Asa's ethics (UPDATED) | Arkansas Blog

Asa's ethics (UPDATED)

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The state Democratic Party's coordinated campaign highlights findings from a recent congressional investigation into contracts awarded by the Dept. of Homeland Security, saying it raises questions about Asa Hutchinson's ethical conduct.

The report, released Thursday, named the U.S. VISIT project, awarded in part to Saflink, as one of the wasteful contracts under Hutchinson’s watch, raising questions about what terms brought Hutchinson to a seat on Saflink’s board of directors between his leaving DHS on March 1, 2005 and his appointment to the Saflink board of directors March 10, 2005.

Either Asa Hutchinson had to recuse himself from anything involving U.S. VISIT or he could not have started talking with Saflink until March 2, 2005. ...

“Since it seems unlikely that those four things could happen that quickly, did Hutchinson get a waiver as he claims to have done for his lobbyist job so that he could negotiate with Saflink and did he recuse himself from the US VISIT project listed in the report released last week if he was negotiating with Saflink?”  Greg Hale, Victory 2006 campaign director, asked.

Full press release after the jump.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.): Here is the response from Hutchinson's campaign:

"All of Asa's dealings with the private sector were approved by the Department of Homeland Security's ethics department. He had no discussions or negotiations with SAFLINK prior to his departure from DHS. It's also worth noting that the House Government Reform Committee report the Democrats reference here makes no mention of Asa Hutchinson or SAFLINK.

"So right now, we have one candidate in this race, Asa Hutchinson, who has conducted his dealings aboveboard and in accordance with all laws and guidelines, and one candidate, Mike Beebe, who has actually been cautioned by the state Ethics Commission for abusing his taxpayer-funded office."

"Every time there are new questions about Mike Beebe's credibility – whether it's his use of his Attorney General's office for political purposes or his double-talk on gay foster parenting – Mike Beebe and his supporters launch another baseless, distorted attack on Asa to distract from their problems.

"The Democrats can't change the fact that Mike Beebe has a serious credibility problem, but the least they could do is to stop making unfounded charges against Asa."

NEW CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION REVEALS ABUSE ON HUTCHINSON’S WATCH

A new Congressional investigation into wasteful contracts and abuse of taxpayer money for Department of Homeland Security contracts on the watch of former DHS Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson raises new suspicious about the awarding of contracts to the Saflink company and Hutchinson’s nine-day ascension to the company board of directors after his departure from DHS.

Homeland Security, in June 2004, awarded a contract to a consortium led by Accenture to design and build U.S. VISIT.  Saflink was part of the alliance.

When Asa Hutchinson was at DHS he had responsibility for and oversaw U.S. VISIT.

The report, released Thursday, named the U.S. VISIT project, awarded in part to Saflink, as one of the wasteful contracts under Hutchinson’s watch, raising questions about what terms brought Hutchinson to a seat on Saflink’s board of directors between his leaving DHS on March 1, 2005 and his appointment to the Saflink board of directors March 10, 2005.

Either Asa Hutchinson had to recuse himself from anything involving U.S. VISIT or he could not have started talking with Saflink until March 2, 2005.  It seems unlikely that in a nine-day period, from March 2, 2005, to March 10, 2005:

1.       Saflink could contact Hutchinson about joining their board;

2.       Hutchinson negotiated with and accepted the offer from Saflink;

3.       The Saflink board of directors nominating and corporate governance committee recommended him to the full board; and

4.       The full board voted to elect him as a new director.

“Since it seems unlikely that those four things could happen that quickly, did Hutchinson get a waiver as he claims to have done for his lobbyist job so that he could negotiate with Saflink and did he recuse himself from the US VISIT project listed in the report released last week if he was negotiating with Saflink?”  Greg Hale, Victory 2006 campaign director, asked.

To have engaged in talks for this position prior to his leaving DHS, Hutchinson would have to have gotten authorization from the office of White House Counsel, according to regulations set by Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

“Lawmakers say that since the Homeland Security Department's formation in 2003, an explosion of no-bid deals and a critical shortage of trained government contract managers have created a system prone to abuse.   Based on a comprehensive survey of hundreds of government audits, 32 Homeland Security Department contracts worth a total of $34 billion have ‘experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement,’ " the Washington Post reported Thursday, quoting the report.

The report was requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, who was joined by Chairman Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

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