Business as usual

Business as usual

We admit it: We’ve got Washington envy. It often seems as though that nonstop traffic jam across the Potomac has more of everything the Odd Dominion holds dear: corrupt politicians, torrid sex scandals and levels of executive-office intrigue not seen since Caligula gave his horse a senior-level cabinet position. But there is one arena in which our humble Commonwealth has consistently excelled, year after year: On a per-capita basis, Virginia seems to host more politically connected, ethically challenged companies than any other state in the union.

Damage un-control: Representative Tom Davis, while chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, failed to keep McLean-based consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, from receiving gross amounts of money from Uncle Sam.

Now, some of these companies are simply criminally inept, like MZM, Inc. In case you’ve forgotten, MZM was the “information technology firm” (and cash spigot for Rep. Virgil Goode, among others) that built a much-ballyhooed Martinsville branch, only to be caught up in the Randall “Duke” Cunnigham hookers-and-bribes scandal and close up shop a few years later. Incredibly, even with MZM chief Mitchell Wade headed to the hoosgow, Martinsville is currently being asked to return $143,000 in incentive money to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership—because, you know, they haven’t suffered enough already.

Then there are the companies that operate completely within the law, but still somehow get away with murder. Just take the case of Booz Allen Hamilton, the aptly named, McLean-based consulting firm that’s apparently been inhaling government dollars like a half-lit sailor sucking down ale at a Fleet Week Free-Beer Bonanza.

As reported in June 28’s Washington Post, it all started when Booz secured a tidy little $2 million contract to help the fledgling Department of Homeland Security with intelligence operations. But, with the Boozer’s labor rates running $42 to $383 an hour, two mil disappears pretty quick. So it wasn’t long before payments to Booz Allen had skyrocketed to $30 million, an amount that government lawyers called “grossly beyond the scope” of the original contract. So what did the DHS do to rectify this wasteful situation? They awarded Booz Allen yet another no-bid contract (eventually forking over $73 million) while spending a full year setting up a competition for the contracts. (All of which went to—can you guess?—Booz Allen!)

And where was the guy who should have been reining in this mess? Well, that would be Virginia’s very own Representative Tom Davis, then-chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, who was otherwise engaged engineering the ouster of Angela Styles, the reform-minded head of the Office of Management and Budget, and instructing government contractors on how to secure Homeland Security money during speeches at his friend’s company, ICG Government.

But it’s not all hopelessness and despair out there. For a bracing anti-corruption tonic we turn to Vienna’s Lori Mody, who runs the Win-Win Strategies Foundation, a company that, among other things, teaches underprivileged children about high-tech tools. Back in 2004, during a series of meetings with Louisiana Representative William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson about telecommunications opportunities in Nigeria, Mody became suspicious about some of Jefferson’s more, shall we say, unorthodox requests (such as demanding 5 to 7 percent of Mody’s new company and asking that a family member receive $2,500 to $5,000 in monthly payroll payments). So she headed on over to the FBI, which quickly wired her for sound and—after gathering, one imagines, all sorts of scintillating evidence—raided Jefferson’s homes, where they found $90,000 in cash stuffed into frozen food boxes in his freezer.

Not exactly a happy outcome, we suppose—but still, considering the alternatives, we’ll take whistle-blowing over kickback schemes and egregious price-gouging any day. And who knows? Maybe this will set off a trend, and Virginia’s politically connected corporate class will actually start questioning some of D.C.’s unsavory practices, instead of simply jumping into the trough and wallowing around like a pig in…well, you know.

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