Over the last month, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has faced a heightened amount of scrutiny from the media after a new book alleged she used her clout as the nation’s top diplomat to do favors for foreign interests — specifically, those interests that gave millions to her family’s foundation and who paid top dollar in speaking fees to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
One allegation detailed by Peter Schweizer in his book “Clinton Cash” is the allegedly cozy relationship between Clinton and The Boeing Company.
According to Schweizer, Boeing gave heavily to the Clinton Foundation after Mrs. Clinton allegedly helped it secure a major deal with a Russian airline in 2009.
The Clintons have pushed back, arguing that there is actually nothing that explicitly proves Clinton pushed for Boeing’s $3.7 billion deal in Russia in exchange for those donations.
All of this is reminiscent of when Mobilians were exposed to the dark underbelly of defense contracting during the KC-X refueling tanker contest between the aforementioned Boeing and a partnership between EADS and Northrop Grumman.
Initially in 2003, Boeing had secured the contract for the tankers but the convoluted deal of leases for the plane was canceled after Sen. John McCain declared it wasteful and exposed Darleen Druyun, a Pentagon procurement official using the contract as leverage for a job at Boeing.
That gave EADS and Northrop Grumman the opening to enter the contest. In the first round, announced by the Department of Defense in February 2008, EADS and Northrop Grumman were selected and final assembly was to take place in Mobile.
Guess who spoke out against the outcome? Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York), a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
“I am deeply concerned about the Bush administration’s decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American military,” Clinton said on the heels of that announcement.
Boeing protested the bid and later that year the Government Accountability Office recommended the Air Force rebid the contract. The terms of the bid were changed, which led to Northrop Grumman walking away.
Finally, in 2011, Boeing was awarded the estimated $35 billion contract and the rest is history.
There was a lesson to be learned from that episode and the current controversy swirling around the Clintons proves this point — going all-in on a get-rich-quick scheme involving the federal government is a risky proposition.
Mobile of all places should know that you can’t rely on any facet of the U.S. government to drive economic prosperity. In 1964, Robert McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, announced the closure of what was then Brookley Air Force Base.
At the time, it was thought Johnson was penalizing Alabama for voting for Barry Goldwater in the ’64 presidential election. Nonetheless, Mobile’s economy was brought to its knees because Brookley then employed 10 percent of the city’s workforce. It took decades to recover.
The bottom line is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes with these big government deals. While there are always going to be actors like the Clintons, who may or may not have directly benefited from their power and influence, why gamble on big government contracts?
Even with all these questions about quid pro quos, Hillary Clinton is still the favorite for the White House in 2016 in match-ups between her and whoever the Republican nominee winds up being.
Take the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, for example. What if Hillary wins and doesn’t have the love affair the Obama administration’s Pentagon has had with the LCS? Should we be thinking about making donations to the Clinton Global Initiative just to make sure that remains a fixture of the local economy?
What if a Republican is elected and that administration eventually deems the entire LCS program to be a colossal waste? That isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility, which is a sentiment conveyed by many defense analysts.
A good rule for investing is not to put money in things you don’t understand. That same rule applies with our current political environment. Who must you curry favor with to get what you need when it comes to the federal government? What subcommittee do you need to win over and who chairs it — so that you may see funding for your pet project in that next spending bill?
Granted, we have two senior senators in Washington, D.C., and a congressman who has managed to win the trust of his caucus’ leadership in Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and Rep. Bradley Byrne, but who knows how long until the Democrats take over Congress again and that part of the equation is marginalized?
For now and probably the foreseeable future, complicated bureaucracies, convoluted legislative processes and apparent system manipulators like the Clintons are going to be a part of Washington, D.C.
Someday that may change. But it until it does, don’t pin your hopes on the federal government.
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