this Oracle claim is at least curious, if not implausible.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Why is he so far ahead, stupid voters?

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Out with the old.

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Of course he did. Governor Bluejeans & the whole Democrat run state of Oregon is corrupt. It’s Chicago of the Pacific Northwest.

What is more shameful is Kitzhaber is a Medical doctor. And he should know better than to have messed with peoples healthcare.

portlandon on June 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Why are the illegals part of HHS?

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2014 at 2:47 PM

What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?

The world would find out how bad Obamacare really sucks if they were able to see the site.

HopeHeFails on June 24, 2014 at 2:48 PM

From Oracle’s point of view, their business reputation will get hammered if they truly did not deliver a working web site, yes, even under these circumstances.

Especially for government work, there’s a thing called being a “responsible” contractor, that is, the contractor is in fact capable of doing the job called for. On government bid forms there is usually a spot for a question like, “have you ever failed to complete a contract to deliver [similar goods or services]”

A “yes” on that form could disqualify them from being “responsible” and thus from future contracts.

Lance Corvette on June 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

When do we get the Runoff Open thread, Ed?

nobar on June 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

So..

Hippies can’t fly?

Electrongod on June 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?

The local news station (KATU 2 I believe) got him caught being evasive and not truthful about what he knew, and when he knew it.

I believe Kitz has been trying to CYA, being coy with dates, who said what, who knew and when they told him. Basically, he’s in a corner and now everybody has a target on them.

I like that this company threw it back at Kitzhaber. Because he’s got sum splain’en to do.

portlandon on June 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website? He and Cover Oregon were getting hammered in the press over Oregon’s complete failure to launch its ObamaCare exchange. Kitzhaber was an ObamaCare advocate, and pledged to deliver a working exchange. If Oracle really had one ready to go, Kitzhaber should have jumped at the change to mitigate the failure with some late success.

Because even in deep blue Oregon, people don’t want Obamacare.

rbj on June 24, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Hippies can’t fly?

Electrongod on June 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Sure they can, just not on their own wings.

Happy Nomad on June 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Throw them all in prison. If in 20 years any of them are still alive, release them.

Mr. Arrogant on June 24, 2014 at 2:58 PM

The decision to keep it off line came from Governor John Kitzhaber, Oracle alleges, as a political move to help him win re-election

…someone is alive?…someone is dead?

JugEarsButtHurt on June 24, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Once again, it will all come down to the media.

They can either dog Kitzhaber on this, asking perfectly legitimate questions, seeking information for the people of Oregon…

or they can give Kitz a pass, which will give us four more years of him.

Marcola on June 24, 2014 at 3:04 PM

The software giant told a House committee investigating the use of federal funds for the ObamaCare site that they did have it functioning well enough by February 1 to finally enroll individuals into health-insurance plans through the website.

They need to define “working” and “secure.”

If I am able to navigate to the site and easily acquire your personal data, no one should be using it. Was the site larded up with malware?

dogsoldier on June 24, 2014 at 3:06 PM

What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?

Kitz wanted mo monay from Oracle ?

burrata on June 24, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Safra Catz is a tough cookie, and no one would put it past her to blame the customer (probably justifiably when the customer is a state government) but this isn’t a curious letter at all. It’s litigation preparation obviously, and she is just sending notice to Oregon lawyers that Oracle knows how to play hardball. The state is screwed; the Democrats agreed to participate in a really lousy program, the governor is an idiot, the vendor is run by smart, very tough people with lots of litigation experience (heck, Oracle once recently was sued by the Justice Department for a troubled install and I don’t think they even lost that one). The taxpayers re going to take it in the neck eight ways from Sunday.

MTF on June 24, 2014 at 3:15 PM

If Oracle really had one ready to go, Kitzhaber should have jumped at the change to mitigate the failure with some late success. Kitzhaber still would have had plenty of room for “blaming Oracle for his own mistakes,” plus the modicum of operability would have blunted much of the longer-term political damage.

There’s little doubt that politics played a big role in keeping the Cover Oregon failures from being addressed and made public, and Kitzhaber will have plenty of questions to answer. But this Oracle claim is at least curious, if not implausible.

Kitzhaber is a Democrat. Need I say more?

Steve Z on June 24, 2014 at 3:16 PM

“What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website? ”

If, after taking a lot of heat over being late, it then launched and broke or didn’t work due to OTHER problems in the backend (same problems all the other exchanges were having) it might be too much for him to bear in a re-election campaign. So, he followed others, threw it to the Federal government and washed his hands of the local exchange to cut his losses.

Basically it was a win for the governor strategically. If he launched, what was the BEST that could happen? If it worked perfectly, it still would have been late and having it working just means expectations for the operation of the site were met. If it DIDN’T completely work, there would be a whole NEW set of criticism piled on it. So — he cut his losses, swallows the “late” issue, blames Oracle, hands the people off to the feds and the federal exchange can take all the heat from any glitches in operation.

He was in a no-win situation and took the least muddy trail out. Or so he thought.

crosspatch on June 24, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Ah. We now move into the inter-contractor finger-pointing phase of software development. SNAFU.

Tsar of Earth on June 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Oracle has earned credibility over many years and many high-end installations. Kitzhaber, not so much. I don’t think Oracle’s going to lie down and take this hit to their business reputation, and for Governor Bluejeans to expect so reeks of desperation.

bofh on June 24, 2014 at 3:24 PM

bofh on June 24, 2014 at 3:24 PM

BWAHAHAHAHA! Not in my experience.

Their database is solid, but very expensive. Their DBAs, the same.

But their software contractors aren’t qualified to pick up dog squat. For the project I was on, Oracle subcontracted the software development without monitoring quality. I worked on a project for The Limited cleaning up all the crap they screwed up… that affected getting POS data from thousands of stores. The Limited manager was so furious at them, he kicked them off the project and refused to let them back in even when they offered to clean it up for free. In his words, “I don’t want them f*ing up anything else!” (direct quote)

dominigan on June 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM

I smell “follow the Union label” here. Oracle not so much, Guvmnt big time Union.

Goodie on June 24, 2014 at 4:31 PM

My best guess is that if Cover Oregon had opened up the website to the public, that would have triggered a contract milestone – possibly constituting at least intermediate acceptance – and thus obligated the State for a substantial milestone payment.

By refusing to put the website to the test of public access, Cover Oregon may believe it has forestalled triggering the acceptance milestones. But if ORACLE can prove that the system did in fact function as promised on a given date and that only the refusal by Cover Oregon prevented a successful acceptance test, they may be able to have a court or arbitrator declare that the system was constructively accepted up to that milestone or set of milestones.

stuiec on June 24, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Politics over Proficiency

Oh, and here I thought it was an honest slip-up, properly describing the entire O-care fiasco! :)

IrishEyes on June 24, 2014 at 5:47 PM

I hope that Kitzhaber and his cronies go on with their suit against Oracle.

There is no way IN HELL that you can blow hundreds of millions of tax dollars for precisely ZERO in return on investment without some absolutely fabulous corruption going on.

And Oracle is no pushover. I’m sure that Kitzy & Co. are going to learn, to their dismay, that discovery in this case is going to be a real bitch.

Spurius Ligustinus on June 24, 2014 at 6:34 PM

I was VERY surprised to hear that Oracle was responsible for the crappy Oregon exchange. Oracle has built software that nearly every fortune 500 company uses (SalesForce, Oracle DB, etc). Their software isn’t the easiest to implement, but it sounds like someone at the state of Oregon took the money and ran.

I hope this lawsuit continues so we can see how far up the food chain, err, bureaucracy, the corruption goes. I’m guessing that it stops somewhere close to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

conservablogger on June 24, 2014 at 7:06 PM

Here’s the rub with Oracle’s claim, though. What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?

To cover up inconvenient facts about whose fault it was the web site was not working correctly, thereby allowing them to shift the blame?

Apparently, Oregon wasn’t offering Oracle good enough bribes (“future contracts”) to make it worth their while to be the whipping boy.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 24, 2014 at 7:09 PM

I’m retired now, but there were reasons why my former company decided to go with the MS version of SQL and not Oracle’s.

Could it have been trust, reliability, or something else. Could have been multiple reasons… probably was. Can’t say, but it was a good decision.

WestTexasBirdDog on June 24, 2014 at 10:31 PM