Federal Judge Forces SBA to Release Contracting Data

Press Release

Federal Judge Forces SBA to Release Contracting Data

August 28, 2008

Petaluma, Calif. - The Small Business Administration (SBA) has lost another round in its ongoing legal battle with small business advocate Lloyd Chapman and the American Small Business League (ASBL).

Judge Marilyn H. Patel of United States District Court, Northern District of California denied all of the SBA's motions on Tuesday, in the latest Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case filed by the ASBL. Using FOIA, the ASBL requested the specific names of all firms that had received federal small business contracts during fiscal years 2005 and 2006.

Even though the SBA had been previously ordered by Patel to release the information to Chapman, the SBA attempted to have the case dismissed as a means of avoiding to release further information and having to reimburse the ASBL for its legal fees.

Bush officials fought to withhold the release of the names to circumvent disclosing that Fortune 500 firms and other large businesses around the world had received a lion's share of government small business contracts since President Bush assumed office in 2001.

During the proceedings, attorneys for the Bush Administration persistently denied that the SBA had ever possessed a list containing the names of firms that had received government small business contracts. They went on to claim that officials at the SBA never had knowledge of the actual recipients of federal government small business contracts for any year.

Regarding the SBA's claims, case documents stated, "The court finds it curious the SBA's argument that it does not 'control' the very information it needs to carry out its duties and functions."

After questioning SBA attorneys, Patel declined to accept the SBA's claim and stated, "SBA's attempt to argue that the information sought by the League is not an 'agency record' is the kind of bureaucratic foot-dragging that FOIA - by providing the public with free open access to government records - was designed to avoid."

"By now it should be obvious to everyone involved that all of the information the Bush Administration has been releasing on federal small business contracting is misleading and disingenuous," ASBL President Lloyd Chapman stated. "The truth is, the Bush Administration has intentionally diverted the vast majority of our government's small business contracts to some of the largest companies in the world. All of the Bush Administration's lame excuses of 'miscoding' and their ridiculous 'myth vs. fact' PR campaign were a pathetic attempt to dupe the media and the public, and it has failed miserably."

Chapman added, "The American Small Business League will continue to lead the fight to take back our country's small business programs from corporate giants and billionaire venture capitalists. We will help American's 26 million small businesses to unite and speak with a single voice that will be so strong our next President and every member of Congress will be able to hear it loud and clear."

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Obama Hood: Taxing Big Oil to Give Americans Another Stimulus Check


Obama Hood: Taxing Big Oil to Give Americans Another Stimulus Check

By Jennifer Lance
Red, Green and Blue
August 27, 2008

Unemployment rates in the United States hit a four-year high in July, and inflation rates have risen 1.32% since January 2008.  In fact, economists believe inflation is the greatest threat to the US economy and worry the energy-driven rise in prices will become permanent.  Senator Obama’s response to the dire economic outlook is an “Emergency Economic Plan” that would take from rich oil companies experiencing record profits and give back to the American people in the form of stimulus checks, as well as invest $50 billion in states and infrastructure.

Obama’s Emergency Economic Plan

Unlike McCain, who can’t remember the price of gas or how many houses he owns, Obama recognizes working Americans are struggling.  In response to the current economic crisis, Obama’s Emergency Economic Plan offers both long and short term solutions.  In a move reminiscent of Robin Hood, Obama would take from rich oil companies and give to the American people. The emergency plan also includes a $50 billion stimulus package designed to save 1 million jobs.  Specifically, Obama’s plan includes:

  1. Forcing big oil companies to take a reasonable share of their record breaking windfall profits and use it to help struggling families with direct relief worth $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple. The relief would be delivered as quickly as possible to help families cope with the rising price of gasoline, food and other necessities. The rebates would be fully paid for with five years of a windfall profits tax on record oil company profits. This relief would be a down payment on Obama’s long-term plan to provide middle-class families with at least $1000 per year in permanent tax relief.
  2. $50 billion in immediate measures to turn our economy around and help prevent more than 1 million Americans from losing their jobs:
  • $25 billion in a State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education and housing assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The fund will also ensure sufficient funding for home heating and weatherization assistance as we move into the fall and winter months.
  • $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to replenish the highway trust fund; prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund new, fast-tracked projects to repair schools – all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut.

McCain’s Response

McCain would rather help Big Oil than working Americans. Proposing corporate tax cuts and increased drilling won’t feed families.  McCain stated:

Across this country, Americans are hurting and today’s job numbers are just the latest reminder of the economic challenges we face. … Unlike Sen. Obama, I do not believe that raising taxes is the answer to our economic problems. There is no surer way to force jobs overseas than to raise taxes on businesses.

Raising taxes on Big Oil when they are making record profits only seems fair in these tight times.  Obama is not proposing taxing struggling businesses or working individuals.  When wealth is unevenly distributed, I believe it is the right of government to intervene on behalf of working citizens. Remember, these are “windfall” profits Obama proposes taxing; however, what happens to permanent tax relief and the State Growth Fund and  Jobs and Growth Fund when windfall profits don’t exist?  Perhaps a decrease in military spending could be the solution as we pull out of Iraq.

The Effectiveness of Stimulus Checks

How exactly would a $1000 stimulus check help American families. Obama claims it would:

  • Offset the entire increase in gas prices for a working family over the next four months
  • Pay for the entire increase in winter heating bills for a typical family in a cold-weather state

The first suggestion is reminiscent of the gas tax holiday proposed by McCain and Clinton that Obama critized as a “short-term quick fix”.  Stimulus checks are not a new idea, and I can’t help but wonder if Obama is simply following Bush’s plan that caused a short term boost to the struggling economy this spring to win votes.  What did you spend your stimulus check on?  I put mine in an IRA, which is probably what I would do with another one. I am learning to live more frugally during these times of high gas prices, and one check won’t go far enough to change that. It is important to remember though, that stimulus checks are only one part, and probably the least significant part, of Obama’s Emergency Economic Plan.

Image: freefoto

Related posts on Obama, energy, and the economy:

Source:  http://redgreenandblue.org/

Democratic Platform Dodges Key Small Business Issues

Press Release

Democratic Platform Dodges Key Small Business Issues

August 26, 2008

Petaluma, Calif. – Approximately 168 million Americans work in nearly 27 million small businesses across the United States. There are several key issues effecting small businesses in middle class America that are conspicuously absent from the portion of the 2008 Democratic National Platform which specifically addresses small businesses. Most of the statements in the Platform, which reference small businesses, are vague, such as “We will help small businesses facing high energy costs.”

The Democratic National Platform makes no mention of any specific plans to address three small business issues that could infuse billions of dollars into the middle class economy, which has been the hardest hit by the recent dramatic downturn in the U.S. economy.     

The following are just a few examples of critically important small business issues that are not mentioned in the Democratic National Platform:  the restoration of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) budget and staffing; ending the diversion of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms; and the implementation of the federal law establishing a 5 percent set-aside contracting goal for woman-owned firms.

The SBA is the only agency in Washington specifically charged with assisting small businesses. Since taking office in 2001, the Bush Administration has cut the SBA’s budget and staffing more than any other federal agency. When President Bush leaves office, the SBA will be approximately half the size it was when he arrived in Washington. Several senior SBA officials have privately acknowledged the SBA has been cut to the point that “the agency can no longer carry out its mission.” The SBA is so understaffed that after hurricane Katrina the agency was forced to hire more than two thousand temporary employees to handle the workload.

During the last thirty days alone, four separate federal investigations have been released, which have found rampant abuses in several SBA programs. In each case, a lack of proper oversight by SBA officials was a major contributing factor to the problems.  

Under the Bush Administration, dozens of other federal programs designed to assist woman-owned firms, minority-owned firms, veteran-owned firms and other small business have been crippled or even eliminated by budget and staffing cuts at the SBA.

Considering the current severe economic downturn in America, any political platform that purports to support small businesses should include specific plans to not only restore, but significantly expand the SBA’s budget, staffing and programs.  

Since 2003, 15 separate federal investigations have found widespread fraud, abuse and mismanagement in federal small business contracting programs. A multitude of problems have allowed hundreds of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to be diverted to Fortune 500 firms and hundreds of other large businesses around the world.  Some of the largest recipients of federal small business contracts have been British Aerospace and Engineering (BAE), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Titan Industries and Dutch conglomerate Buhrmann NV.

In Report 5-15, the SBA Office of Inspector General stated, “One of the most important challenges facing the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the entire Federal Government today is that large businesses are receiving small business procurement awards and agencies are receiving credit for these awards.”

Any genuine plan to address the sagging economy by bolstering opportunities for the middle class would have to specifically address the wholesale diversion of federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms.

More than seven years ago, President Clinton signed legislation, which established a 5 percent set-aside contracting goal for woman-owned firms. The Bush Administration has persistently refused to implement the program. As a result, woman-owned firms have lost billions of dollars in federal contracting opportunities. The Democratic platform makes no mention of their intention to fully implement this program. 

If the Democratic party wants to convince middle class voters that they have the solutions to the challenges facing small business, they must adopt clear and specific solutions for restoring the SBA’s budget and staffing, halt the flow of federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms and fully implement the federal law establishing the 5 percent set-aside contracting goal for woman-owned small businesses.


More Secrecy Won't Help David


More Secrecy Won't Help David

By Adam Hughes
August 21, 2008

Over the last few weeks, there have been a smattering of reports about a modern-day David vs. Goliath struggle in federal contracting. In this saga, large government contractors are winning bids for contracts that are designated by the government for small businesses. At the end of July, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Inspector General released a report that found Blackwater USA may have won numerous contracts (39 in fact) set aside for small businesses. This report is the result of a request and investigation of Blackwater launched by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) back in March. What might be the worst part of this is the SBA has repeatedly tried to hide the fact that huge companies were winning small business contracts.

The Blackwater case is not an isolated incident either, nor is this restricted to the SBA. According to Chris Gunn with the American Small Business League (ASBL), there have been more than a dozen federal investigations since 2003, all of which have concluded that Fortune 500 companies and other large businesses are winning contracts designated for small businesses. News reports, government investigations, and additional evidence make a pretty convincing case that Goliath is winning this battle despite government's efforts to the contrary, and has been for a while.

That's why I was surprised today when I got a press release from the ASBL warning about a new Bush administration policy that would make the reporting of annual revenue and number of employees optional for contractors when they register with the Central Contracting Registration (CCR) system (see CCR notice). That's right - this change would make it more difficult for the government to award small business contracts to small businesses. Past investigations have concluded that even when required to report this information, contractors deliberately mislead government officials, information that was provided was poor, and worst of all, government employees did not consider the poor quality of the information in making contracting decisions.

Well, then, what makes the administration think that this situation will be improved by having less information about whether companies are small or not? Granted there is more than one problem with the current system, but having too much information is not one of them. Once this rule is implemented, it will be that much harder for the government to award small business contracts to the right entities - something it is already having a very difficult time doing. Doesn't President Bush know that David is supposed to win?

Source:  www.ombwatch.org

New Small-Business Chief Has Critics Already


New Small-Business Chief Has Critics Already

By Elizabeth Olson
New York Times
August 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — Santanu K. Baruah, a former Commerce Department official, began serving this week as acting administrator of the Small Business Administration.

President Bush appointed Mr. Baruah on Aug. 15 as acting administrator under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which allows him to remain in the post through the end of the current administration.

He was nominated on June 26 but his confirmation ran into bipartisan concerns over several issues at the agency, particularly a multimillion-dollar provision for government contracts for female-owned businesses.

Last December, the agency issued a rule narrowly defining the women’s government contracting program, which set off protests on Capitol Hill and among women’s groups.

Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, accused President Bush on Thursday of circumventing the confirmation process and of undercutting efforts to open government contracting opportunities for women.

“This nominee and the administration know that I am vehemently opposed to them moving forward with the unconstitutional women’s procurement rule that makes it harder for women to access federal contracts,” Mr. Kerry said.

Lawmakers were further irked because the Small Business Administration sent a final draft of the women’s contracting rule to the Office of Budget and Management. Its contents will not be officially released until October.

Opponents fear that despite having received some 1,600 comments since the rule was published in the Federal Register earlier this year, the agency has retained the narrow definition that elicited the protests in the first place. Critics say they believe that would flout Congress’s 2000 mandate that female-owned businesses receive at least 5 percent of the $435 billion in annual government contracts.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, who is the ranking minority member on the committee, tried to extract a pledge from Mr. Baruah on the issue at a meeting last month. Ms. Snowe said she “demanded Mr. Baruah make a commitment to either withdraw this proposed rule or defer action on this issue until the next administration.”

Mr. Baruah, who was assistant secretary for economic development at the Commerce Department, did not make a commitment. Even so, Ms. Snowe this week issued a statement welcoming his designation but urging him to “rectify the administration’s recent failure to implement a meaningful women’s contracting rule.”

Although little known in the small-business community, Mr. Baruah spent more than two years at the Economic Development Administration, which gives development grants to communities that have suffered job losses for reasons like the movement of manufacturing overseas. Before joining the Bush administration, he worked for seven years as a senior consultant at the Performance Consulting Group in Portland, Ore., which had some big-name clients like Walt Disney and Intel. The firm closed in 2000.

Mr. Baruah, 43, also served in the administration of George H. W. Bush, working as a legislative affairs officer in the Labor Department and as a confidential assistant for the Interior secretary.

Several small-business groups said it was beneficial to have an administration-selected agency head because the hurricane season was beginning, and a firm hand was needed to oversee the agency’s disaster loan program. The program was overwhelmed after Hurricane Katrina, and the former administrator, Steven C. Preston, made overhauling the program a top priority.

Karen A. Kerrigan, president and chief executive of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, a small-business association, said Mr. Baruah’s appointment would put the agency on solid footing.

Ms. Kerrigan also said Mr. Baruah’s economic development service gave him experience “working with local communities and local businesses so he understands government interaction with communities.”

The American Small Business League, which has locked horns with the Small Business Administration over the awards of small-business contracts to large corporations, has been critical. Its president, Lloyd Chapman, has publicly worried that Mr. Baruah’s goal is to either eliminate the Small Business Administration or fold it into the Commerce Department.

Mr. Chapman also said Mr. Baruah’s lack of small-business experience meant he was not qualified for the job.

When he took up the post last week, Mr. Baruah said in a statement that he planned to “help S.B.A. carry on its mission as it navigates the height of hurricane season and deals with the current economic challenges and tightening credit opportunities for small business.”

He said, through a spokeswoman, that he was too busy learning his new job for an interview, but the S.B.A.’s announcement emphasized that he “has worked for small businesses, helped small businesses grow, and was raised by a mother who ran her own small business.”

That would be Ranee Baruah, who owned Ranee’s Imported and Domestic Foods, a coffee, tea and spices store in Salem, Ore. It closed in the early 1990s, Mr. Baruah said.

Source:  www.nytimes.com