OCTOBER 08, 2009
The Obama Administration refuses to disclose information about a controversial, multi million-dollar contract with a politically connected firm to redesign a website that lets the public track federal stimulus spending.
This constitutes yet another violation of the administration’s own transparency policy, which promises to offer the public unprecedented government openness and accountability. The president has repeatedly ignored his highly touted order, withholding information on everything from secretive transition meetings with special interests to a contentious decision not to criminally charge his governor friend in a bribery scheme that cost him a cabinet post.
Now Obama is hiding the details of a suspicious $18 million contract to redesign his heavily promoted website (Recovery.gov), ironically created so that Americans can follow how federal stimulus dollars are spent. Remember when the president promised that Americans will be able to track “every dime” of the $787 billion stimulus? Recovery.gov is the tool that will assure the mission is completed.
In July, the government hired a Maryland firm (Smartronix) that has received nearly $200 million worth of noncompetitive federal contracts, to redesign the Recovery.gov website. The enormous $18 million deal quickly drew scrutiny, especially because the company’s owners had donated large sums to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
An investigative journalism organization filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain a copy of the redesign contract and the government’s response was anything but transparent. Nearly half of the pages are blacked out and completely illegible. The contract’s technical proposal, essentially the document’s main body, was redacted completely. The blackouts were defended by the Obama Administration as a prohibition against the release of propriety information.
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