Saturday, March 04, 2006

GAO finds cronyism from early days of the Bush admin...

The Dept. of Education has been found by the GAO to have bent the rules in order to give grants to cronies of the Bush administration. The three examples mentioned date back to 2001 and 2002, and occurred under the tenure of former secretary of education Rod Paige. The department in 2003 took steps to improve how it gives competitive grants but the GAO report only says that the agency has "generally" followed the new rules.

Here are the three cases detailed by the report of the bending of rules to give grants to Bush administration cronies:
--The Arkansas Department of Education got $2.3 million for a project with K12 Inc., an online curriculum company founded by William Bennett, who was education secretary under President Reagan. Federal officials changed their selection methods and expanded their funding list to include Arkansas, and all the other projects lost some money as a result.

William Bennet was the beneficiary of rule bending to give his venture a grant from the department of education. How much of this taxpayer money was eventually poured down the drain due to his gambling addiction?
--The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence got a $5 million grant even though its proposal was not recommended by two of the three experts on a peer review panel. The board is a project of the conservative Education Leaders Council. One of the council's founders, Eugene Hickok, was under secretary of education under Paige.
The undersecretary of the department that was giving the grant benefited by the rule bending yet this is not a clear violation of law!? This is one example where the oft used exclamation "there ought to be a law" is appropo...
--America's Charter School Finance Corporation got an unspecified award despite ranking sixth on a list of four grantees that peer reviewers had recommended. A senior political appointee was ordered to "re-review" the competitors that had finished fifth and sixth. The grantee list was then expanded to five, and America's Charter was bumped up to fifth to qualify. Program officials told the GAO they had never experienced a case like it.
In this case the political powers that be had to really permutate and bend the rules to get the cash flowing to their pet project. If you just do a bit of digging the Republican connections become clear.

The chairman and ceo of America's Charter School Finance Corp. is Lawrence W O'Toole. Google that name and you will find this nugget.
Lawrence W. O'Toole ... was appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance by US Secretary of Education, Rod Paige.
By way of finding the ideological bent of this group perhaps a further look at the list of their executives is instructive. Thus we find the name of Sheila Ryan-Macie (Vice President, Policies and Programs). Google her and you find that she donated $3000 to the Sally Mae Pac in 1999. They in turn donated $10,000 to the 2000 campaign of George Bush. Ms. Ryan-Macie does have one $250 contribution to the campaign of Democratic senator Jack Reed, but the rest of her contributions are to decidedly conservative causes.

J. Bonnie Newman who sits on the board of directors: Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce under Ronald Reagan.

The point of all this is to show that the rules were not bent to give money to some group with liberal staff and ideals. It simply is cronyism, pure and simple, and the associates of this administration who benefit from it invariably have deep roots with Republican causes.

Finally I must note that I have no doubt that such a disclosure under any previous adminsistration would lead to a feeding frenzy by the media for a week as they hashed out what happened. But with this administration, this type of shenanigan is so commonplace that I doubt you hear a peep about this story besides what you find on Kos, or Club Lefty or the occasional other liberal site. This cronyism, corruption, lying, and general ineptitude is so prevalent that something like this simply is a ripple in the middle of a tsunami.

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