Corruption-prostitution case haunts limousine firm owner

I read with interest your Sept. 25 article, “Rep. Thompson switches sides, backs Shirlington Limousine in DHS dispute.” As owner of Shirlington Limousine, I feel compelled to respond. Your headline is misleading. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s (D-Miss.) letter did not support Shirlington Limousine in its contract dispute with the Department of Homeland Security, nor has he “switched sides.” He is questioning the agency’s interpretation of federal contract law.

Unfortunately, my contract with DHS is the victim of the now-refuted misperception that former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) played a role in my contract award, as well as the false allegation that I provided prostitutes to Mr. Cunningham and several lobbyists. The residual stigma of these fallacies is evident in your placement of Mr. Cunningham’s photographs on the cover page of your Sept. 27 issue and on the page where the article was featured. Despite high marks for my DHS contract performance, the ghost of these unfounded allegations haunts my business dealings and personal life.

Neither Mr. Cunningham nor Shirlington’s contract with DHS were mentioned in Mr. Thompson’s Aug. 17, 2007 letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. Instead, his letter stated that the Small Business Administration had written an extensive legal opinion as to why a recent DHS procurement violated federal laws related to Historically Underutilized Business Zones, otherwise known as HUBZones.

Mr. Thompson appropriately inquired about an unresolved legal dispute between two federal agencies. If the SBA is correct, DHS’s contract procurement process and substantial multi-million-dollar contract awards would be illegal. Mr. Thompson’s inquiry speaks to a larger concern, accountability in federal contract practices.

My concern is that the same congressional leadership that vigorously pursued public accountability during the Duke Cunningham scandal in its aftermath ensures consistent and equal, not selective, application of the law.

Washington


Logical breakdown of Biden’s Iraq plan
From Reidar Visser, research fellow, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Despite attempts by Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) to explain his plan for Iraq in greater detail (“Biden rebuts criticism of Iraq decentralization plan,” Oct. 2), some obvious flaws in his scheme remain. The main problem is purely logical: If Biden is to be given credit for a distinctive “Iraq plan,” then this plan must either make the Iraqis do something they will not do of their own free will, or it must enable them to do something that they want to do but which the Bush administration is currently preventing them from doing. Biden denies that it is the former, so his challenge is to prove that the Bush administration is suppressing a genuine Iraqi desire to do something about federalism that corresponds to Biden’s ideas.

The problem with that is that if one asks Iraqis, they will refer to the full-fledged Iraqi legal framework for federalization that already exists and which requires no outside intervention whatsoever. The procedures for implementing federalism in Iraq, consisting of the Iraqi constitution and the detailed legislation adopted in October 2006, unequivocally assert that (1) no federalization can start before April 1, 2008; (2) any new federal regions should come as the result of popular grassroots initiatives in the existing governorates; and (3) there is no imperative for every governorate in Iraq to opt for a federal status (theoretically, the number of new federal regions may be anywhere from zero to 15).

Biden’s plan either violates all three of these aspects of the Iraqi legal framework or it has no meaning it all.

Oslo, Norway