June 28th, 2007 09:14 EST
Corruption Gone Wild - Bruenn v. Northrop
Private contracts are handed out by the federal government in droves these days. The industrial company Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the stealth bomber, has been granted a number of lucrative contracts despite past lawsuits filed against the company.
Named the company of the year by Forbes in 2002, and ranked number 67 on Forbes 2006 Fortune 500 list, the Los Angeles based Northrop is the third largest defense contractor in the U.S.
Bruenn v. Northrop
Vaughn Bruenn worked as a cost analyst for Northrop until being fired after he sought treatment for Hepatitis C. Bruenn filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the company. “Bruenn’s due process rights were violated when the trial judge failed to remove an incompetent juror,” states a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judge also refused to admit evidence of discriminatory remarks made by one of Bruenn’s supervisors. The supervisor mistakenly accused Bruenn of being a homosexual with AIDS. The Supreme Court refused to re-hear the case.
Bruenn remarked, “Can you image the torment I’ve endured, reading 45 days after my appeal to US Supreme Court for unlawful termination from Northrop after treatment for Hep C and Depression, the implication I was a homosexual and had AIDS by a manager and co-worker.”
Northrop Awarded USAID/PEPFAR Contracts
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) established the Partnership for Supply Chain Management (the Partnership) in 2005, a multi-billion dollar contract with 15 private sector institutions, including Northrop. The Partnership strengthens “the lifeline of essential drugs and supplies for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in developing countries,” according to PEPFAR. President Bush created PEPFAR in 2003, through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded Northrop a $4 billion dollar grant in May 2006, shared with four other companies, to provide services in the information technology platform and infrastructure services. Months later, in August 2006, USAID picked Northrop, along with three other companies, to compete for awards totaling $300 billion.
Political Connections and Contributions
According to the website OpenSecrets.org, Northrop maintains connections in the federal government. Several former Bush administration officials had ties to the company. Disgraced former Chief to the President, Lewis Libby served as a consultant to Northrop. Douglas J. Feith, former Under-Secretary for Policy, is the managing partner of a law firm whose clients include Northrop. Paul Wolfowitz, former World Bank president, also served as a consultant to Northrop. The current Under Secretary for the Comptroller Dov Zakheim is on Northrop’s paid advisory board.
Lobbying in Washington, D.C. is a multi-billion dollar industry. In 2000 Northrop gave lobbyists a total of $6,882,720, and $1,181,280 in 2001 and 2002. Northrop gave contributions to several members of Congress including $20,000 to Senator Trent Lott (R) and $17,000 to Rep. Ike Shelton (D).
Current Northrop CEO Ron Sugar makes political contributions to both sides of the aisle. California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) received a $900 campaign contribution in June 2006. George Allen (R) of Virginia, the incumbent senator defeated by Senator Jim Webb, received $1,000.
Freshly restructured and more-or-less on the mend, USAID’s PEPFAR is yet growing at the optimal time.
For 1 year, whistleblower Vaughn Bruenn said the time is at hand for a full investigation. That request has yet to materialize.
"I think USAID needs to be very careful about allocating further funds until they can prove they can reduce the number of prior lucrative fraudulent PEPFAR contract awards," said Bruenn, who openly complained about a $10.7M HIV/Hepatitis PEPFAR grant award going to Northrop Grumman 45 days after the US Supreme Court Denied Appeal Rehearing of his unlawful termination suit (Bruenn v, Northrop) after contracting, treatment of Hepatitis C.
In May, USAID lost Randall Tobias to a well published DC madam sex scandal. The president announced a week ago, that he was appropriating an additional $30B for PEPFAR. The prior $15B is no longer there nor was misuses mentioned.
Other also have shown to question logic of giant defense contractors like Northrop into the compassion care arena, especially as Northrop’s recover from years-long slump, openly stated desire to diversify, triggered by numerous DOD investigations concerns and fierce military contract competition.
During that period of Tobias reign at USAID -- when Northrop went from zero to $300B – now they’re the single largest USAID contractor.
Congress became acutely aware of the crisis. But their own campaign funding sources were in many cases were often too rickety and resorted to Northrop for contributions (see Corruption Gone Wild)
The lack of control puzzles Bruenn. He noted, that he wrote every member of congress, all turned their back on him and the ensuing USAID crisis. Tobias remained at his post for 1 year,
" Bruenn said some members of congress may be delaying action in hopes of catching the impeachment wave that is rumored for this fall”..
"I think there's a lot of reluctance on the part of congress to go out on a limb when impeachment proceedings are looming," he said.
A QUESTION OF NEED
Officials generally agree that while the USAID needs to increase funding, the cost of mammoth fraud at the hands of Tobias/Northrop does not necessarily outweigh or lower the need for a full investigation
Dear Senator Shellby,
I am deeply troubled that the USAID investigation involving Randall Tobias and Northrop Grumman et al went nowhere.
I urge you to support a full investigation. I hope you will also work to address several key issues that will strengthen the agency and more effectively prevent future corruption and punishment for abusers
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
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