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$2T in CARES Act funding plus $2T more... what could possibly go wrong? Even experienced teams foul up with federal funds. Here are 11 steps to keep on the right side of the game.
Fraudsters fraud; corrupt officials corrupt resulting in the maltreatment of public funds and public trust. While not shaming I will continue to identify critical issues, flaws, and core problems. Three promises. First, I will remain apolitical and non-partisan. Second, I will strive for accurate and honest reporting. For my third promise, if I can’t be helpful, I’ll try to be funny.
The operation of a legitimate democratic government should be a familiar rhythmic and almost boring process. Governmental operations ought not involve a magical invisibility cloak or gossamer curtain. When there is a razzle-dazzle; when there is confusion; when there is a deliberate effort to divide us; stop, look, see, question and act. Something is being obscured that you are not meant to see – and it is right there next to you. While I eschew speedy answers, these are key themes. • Transparency • Compliance • Enforcement • And acknowledgement of a social contract.
Fraud in Vermont, I am shocked, shocked. But why not? The state won’t likely investigate. The attorney general won’t likely press criminal charges. The laws are weak. And opportunities abound. In a fine example, of the resource curse, Vermont’s freedoms, views, cheap land are all for sale. Bienvenue, welcome, velkomen, bienvenido, huanying – come on over, especially if you have money. Let’s explore the Jay Peak Resort fraud scheme now.
Roz wants me to “Tell a story that she can do something about.” We are more alike than we ever admit. Today, we struggle to see that. The worst crooks, the crooks who do the most damage to our country walk freely amongst us fully camouflaged. In the recent decade, Vermont fell victim to two massive fraud schemes – these relate to social, economic, and even environmental issues everywhere. If you want to do something, maybe start with this formula: look, see, question, act. At the root of so much of what is going, there exist elements of corruption, fraud, and an institutional resistance to change. Let’s start that story now.
The Enron debacle of 2 decades ago haunts our legal system today. Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States because claiming that a law related to fraud was too vague. SCOTUS agreed with him thereby weakened key elements of our federal fraud statutes. Now fraudsters have a pathway to avoid convictions. When striving to prevent fraud and corruption with enforcement, we need laws that have teeth and meaning. What you and I might recognize as fraud, may not be illegal. We’ll explore this now.
I interview Sarah Chayes who informs us of how she became an advocate for public integrity as a result of her work in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. We discuss her most recent book: “On Corruption in America and What is at Stake”, published August 2020. We also touch on her 2015 book called “Thieves of State: why corruption threatens global security”. During the interview, explore the mythology of the Hydra, King Midas, and The Cleansing of the Temple while we talk about current events in the United States. Please visit Sarah’s website at https://sarahchayes.org.
FEMA’s suffered numerous high-profile investigations and arrests from top to bottom in 2019. Can we see discover the difference between corruption, confused, or conflicted by exploring the investigations and arrests? How do we save our national emergency response agency together? Explore today’s history with us now.
Is there a link between governmental corruption and the calamities of 2020 here in the United States? My research led me to two books by Sarah Chayes: “Thieves of State” and “On Corruption in America”. In this episode, I weave Sarah themes and my experiences in Iraq and Puerto Rico. Maybe we should solve the problems of governance before the crisis of security and insurrection take over here too.
The United States Department of Homeland Security obscures its actions with a lack of transparency and it maybe the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. According to U.S. Law, any of the 240,000 employees of DHS may arrest and detain people – in accordance with 40 USC §1315. Maybe they do have the right name? Welcome or not, they certainly became the national police force. I looked at OIG reports, FOIA history, and OpenData find a hint of transparency.
FEMA – widely criticized for failures in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina is on path for the same failures in 2020. What will a major hurricane during a pandemic look like? Is there a plan for transporting, feeding, and/or sheltering people? And will this plan actually prevent the loss of personal data for 2.3M Americans? In 2018, they did a large-scale sheltering program. FEMA fiddled, fumbled, and flopped. Then lost data! Helluva Job FEMA
We continue to deny full rights to 6 million Americans because of racist rulings from the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) over a century ago. The same court that ruled: "Separate But Equal" was cool, suppresses voting rights for Americans today, 115 years later. Moving closer to economic justice and a fight against corruption requires we welcome all US Passport holders to the voting roles. It maybe as much as 2% of our people.
The growing gap between folks adept at digital communication with access to reliable internet grows with our response to COVID. Digital folks get grants, loans, and gain access to agencies with greater ease. The analog versus digital divide expands and limits our ability to help those with the greatest need. And this is a matter of economic justice …
In a typical year, 75% of FEMA fund recipients, usually local governments and non-profits fail to follow the law. While the original analysis I did has aged some over the last four years, I’ll bet we’re still looking at massive failures with disaster related funds. First, show you how I derived this failure rate. Second, I’ll show you the significant risks you and I have when communities fail to manage FEMA and federal grants well. Third, I am going to place blame. You and I know that during these months I have done little to name names and point fingers
What does missing look like? I have a picture of that – right here! The data required by a set of laws the Massachusetts legislature can’t be found. The law exists, yet the data do not. Boston Police Department has cops allegedly committed fraud with timecards and they remain on the payroll for decades. Preventing corruption also requires enforcement.
The United States Government implements laws to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. We back these laws with policy, publications, administrative rulings, and occasional criminal prosecution. And along the way, we continue to deny full rights to 6 million Americans because of racist rulings from the Supreme Court over a century ago. The same court that ruled: Separate But Equal was cool, suppresses voting rights for Americans.
Transparency helps ensure economic justice for our citizens. Transparency in governance means that we can follow the flow of money into our communities. Transparency ought to be visible and likely follow conventions such as OpenData that the US Adopted in 2009. NYC does. USA does not – and the USA keep backing away from it.
Transparency is a primary defense against corruption yet during the summer of 2020, the Secretary of the Treasury flip-flopped on making public data public. And flipflopped again.
Crossing the line to felonies can be a fluid movement with one does not see options and alternate pathways. In this episode, I almost messed a government contract and I admit to kidnapping, assault, and battery (35 years ago).
5 inspectors general fired in a few weeks after business hours on Fridays. Does this impact the CARES Act oversight committee? IGs are supposed to be independent watchdogs yet they get fired, will that change the process of investigating corruption?
We are tampering with evidence as we manage the dead during crisis and disasters. We lose count and information as we shuffle corpses into refrigerated trucks. We still debate the number of dead from the 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico: 64, 2950, 4000. Puerto Rico stored bodies for over 2 years in 11 trucks. Are we doing the same in 2020 with CoronaVirus?
I am the problem. I don’t want to be. Yet, here I sit. All weekend I struggled to find my position. I live. I breathe. I have cash in the bank. I own a business with revenue and our people are paid their wages. We are the problem. We are the People. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights that among these is LIFE.