When Barack Obama ran for President, he argued that his lack of experience put him in position to change the way Washington works. Obama explicitly referred to the cozy relationships between donors and contracting, especially when it comes to lobbyists. So how is that hope and change working out for us? It’s working out pretty well for lobbyist, Democratic donor, and government contractor Joel W. McCleary at PharmAthene:
The Obama administration has steered up to $150 million in federal funding for the development and production of an anthrax vaccine to a bio-defense firm with strong Democratic Party ties, Fox News has learned.
The move comes in spite of President Obama’s long history of pledges to crack down on the awarding of federal contracts without competitive bidding, and just as a federal commission led by two former U.S. senators has given the Obama administration a failing grade on shoring up the nation’s bio-defenses.
Federal records show that executives of the company awarded the contract, as well as its investors and related lobbyists, have long been active contributors to Democratic Party causes and campaigns, including the 2008 presidential campaign of President Obama.
The deal was announced at a time when few Americans were likely to be paying attention: on the evening of Dec. 29, midway between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
PharmAthene bought a company in 2008 that had a federal contract, awarded in a competitive bidding contract, to produce a vaccine. The HHS Department says that this is nothing more than a follow-on. However, Fox News reports that HHS also “abruptly” a bid process to award this so-called “modification” that pitted PharmAthene against Emergent Biosystems.
Cui bono? Let’s take a look at the players — and follow the money:
PharmAthene’s founder, Joel W. McCleary, who describes himself as “one of the foremost political strategists in the world,” has served as an aide in the Carter White House and as treasurer of the Democratic Party. He is now a registered lobbyist and remains on PharmAthene’s board of directors.
McCleary and executives at Four Seasons Ventures, LLC, the Georgetown-based private equity and lobbying firm he founded — also one of PharmAthene’s top investors — have collectively given at least $110,000 to various Democratic Party arms and candidates over the last six years. McCleary personally gave $2,300 to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in November 2007.
Federal records maintained online by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) also show PharmAthene executives contributed nearly $10,000 to Democratic organizations and candidates over the same time period, including $1,200 to the Obama presidential campaign.
Close scrutiny of CRP’s online records reveals that on the same day — Nov. 6, 2009 — McCleary contributed $4,800 and two PharmAthene executives gave a combined $1,500 to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Harkin is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the panel that oversees HHS and its operations
PharmAthene’s registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. is Jim Ervin, founder of Ervin Technical Associates (ETA) and also a general partner at Four Seasons Ventures. ETA’s lobbying clients include other major government contractors, including General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon.
When we heard “hope and change,” we didn’t realize that it meant that Democrats hope to change the recipients of federal favors to their own donors.
On Nov. 11, Obama delivered a rousing address at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Speech in Des Moines, Iowa, a stem winder that seemed to revitalize what had seemed to some political observers to have become a campaign in need of a jolt.
“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” Obama said, bringing the crowd to its feet.
“I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and I have won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not get a job in my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”
I’m looking for the video — but of course, you could also just buy John’s excellent documentary.