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Monday, November 11, 2013

A Sweetheart No-Bid Contract for Obama-Connected Marketing Firm? -- By Judicial Watch

The government contracting process is supposed to be transparent, fair, and subject to open bidding so the American people can have confidence that politicians and their appointees in the federal bureaucracies do not engage in the behavior of rewarding campaign donors with sweetheart deals.

Note I said supposed to be transparent, fair and open. Often it is not, as evidenced by an apparently corrupt arrangement between the Obama USDA and an Obama-connected marketing firm.

This week we announced the release of 44 pages of documents revealing that in 2010, the USDA evidently violated federal law by giving a $100,000 no-bid contract to a marketing firm with close ties to President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. The funds were for the purpose of spearheading Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” obesity initiative.

How close were the ties?

Top executives of the firm Shepardson, Stern, and Kaminsky (SS+K) previously held key positions on Obama campaign staffs, and the firm produced advertising for the 2012 Obama campaign, including the controversial “Your First Time” TV commercial, which compared voting to losing one’s virginity.

Importantly, even the USDA has admitted that the contract might have been unlawful. Following the early February 2010 delivery of the SS+K materials, the USDA, in an apparent effort to justify the no-bid contract, produced a “Request for Ratification of an Unauthorized Commitment” conceding possible violations of Federal Acquisition and Agriculture Acquisition regulations.

The Request said the USDA employee “was not aware of the contracting process” and that “the importance of this program necessitated an aggressive schedule that hindered his ability to research the process.”

Let me cut through the bureaucrat-speak for a moment:  What the Obama administration argues here is that the urgent need to advance Michelle Obama’s obesity initiative was of greater importance than following the law! And the person who presided over the contract allocation did not even have a basic understanding of the contracting process.

Once again, we see the perfect storm of incompetence, corruption and cover-up from this administration.
The records also reveal that in early April the Deputy Director of the USDA Office of Procurement & Property Management sent an email to the project director asking, “What did we get for our money?” Also, the commitment might have been “unauthorized.”

The documents obtained by JW on October 22, 2013, were in response to a June 13, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the following information from January 1, 2010, to the present:
  • Any and all contracts between USDA and SS+K, a creative marketing firm located at 1717 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Suite 660, Washington, DC 20036 and Pine Street, 30th Floor, New York, NY 10005.
  • Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the United States Department of Agriculture and any officer, employee, or representative of SS+K.
According to the documents, the USDA awarded SS+K the “unauthorized commitment,” no-bid contract to produce the “Let’s Move” logo, slogan, and artwork for Michelle Obama’s campaign, as well as the creative design for the “Let’s Move” website, which right now features characters from the Muppets as well as photos of Michelle Obama dancing/exercising.

ThHe and conservatives, that any government-funded campaign that involves puppets does not rise to the level of an “urgent need” that requires government officials to ignore the rule of law.)

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