Unjust Weights?

Ashcroft “The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” – Proverbs 11:1

Here, in the state of Connecticut, if you are accused of a motor violation, and you plead “no contest,” you may end up paying your fine to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers or some other related non-profit organization. I guess it’s the way the state let’s you off, but you still pay. The benefit is, the decision doesn’t affect your driving record and therefore, your insurance premiums won’t go up. It’s a fair trade. Nevertheless, I’ve heard people ask why they can’t pay the fine to a different charity or even, their kid’s after-school program, or something like that. They “suspect” that the reason MADD gets the dough is because of some nefarious relationship the prosecutor or judge has with that particular group. Maybe the prosecutor is getting a little kick-back. Maybe. At any rate, the government has guidelines set for such arrangements and the upper hand.

This past week, former Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared before a House judiciary subcommittee to answer questions about a lucrative monitoring contract he received from Chris Christie, New Jersey’s U.S. attorney. The implication, made mostly by Democrats, is that giving Ashcroft’s firm the no-bid contract, rumored to be worth between $28 and $52 million, amounted to political cronyism. Although Ashcroft’s firm is being paid by the corporation it’s monitoring, it was assigned the contract by Christie, who was once one of Ashcroft’s subordinates at the Justice Department. The House judiciary subcommittee wanted Ashcroft to explain how the Ashcroft Group, the lobbying and consulting firm he started after he left government, won a no-bid contract worth $28 million to $52 million. Ashcroft’s task was to monitor an out-of-court settlement between the Justice Department and an Indiana medical device manufacturer, Zimmer Holdings Inc. Zimmer is accused of making kickbacks to doctors who used its equipment and is required to submit to 18 months of oversight in order to comply to the laws they broke. Much like the example I sited in the first paragraph, the government allows the individual or company to pay an outside group and keeps them out of a court-imposed penalty. Much of this has come about after the Enron collapse and other corporate failings due to fraudulent bookkeeping. The Sarbanes-Oxley law requires that companies accused of fiscal wrongdoing of this sort, obtain monitoring and corrective training and/or corporate restructuring to correct the error.

After researching the Zimmer-Ashcroft-Christie deal, it seems that the accusations being made regarding Christie’s supposed conflict of interest is, statutorily baseless. Unless Christie is getting a kick-back from his decision to use his old boss for the deal, there is no benefit to him, therefore, no conflict. However, Ashcroft’s assertion that there is no appearance of conflict of interest is, for me, a bit troubling. The problem with “appearances” is that they are determined by the beholder, not by the one who is presenting the appearance. At times, appearances will be what they represent. At other times, they are deceiving. Logically, Ashcroft can’t make the determination that the deal had no appearance of conflict. That is left in the eye of the beholder.

As to the accusation made against Ashcroft by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, suggesting the contract was a “backroom, sweetheart deal,” I think that claim is at least spurious fishing, but more likely, just another example of partisan, politically-oriented character assassination. Her sarcastic comments were the stuff of school yard bullying. Baseless accusation is the currency of many members of Congress to undermine the credibility of an opponent. It was in full view here. It hardly professional behavior, but rather sordid and thoroughly uncultured.

Although I disagree with Rep. Sanchez’s speculative assertion that there was a “backroom, sweetheart deal,” between Christie and Ashcroft, I fall in with those who are concerned about the no-bid course of action taken by Christie. I’m not blaming Ashcroft at all, but the process stinks. For me, it’s ironic that the Republican Party has consistently championed the concept that competitive bidding is preferable to monopolistic, sole-source contracting. In fact, the iconic President Reagan made deregulation and and open bidding a keystone of his economic policy. Even today, in the discourse on health-care, Republicans are typically supportive of the competitive process over the public, sole-source model. They rail at the idea of a program that will be fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse, yet in thiscase, they are not that concerned because there is no direct government funds involved. The problem is that, holistically, the no-bid arrangement made by Christie hardly assures the public that it is getting the best qualified group to do the job, and at the best price for services rendered. This is not to say that The Ashcroft Group wouldn’t have won the contract under a fair-bidding scheme, but who will know?

According to the federal law (48 CFR § 2.101) governing no-bid contracts, the only legal reasons for offering sole source (no-bid) contracts include:

  1. only one firm has a product that will meet the projects needs or only one firm can do the work;
  2. the existence of an unusual and compelling urgency;
  3. for purposes of industrial mobilization or expert services;
  4. an international agreement;
  5. sole source is authorized or required by law, e.g., socio-economic programs;
  6. national security; and
  7. the public interest.

It’s obvious from this list of qualifiers, Christie chose not to apply these standards. Even though it could be argued that there is no specific law or guidelines that direct the process of hiring monitors, it’s in the public interest to provide a level, competitive playing field for any individual or corporation to get a chance to win the contract. That’s fair and ethical. In this case, no opportunity was given to anyone else to bid on the contract. It just doesn’t pass the stink test.

Apparently, the Justice Department thought it needed to do something about the “non-appearance” of conflict of interest. On March 10th, the department announced internal guidelines for the selection of monitors in out-of-court settlements with large companies. The new guidelines are intended in part to avoid the sort of conflict of interest accusations that followed the disclosure of Mr. Ashcroft’s contract.

I have to agree with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, who suggested at the hearing that the new guidelines may not go far enough, and that Congress may consider legislation to impose new rules for the selection of monitors. “We must assure the public that the Department of Justice is not rewarding political allies in a forum where prosecutorial independence is absolutely necessary.” It is a time for transparency in the rewarding of government contracts and those it manages. There is too much revolving-door lobbying and neither party can claim the high road.

My final thoughts on this matter have to do with biblical ethics. It seems to me that the most basic of ethical mores defined for Christians is that they “do unto others that which they would want others to do to them.” Yeah, that’s the Golden Rule. I would suggest that if John Ashcroft and other Christians involved in these kinds of situations really believe in the Golden Rule, they should apply it in every aspect of their lives, both individually and corporately, especially in the business of government. To do otherwise suggests a lack of integrity and the appearance of embracing situational ethics. I believe that Ashcroft should support the remarks of John Conyers and others who are asking for an open process that ensures a level playing ground of opportunity. If not, I would be inclined to think that he is defending a process of “unjust weights.”

The second ethical concern I want to address is the way some Christians get sucked into the cesspool of partisan politics and fail to focus on “whatsoever things are true.” Instead, they launch naturally and readily into ad hominem diatribes and sarcastic mockery of those who don’t support their particular brand of politics that day. I admit that it is hard to stomach some of the partisan jousting and nasty invectives that pour from the mouth of politicians and pundits, nevertheless, this kind of behavior is not justified for those representing Jesus Christ in the political arena. Is this what the “new man” of scripture is to sound and look like? Are Christians allowed to put their love of enemies on the shelf when it comes to politics. It seems to me that God doesn’t want us to be putting on transition lenses when it comes to our interest and involvement in the arena of politics, but to bring light into the darkness and overcome evil with good. Darkness has never been overcome by more darkness.

The next time you feel like cursing (opposed to blessing, praying for, or interceding for) politicians, pundits, or anyone else who you might disagree with, consider whether you modeling the Satan who accuses or the Christ who advocates.

Accuser or Advocate

God Save Us All – Steve

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5 Responses

  1. Excellent Blog. I’ve been reading along and just wanted to say hi. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

    – Jason.

  2. When you address the issue of deferred prosecutions and US Attorney firings, the obvious question that must be asked, is
    – When does deference turn into preference or bribe.
    .
    Who decides on the severity of what is prosecuted and what is not?
    .
    We have a case, that outweighs, out corrupts, out cronies and leaps the Dept of Justice (at least as far as Delaware is concerned) into a state of full blown complicity with Racketeering.
    .
    This letter was sent to the Office of Inspector General after the California US Attorney has received an official complaint and copies of the proofs went to the FBI, OPR, Congressman Conyers and the Admin of US Courts.
    .
    Dear Inspector General;

    Please be advised that the law firms of Traub Bonacquist & Fox (TBF) and Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnel (MNAT) have confessed to filing more than 33 false affidavits in the eToys bankruptcy cases. (Del Bankr 01-706)

    The law firm of TBF was originally sought to be sanctioned by Asst US Trustee, Frank Perch, for $1.6 million (Motion to Disgorge eToys D.I. 2195 Feb 15, 2005). The Motion to Disgorge did Not mention the law firm of MNAT as it also sought other leniencies in stating that Barry Gold did not have to apply to the Court for permission to be hired per Code 327(a).

    MNAT and TBF were instructed by the US Trustee’s office against replacing any key personnel of the eToys Debtor with anyone connected to the retained professionals in the eToys cases. (please see Disgorge Motion parts 19 and 35).

    The US Supreme Court and Third Circuit has persistently stated that Section 327(a) language is “unambiguous” and if an attorney is discovered to have a non-disclosed, conflict of interest, they must be disqualified. (please see cases of In re Middleton Arms, In re Price Waterhouse, In re First Jersey Securities etc)

    Despite the US Trustee forewarning of MNAT and TBF, they plotted, by multiple false affidavits as TBF confessied that they paid Barry Gold four (4) payments of $30,000 each, prior to placing Barry Gold within eToys where he was then paid $40,000 per month by eToys as TBF ceased paying Barry Gold (purportedly). (please see eToys bankruptcy court docket item 2228 the Transcript of the March 1, 2005 hearing).

    Less than 10 days after the Motion to Disgorge was submitted, the DOJ attorney Mr. Mark Kenney, for the New Region 3 Trustee, supplied an Illegal contract to TBF as a Stipulation to Settle on Feb 24 2005, that contains the following, Obvious, unlawful permission to Circumvent the Code;

    “WHEREAS the United States Trustee shall not compel TBF to make additional disclosures”

    Even though the MNAT and TBF law firms have now confessed to filing false affidavits, intentionally. While collaboratively drafting a Clandestine Hiring Letter that gave Barry Gold ( a confessed paid associate of TBF) the ability to choose, whether or not, to dodge Code 327(a) by simplying choosing not to apply to the Court. While MNAT, TBF and Barry Gold all worked for eToys, they then sold assets of eToys to their “undisclosed” client Bain/KB for discounts in the tens of millions.

    The US Code 28 USC 586(a)(3)(F) commands that the US Trustee refer the matter to the US Attorney’s office.

    They US Trustee has refused to mention the firm MNAT in either the Disgorge Motion or the Stipulation to Settle.

    When we first notified the Court, the US Trustee, the EOUST, the OIG, the OGE, the OPR and the FBI of all this readily apparent cronyism and corruption. We were referred to the US Trustee’s General Counsel and the Delaware US Attorney’s office.

    Then we discovered an additional $100 million in fraud in the KB Toys case. Where MNAT was already, brazenly, representing Bain in the $100 million preferential as TBF was representing the Creditors without TBF or MNAT disclosing its connections there also. (by the way Barry Gold also worked in the KB Toys case).

    The DOJ Attorney, Mark Kenney, then utilized taxpayer funds with efforts and sought, successfully, to have the KB bankruptcy case to strike and expunge our proofs of perjury and fraud.

    Immediately thereafter Lawrence Friedman the Director of the EOUST office, resigned.

    The Asst US Trustee, Frank Perch resigned.

    The head of Pres Bush Corp Fraud Task Force, Debra Yang, also resigned. As they all had the proofs of the perjury and fraud.

    The problem with everyone referring us back to the US Attorney in Delaware and the EOUST office in Washington DC is the following items

    Prior to his resignation from the EOUST office, Lawrence Friedman replaced Roberta DeAngelis as the Region 3 Trustee, with Kelly B Stapleton. After his resignation, speciously and quietly, Roberta DeAngelis was promoted to the post of the Acting General Counsel in Washington DC, in charge of investigating her own cases for prosecution.

    The US Attorney in Delaware, Colm F Connolly, was a partner at the MNAT law firm in 2001.

    For all we know Colm Connolly worked on the eToys and Bain issues.

    Mr. Connolly just issued a press release in the Yao student loan prosecution stating that liars in Bankruptcy will be punished.

    That is, except for, the MNAT law firm and their associates!

    The attached PDF’s are all the proof you need. The US Trustee Disgorge Motion states that the US Trustee forewarend the parties against violating the rules. As the discussions occurred, this obviously documents that they knew they needed to find a way and the US Trustee’s office wanted to go on the record stated it said they could not do so.

    The Disgorge Motion also states that the law firm is vastly experienced in Bankruptcy cases and has detailed knowledge of disclosure requisites. That the acts of violation were deliberate, rather than inadvertent. That the TBF and Barry Gold issues destroyed the [diametric] opposed lines between Creditor and Debtor. That the items were materially adverse and that such was Fraud Upon the Court.

    The Disgorge Motion only dealt with 3 of the more than 100 felony violations that have proof positive, by Court docket records.

    The Disgorge Motion never mentions MNAT, though the MNAT law firm also confessed to filing false Rule 2014 affidavits on multiple issues.

    The Stipulation to Settle is prima facie proof positive of the intent of the US Trustee’s office to do overt acts to protect the case from prosecution. While the US Trustee violates 18 USC 3057(a) and 28 USC 586(a)(3)(F) being seditious to thier Oath of Office, betraying the public trust and their fiduciary duties. The Stipulation to Settle does Not mention the MNAT law firm and offers the proof positive of the Illegal “shall not compel” clause.

    The Opinion of the Court that approves the Stipulation to Settle is a 57 page document solely bent upon vindicating the criminal acts. Where the Court concludes that no perjury was documented, even though the parties have confessed to filing more than 34 false affidavits. http://www.deb.uscourts.gov/Opinions/2005/EtoysMNATfees.pdf

    The affidavit of the former Chairman of the Creditors Committee shows that there is direct harm to the very client that TBF was representing.

    The Mark Kenney motion in KB Toys clearly shows that the efforts of cronyism, corruption and organized activity is systemic as it crosses case lines, state lines (3rd Circuit Court) by multiple parties, mulitple years, with hundreds of millions of dollars, the DOJ has become complicit in Organized Crime and Racketeering!

    A Copy of this email is being broadcasted for your protection!

    Sincerely
    Laser Haas

  3. Good work, keep it up.

  4. […] and corrective training and/or corporate restructuring t o correct the error…. source: Unjust Weights?, Some things Considered by S.A. […]

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