Everything you should know about government transparency and accountability under President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress was made crystal clear by two events this week.
In a key Senate committee, the majority voted against the timely publication of their massive health care bill before it receives a final vote in the upper chamber. The actual text of the bill still has not been written, and no one knows for sure which provisions will be included when it’s finally composed. In fact, we won’t know for sure what was approved until well after the roll call. Call it the Democrats’ “verdict first, then evidence” strategy.
Also this week, the Obama administration refused to release pertinent details on the controversial $18 million contract it signed for redesigning www.recovery.gov, the government Web site for tracking spending under the Obama economic stimulus program. Pro Publica, a nonprofit news organization, filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the contract and its supporting documentation, but what the administration released contained massive redactions of the key provisions. Smartronix — an obscure, Maryland-based defense contractor with little prior Web site design experience — won the contract.
Smartronix President Mohammed Javaid, Vice President Alan Parris and partner John Parris have together given $19,000 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer since 1999. A Hoyer spokesman vehemently denied any impropriety in connection with the contract award.
Redesigning a Web site and the user interface with the database isn’t rocket science, and there are undoubtedly hundreds of technically qualified people out there who would perform the work for considerably less than $18 million. Odds are we will never know all the facts about this contract, however, because entire sections on “site navigation,” “user experience,” pricing and warranty issues were blacked out in the documents released by the government.
That’s not to say the unredacted portion of the document doesn’t provide a useful insight into what is going on here. There is, for example, this description of what will be found on the redesigned site: “We will watch the YouTube video of a father who has finally gotten back to work — working on an ecologically friendly transportation project that cannot be outsourced — as he speaks about the pride he feels coming home to his family after a long day’s work building a new transportation infrastructure.”
In other words, www.recovery.gov is a propaganda resource for the Obama stimulus package’s imaginary successes. Thus, it’s transparency in the age of Obama.