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You Deserve Your Share

March 19, 2010

As shown in this historic photo, 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 to iron out the rules that would forever govern our country. When they wrote the first three words in fancy enlarged script, they did not begin with words such as “For Special Interests….To Be Excluded…or For the Elite Only…”

Perhaps the three most important words to ever be inscribed on an American document, are those which bind our government to its people. When our Founding Fathers wrote: “We the People”….  they made it crystal clear that in a free and open democracy, the people rule.

Yet there are many signs that the people no longer rule the country that we all pay for with our hard-earned taxes.  There are very clear signs that special interests have run amok in Washington, tainting the political process to the point that the system is no longer responsive to the average American. 

The growing popularity of the Tea Party…long-serving members of Congress stepping down due to frustrations of dealing with the system…and the increasing number of lobbyists, with huge chests of cash to spend on our elected representatives, are all examples of a government that is not putting the people first.

It is beyond the purpose of this post to address these situations, because if all the powers of the free world cannot fix some of these problems, the author of this post certainly cannot.  However, maybe we can at least change one thing – to get our government to do what is right, what is fair, and what is legal.  If we can get them to observe the laws  governing how federal contracts are issued – laws which they themselves wrote – then that is no small thing.

To accomplish this elusive goal, Goodwill Communications has joined with a new support group called WWW.OPENCOMPETITION.BIZ.  Our mission is very narrow, clear and focused.  This group is not Democrat, Republican, or Independent in our ideology.  Philosophically, we want one simple thing – we want our government to give every individual and company the chance to compete on a level playing field. Pragmatically, we want something almost equally as simple – legal, fair and open competition when bidding on government contracts. And while we are at it, is it too much to have the money that is spent, to be spent wisely with some accountability?  After all, it is our money, is it not?

Consider a few facts:

●        According to FedSpending.org, a project of OMB Watch, the federal  government spends an average of $344 billion annually on external contracts, amounting to $3.1 trillion over the past 9 years.

 ●        While government agencies are supposed to evaluate the performance of all companies that enter into federal contracts worth more than $100,000, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says performance assessments were made for less than one-third of the 23,000 contracts it   surveyed.

●        The GAO found that one contractor defaulted on a $280 million munitions contract that was awarded despite the company’s history of defaulting on previous contracts. At least eight contractors working on reconstruction in Iraq received new contracts despite being terminated for defaulting on earlier jobs.

●        In just one example of government contracting with which we are familiar, the feds spent approximately $825 million of taxpayer money with absolutely no evaluation of impact.  The GAO examined 105 Public Service Ad campaigns distributed by federal Agencies from October 2002 through March, 2005.   According to the GAO report, the campaigns cost the American taxpayers $152 million, or an average of $1.447 per campaign, and 57 of these  campaigns had not been evaluated for effectiveness.  In other words, the money was spent with absolutely no accountability.

According to an article in the Congressional Quarterly, [some of the campaigns] “carry a distinct whiff of pop faddishness…” and went on to say that a number of the other campaigns reviewed by the GAO were “extensions of lobbying mission statements…” which should not have been created in the first place.

 ●        The Advertising Council, a favorite of federal contracting departments, is getting an estimated $80 million1 in federal contracts handed to them as a special set-aside under the sole source rule.  The sole source set aside was meant to give government agencies a way to issue a contract when there was  only one qualified bidder who could do the work. It is hard to imagine any area of American enterprise which would not have at least two, if not more firms which could do whatever work is required in a procurement.  In the case of the Ad Council, there are at least ten companies in the country which do what they do, and at a fraction of the cost.  Above  is a list of all the Ad Council’s contracts with the federal government at this time.

 Let’s face facts:  When there is no competition, the bidder can charge anything they want, and the government has no checks and balances on whether the cost is fair and competitive.

 Who Stands to Benefit?

Faced with these realities, the individuals and the companies that provide, or could provide services to the government in just one sector – advertising and marketing services – is very large, probably numbering into the thousands nationally.

Unfortunately, in spite of our collective experience, we stand almost no chance at getting work from our government that takes our tax dollars from us, but favors special interests.  Talk about Taxation Without Representation!

 “I’m Mad as Hell and I am Not Taking it Anymore”

So with these facts and trends as background, what is the solution to getting more business from our government and making our government more accountable to the people?

As we see it there are two options. First, do nothing and accept the status quo.  Or, fight back. You may remember the movie, Network, in which a newscaster named Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch)  is dressed in a beige coat with his wet, gray hair plastered to his head. He stands up during the middle of his newscast saying, “I’m as mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

According to the American Film Institute‘s list of 100 great movie quotes, it ranks as one of the most memorable scenes in film history.  What was even more funny and poignant is that soon after seeing Howard utter that famous line, people all over the city began throwing open their windows and yelling the phrase out into the street.  That, my friends, is how revolutions start.

It is time to throw open the windows and let the federal government – our government….the one we own and support with our tax dollars…. know that we are not going to let them dole out  special contracting deals to favored contractors.

If you agree with anything in this post, go to our website at WWW.OPENCOMPETITION.BIZ and join our group.  If you do not, then you have no one to blame if you do not get your share of the federal pie.


1 The Ad Council currenly has 24 federal contracts, and at the time this post was written we are researching the value of these contracts and how they were obtained.  What we have learned so far is that all of the contracts were awarded to them under non-competitive arrangements.

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